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I survived Windows 98

October 22, 1998
Web posted at: 10:00 AM EDT

by Steve Bass

(IDG) -- Pizza long gone. Blood sugar dropping. Only 60 percent of files copied so far. Can't hold on much longer. Yep, you guessed it--I'm upgrading to Win 98.

You don't know how good you have it. While I was hosing my system with early versions, you were busy being productive. (You were, right?) But after two months of testing the final version of Windows 98, I'm convinced that Win 98 is a better, more stable operating system than Windows 95 overall. I've counted only five system crashes. That's utterly astonishing compared to Win 95's almost daily GPFs. And for me, that alone is worth the upgrade.

You may have heard the Windows 98 horror stories. Hey, there's no avoiding it: Strange things happen when you upgrade an OS. I got lucky -- my 90-minute ordeal went smoothly, though it felt longer than the O. J. Simpson trial. Windows rebooted nine times, searching for things known only to the gods in Redmond.

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My secret for a safer upgrade and a more stable system? A clean install. Start from scratch and reinstall every application. First, back up your hard drive. Then format your disk, clearing out old system-clobbering DLL files and other junk. (See "Format your drive for a faster Windows 95," link below) It's more work, but it will make a difference.

One potential problem: Your PC's manufacturer may withhold software support if you upgrade to Windows 98 on your own, so check first. (For details, see "Can installing Win 98 void your warranty?" link below)

Windows 98's toolbox

I've relied on third-party system utilities -- mostly Norton -- since the DOS days. I still like them, but I'm also delighted with Windows 98's set of tools. For example, I regularly run Disk Defragmenter, ScanDisk, Disk Cleanup, and other utilities through the Win 98 Maintenance Wizard's built-in scheduler (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Maintenance Wizard). At 5 p.m. on Friday, just before I hit the road for the long commute into the family room, Windows 98 takes care of business.

Tucked away on the Windows 98 CD -- where no one would consider looking -- is another prize: the Windows 98 Resource Kit Sampler Tools. The Clipboard Tool lets you store and organize chunks of text and copy them into text-based files. Use the Link Check Wizard to make sure your Shortcuts are okay. The Quick Tray allows you to add items -- programs, documents, or URLs -- to the System Tray. Microsoft also includes an updated TweakUI, a marvelous tool for enhancing and customizing the desktop. All these and more are located in the \Tools\Reskit directory.

Windows 98 is better at checking for DLL version conflicts (see "Ease PC maintenance with new Win 98 tools," link below) than Windows 95. But if you install lots of programs (which is when DLL problems often occur), play it safe and use SafeInstall98. This $20 shareware program from IWin Software dynamically monitors DLL version changes; checks the time, date, and size; and saves a copy of the version being overwritten. It will either recover the correct DLL automatically or let you manually recover the most recent one.

Get off my desktop

Not everything's great. Microsoft's sold tons of Windows 98 real estate to anyone willing to pay. The first thing that needs to go? WebTV for Windows, a gimmick that uses my ATI All-in-Wonder Pro's TV feature to show television on my desktop. I have enough distractions without Days of Our Lives on my PC.

The next thing I got rid of was Channels, which occupies a wide swath of my desktop and forces me to look at corporate logos. Then there's WaveTop, which was supposed to let me receive data through a TV signal. I never got it to work correctly, despite spending 3 hours on the phone with tech support. And don't get me started on being force-fed Internet Explorer.

So here's my take: Spend the $80, get a more stable OS and some cool utilities. And on that pizza? Extra cheese, please, and hold the pepperoni.

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