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Windows 98 system tools can help or hinder

June 16, 1998
Web posted at: 9:30 AM EDT

by Scott Dunn

Windows 98 includes a number of system tools to keep your PC working smoothly. Some are old (Backup, Disk Defragmenter, ScanDisk, Resource Meter), while others are imported (DriveSpace, Compression Agent) or modified from Microsoft Plus (Scheduled Tasks, an automation tool that replaces System Agent). But the brand-new ones will make most users sit up and take notice.

Here are a few of my favorites, and a couple I can easily do without:

DISK CLEANUP combines the chores many of us have been doing for years manually or with batch files: It deletes useless files such as those in the Windows Temp and Internet Explorer cache folders. Disk Cleanup also lets you empty the Recycle Bin and provides easy access to the Windows utilities for uninstalling applications or converting your hard disk to FAT32. Despite a cumbersome interface, it offers safe, reasonably effective, one-stop shopping for most disk-housekeeping chores.

DRIVE CONVERTER lets you transform your existing FAT16 hard disk to FAT32 without repartitioning. Besides supporting large (over 2GB) EIDE disks, FAT32 uses smaller clusters (as small as 4KB, according to Microsoft) that can save loads of disk space. The downside is that FAT32 isn't compatible with other operating systems, including older versions of Windows. For the full scoop, start the Converter to inspect its installation wizard. Then click Details and read about all the drawbacks before you commit yourself.

SYSTEM FILE CHECKER keeps important Windows 98 files in working order by sifting through vital system files and letting you know which ones Windows doesn't think are installed appropriately. You can either restore the files or correct the utility's impression of what's right for your computer. If you take the former route, System File Checker will back up the files it replaces, so you're covered in any case. Best of all, you can customize System File Checker to monitor your important files.

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SYSTEM INFORMATION supplies detailed data on such hardware settings as IRQs and I/O addresses (Resources), the Windows configuration (Components), and software currently in memory (Software Environment). It can also act as a viewer for various system files, including CAB files, Dr. Watson files, and text. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense to you: The tool is intended for support technicians, who will guide you through the application to get the information they need.

WELCOME TO WINDOWS launches a multimedia propaganda--oops, extravaganza--to play up what's new in Windows 98. Why it's in the System Tools menu is obscure. My advice: Click around to see if it answers any of your questions; then delete welcome.exe from your Windows folder.

WINDOWS TUNE-UP is basically a Microsoft wizard that prompts you through automatic scheduling of several simple utilities (ScanDisk, Disk Defragmenter, and Disk Cleanup). If you're already using these utilities and can feel your way around Schedule Tasks, you can remove tuneup.exe from your Windows folder.

One-Click Exits

Want an easy way to shut down Windows? Ryan Pfeifle of Thousand Oaks, California, suggests this approach: Right-click the desktop and choose New, Shortcut. Then type c:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindows (your path may differ), click Next, type a name for the shortcut, and click Finish. Double-click this icon anytime to exit Windows.

To create a keyboard shortcut for exiting, right-click the icon, select Properties from the menu, click the Shortcut tab, and click in the Shortcut key box. Press the keys you want to use to activate your shutdown shortcut (they must begin with Ctrl-Alt, Ctrl-Shift, or Shift-Alt).

If you want a shortcut that restarts Windows rather than simply shutting it down, change the command line in the Target box to read c:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindowsexec (your path may differ).

Norton Turn Off, Turn On

Need to turn off Norton Navigator's options in a hurry? Try this: Choose Start, Programs, Norton Navigator, Norton Navigator Control Center, hold Ctrl and Shift as you click the left and right mouse buttons simultaneously, and click OK. But what if you want to turn on all Norton Navigator's options? Just hold down Ctrl as you click the left and right mouse buttons simultaneously in the Control Center window. Then click OK or Apply.

Unclutter Your Desktop

Is it possible to make one shortcut that will start two or three applications? This would be useful for certain applications that I always use simultaneously, such as Netscape Communicator and a timer, and it would save me from having to double-click each shortcut.

-- Michel Martineau, St. Leonard, Quebec

No problem. In Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0, you can create a batch file that launches as many programs as you want. Open Notepad and type start followed by a space and the command line of an application (for example, c:\windows\calc.exe); then press Enter. If your path includes long file or folder names, you must either enclose the path with quotation marks (for example, "c:\programfiles\accessories\mspaint.exe") or use shortened versions of the long names (for example, c:\progra~1\ access~1\mpaint.exe). Add more lines following this pattern for each program you want to start with one icon.

When you're finished, choose File, Save and type a file name (in quotation marks) with the .bat extension. (The quotation marks keep Notepad from overriding the .bat extension with its default .txt extension). Double-click the batch file (or its shortcut) to launch the programs.

Launching multiple programs with one icon is not a feature of Windows 3.1, but File Manager provides a minor exception. In Program Manager, select the File Manager icon and press Alt-Enter to open the Program Item Properties dialog box. At the end of the Command Line, type a space, then the path to another application. Click OK. The File Manager icon will now launch itself plus the new application simultaneously.

Icons For All Occasions

On Monday, you need an application to start in the Budget directory. On Tuesday, you work in the Projects directory. Instead of digging through dialog boxes to get to the right location, create a separate icon to start each program the way you want.

Here's what to do. In Windows 95 and 98, find the icon for the program whose start-up options you want to customize, right-drag it to an empty area, and choose Copy Here from the menu. Right-click the new icon, select Properties, click the Shortcut tab, and in the 'Start in' box enter the path to the directory you want this copy to start in. Click the Run drop-down list and choose how you want this application started--in normal, minimized, or maximized view. Click OK. With the icon still selected, press F2 and enter a name that distinguishes it from the original icon.

In Windows 3.x, open Program Manager and find the icon for the program you want to customize. Create a copy of the icon by holding down the Ctrl key as you drag the icon to a new spot in its group window. Select the new icon and press Alt-Enter to display its Program Item Properties dialog box.

Edit the text in the Description box to distinguish this program item from the original. If the program supports optional switches, you can type those at the end of the Command Line. Type a new location in the Working Directory box if you want this program item to start in a particular location. Check Run Minimized if you sometimes want to start this application as a minimized icon. Click OK.

Now, you can get right to work without having to do any extra clicking.

Manage Files From the Keyboard

File management involves spending a lot of time selecting and deselecting the files you want to copy, move, delete, and so on. Most Windows users are taught to do this with the mouse (plus Shift or Ctrl to select multiple files). But sometimes it's faster to keep your hands on the keyboard. The "Explorer and File Manager Keyboard Shortcuts" table (link below) shows some little-known shortcuts for getting around Explorer or File Manager using just your keyboard.

Call the Tune in Multimedia Player

If you double-click a movie file associated with the Media Player accessory, you'll see the movie, but with limited playback controls. Not to worry. Just double-click the title bar to display the normal Media Player window with complete menus and controls for resizing, auto-rewinding, or otherwise modifying your view of the movie.

If your system runs movies with ActiveMovie, as it will under Windows 98, just right-click anywhere in the movie window, and choose Properties to get all the controls.

Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World and a principal author of The PC Bible, 2nd Edition.


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