|This section is designed with the intention of helping to
keep your system running in tip top shape. As a computer consultant I am
often called to sites where the solution is very simple. There are also
some things people should be aware of while operating the Win 95/98
Operating System. There are some misconceptions and myths that need to be
addressed as well. Hopefully, you will find this page useful.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Some basic
things you need to know about your computer
Techniques for keeping your system cleaned and running in tip top
III. Problems to expect and what to do about
IV. Myths and laying them to rest
I. Some basic things you need to know about your
I see a lot of confusion in people with their
computers. Some of this confusion and the ideas that are generated from
the confusion are harmless to your day to day usage of your computer.
Others can lead you to problems with the functionality of your machine.
While fixable you may find yourself in a state of FRUSTRATION.
computer consists of TWO main categories of components. One of these is
HARDWARE and the other is SOFTWARE. The first confusion that can hinder
the understanding of why your computer may act quirky at times is the
tendency of computer owners to think that the HARDWARE is the complex part
of a computer and the root of all evil for computer problems. In fact, the
hardware follows some strict guidelines and for the most part is fairly
straight forward. Software exists in multitudes of styles and infinite
variety. Some software may function flawlessly but, it is a certainty that
if you work with your computer enough you will run into a glitch here and
there. Keep in mind that if your system is up and running smoothly your
hardware is probably fine. However, if it starts having illegal
operations, page faults, and other erratic behavior it likely stems from
some known flaws in OPERATING SYSTEMS and/or some contention between two
or more programs. Page Faults and Illegal Operations typically occur when
one program attempts to access an area of memory that another program has
marked as its territory. Imagine this as trespassing. This is a SOFTWARE
problem and does not reflect a hardware problem. Sometimes these are
EXTREMELY easy to fix.
COMPUTER = HARDWARE + SOFTWARE (Operating System (e.g. Windows 95) +
Where do most of the problems occur? Software.
II. Techniques for keeping your system cleaned and running in
tip top condition
Anytime your system acts strangely or has
errors you have not seen before when doing the same thing you were just
doing you will want to use this house cleaning technique. You probably
will want to do this at least once a month unless you are a heavy user of
the machine in which case you will want to do this more frequently than
While items inside your recycle bin are unlikely to
cause illegal operations and such they do sometimes slow your machine down
substantially when they increase in number and size. Therefor, it is
recommended you empty your recycle bin whenever you are certain there is
not a deleted item in there that you are thinking you will need to
Temporary files are much like sticky notes we use
to remind us of things. Ideally, these should be deleted by the program
that creates them when it is done using them. Unfortunately, this does not
happen and is a known problem with Windows 95. It has been known to cause
enough problems that Windows 98 incorporates a utility that is designed to
clean them up (but, this program does not always run). Typically, you
should only have a very low number of files ending in .TMP. As this number
increases your likelihood of quirky things such as a printer not printing,
and illegal operations increases. Therefor, the following steps can be one
of the most important cleaning steps you can do on your system.
purposes of instructions in this document CLICK always refers to the LEFT
mouse button unless otherwise specified)
1. Click on the START button
2. Click on FIND
3. Click on FILES
4. In the field titled NAMED type "*.TMP" do not include the
5. Make sure LOOK IN has (C:) or (ALL LOCAL HARD
DRIVES) some where in the description.
6. Click FIND NOW
7. A list
of files should begin to appear if it finds any files. A normal fairly
clean system should probably be running with 25 or less TMP files but, on
a couple occasions I have seen even 2 files cause problems. If you have
more than 100 then you have likely been having problems that these
instructions will help you with.
8. Click on the EDIT menu
on SELECT ALL
10. Hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard and press
DELETE on the keyboard.
11. When it askes you if you are sure that you
want to delete N number of files make sure you typed in "*.TMP" in the
NAMED area and if you did then click on YES. This is important because, if
it has found files other than those ending in .TMP then you DO NOT want to
12. At this point you have cleaned out the temporary files
and can click on the X or exit FIND FILES AND FOLDERS using your prefered
DEFRAGMENT HARD DRIVES:
Hard drives are much like a chess board or
checker board. Certain programs take up 3 squares, others take up 1, and
some may take 10. So, these programs will seek to be stored so all of the
squares are next to each other. After awhile you may have enough programs
in there that when you add a 3 square program it cannot find 3 CONTIGUOUS
(next to each other) squares. So, it fragments the program and puts 2
squares in one location and the last square in a different location. This
HAPPENS on your hard drive. As a hard drive begins to get more and more
fragmented files it begins to slow down. This is most noticable as a speed
decrease or as your hard drive working harder than it used to. The drive
needs to be defragmented which is the process of organizing all your files
so, as many contiguous files as possible are arranged and that the free
area is consolidated into a larger contiguous section. It is a good idea
to defragment your hard drives occasionally.
1. Click on START
2. Click on PROGRAMS
3. Click on
4. Click on SYSTEM TOOLS
5. Click on DISK
6. Select the drive you want to DEFRAGMENT
SHUTTING DOWN AND RESTARTING:
This is undoubtedly one of the most
misunderstood aspects of a computer. It is also one of the most likely
ways to resolve a problem in Windows 95/98. When you shutdown your system
or restart it Windows does a lot of cleanup. When you restart it is
running cleaner. One of the biggest things it does is reclaim lost memory
due to MEMORY LEAKAGE. When a program is executed it requests a chunk of
RAM to work in. Ideally, when that program is done it should give all this
memory back. This does not happen. It gives back most of it but, typically
a small amount of memory is not reclaimed. This is known as memory
leakage. Memory leakage is a known problem in ALL operating systems, and
some programs are designed poorly and leak memory even worse. Basically,
it adds up to the fact as you continually open and close programs
throughout the day the amount of memory leakage adds up to a larger and
larger amount until eventually your system will become unstable, lock up,
and possibly crash. This is more common in the machines that are left on
continuously and never shut down over night. To fix memory leakage
problems restart your machine occasionally. Many people prefer to leave
their machines on as they have heard that turning them off and on is
actually harder on them. This is true... You don't need to turn it off to
fix the memory leakage though... just RESTART it. Do this at least once a
day and you will probably see the memory leakage problems go away.
1. Click on START
2. Click on SHUTDOWN
3. Click on RESTART
Click on YES (or OK)
WITH THE TECHNIQUES ABOVE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO HEAD OFF MANY PROBLEMS
AND YOUR SYSTEM WILL RUN SMOOTHER THAN IT WOULD OTHERWISE.
Steps to fixing your computer: Try these before paying a
1. Restart your machine
2. Still does not work - Clean
TEMPORARY FILES, EMPTY RECYCLE BIN, and Restart
3. Actually go through
the shutdown process and turn off your machine. Wait 10 seconds and
4. Still does not work - Defragment Hard Drives and Restart
More advanced steps will be covered in the following sections. You can
try any of these that seems like it may work. The following techniques can
be tricky for some people and should only be attempted with an
understanding that your system may crash and you might even lose some
data. This is okay though as long as you are prepared for it and take
steps to backup critical data such as your word, excel, database,
pictures, and quickbooks files...
III. Problems to expect and what to do about
Every system no matter who the manufacturer is has the
problems that are described and fixed in section II above. This is due to
the fact that they are ALL software related. How long it will take for
them to raise their ugly heads depends on how much you use your computer,
and how many differing programs you use. The more programs you have and
move between frequently, the more memory leakage, and temporary file
related problems you are sure to have. Therefor, a user owning a DELL
computer who uses it primarily for WORD PROCESSING will work much longer
without seeing a problem than another user with the same computer who uses
it for ART, WORD PROCESSING, INTERNET, GAME PLAYING, DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY,
SCANNING, and more. They are working with a lot more programs which means
a lot more likelihood of programmer error, potential memory leakage
jumping between programs, a larger REGISTRY (explained later), and an
increased likelihood for more TMP files being generated. Thus, comparing
computers is very difficult to do unless they are two different machines
used in identical ways with the identical software. DELL, and GATEWAY who
are the makers of some of the better computer systems do not manufacture
the parts that go into their systems. Anyone, can buy the same parts and
build their own systems. If your system boots and all your devices are
functioning then the remainder of your problems are likely software
related... Some of these problems are easily resolved as in section II
above. Others are more difficult.
YOU ENCOUNTER A SITUATION WHERE ONLY ONE OR A FEW PROGRAMS ARE HAVING
WHAT MIGHT CAUSE THIS: You installed a program that made
alterations that effected a previously installed and functional programs.
The REGISTRY has become corrupt (software). A bad sector has occurred on
the hard drive and corrupted the program. A program bug may have set off
THINGS TO TRY TO FIX THIS: try in order until fixed
Reinstall the software and restart machine
2. Uninstall the software
(backup data related to it first), restart machine, install software,
3. Go online to the support site for the software and look for
4. More advanced steps later in this section.
SYSTEM HAS BECOME EXTREMELY UNSTABLE AND TECHNIQUES IN SECTION II DID
NOT RESOLVE THE PROBLEM:
WHAT MIGHT CAUSE THIS: Usually this is caused
by REGISTRY corruption. The REGISTRY consists of two files USER.DAT and
SYSTEM.DAT and its backups USER.DA0 and SYSTEM.DA0. These files are
CRITICAL to the operation of Windows 95 and Windows 98. They contain a lot
of information about the devices (hardware), and the software of your
system. They are basically the organization and governmental agency for
your system. Over time it is common for the REGISTRY to become corrupted.
If this happens your system can become unstable and might not boot at
all... This is a fairly serious problem.
THINGS TO TRY TO FIX THIS: try
in order until fixed
Backup and personal non-reinstallable files you
may have created if possible (provided you can still boot and system is
stable enough to do this). Files to keep in mind are Quickbooks, Quicken,
Word (Documents), Downloads you do not want to have to redownload,
favorites/bookmarks, email stored, pictures, excel files, web pages you
are working on or other works in progress, or anything else YOU created
and did not come pregenerated off of a CD. If you have TWO hard drives
but, do not have a backup device such as a ZIP drive, CD-RW, or TAPE drive
then backup all critical files from your C: drive onto one of the other
drives such as D:. This technique is good for partitioned drives as
1. If you have a recent backup of your REGISTRY files reboot into
DOS mode and copy them into your windows directory and reboot.
Reinstall Windows 95/98 by running the SETUP.EXE program for Windows
95/98. Make sure you run the same program you ran when installing your
system or off of the CD that came with your system. (this may be
successful in rebuilding the registry). Sometimes, this program to run can
be found in a WIN95 or WIN98 directory at the root of your hard
3. REIMAGE the machine. You will need a bootable floppy disk
with CD-ROM drivers. The Floppy Drive should also have a copy of your
AUTOEXEC.BAT, and CONFIG.SYS files with all the programs and drivers
referenced in those two files. You will also want the FDISK, FORMAT, and
EDIT programs if they are not already on the floppy drive. Follow these
steps to reimage a machine.
A. Reboot the machine off of your floppy.
If it will not boot off of the floppy make sure you have the A drive as
the first boot device in your BIOS.
B. Make sure the CD-ROM is working
with your driver by looking at the contents of your Windows 95/98 CD. If
it is not working DO NOT PROCEED until you have gotten it working.
Format your C: drive with this command "FORMAT C: /S"
D. Once it is
formated type the following commands in sequence pressing ENTER/RETURN
after each. "C:", "MD WIN9x" substitute the X for 5 or 8 depending on
which OS you are installing. "x:" substituting the drive letter of your
CD-ROM drive for X. "CD WIN9x" you know what to do with X by now. "C:",
"CD WIN9x", "COPY x:*.*" substituting the drive letter for your CD-ROM
drive for X again.
E. Copy files needed by autoexec.bat and config.sys
onto your C: drive. Copy the autoexec.bat, and config.sys files you want
for C: onto the C drive. Make sure they do not contain A: drive references
but, in fact reference files on the C: drive.
F. Reboot off of the C:
drive this time instead of the floppy.
G. Gather together your device
driver disks and CDs that came with your machine
H. Type "CD Win9x:"
substituting 5 or 8 for the X depending on which OS you are installing.
"Type SETUP" Follow the instructions. You will need your driver disks to
correct any problems you may find in DEVICE MANAGER. (if this step does
not work and gives you an error that you already have an OS installed it
will not work with then it is likely due to another hard drive in your
system or a partition. If it is a partition you will need to copy
important files from it to your C drive and then delete the partition...
and retry setup. If it is another drive just temporarily disconnect the
IDE cables from the second drive and try SETUP again. Reconnect IDE cables
after setup has completed).
I. Resolve any device conflicts, install
devices not present.
J. Install software as desired. Go easy though and
only install ones you actually think you need as the problem you are
fixing could have been created by installing a large amount of programs
and increasing the potential for REGISTRY corruption, and such.
Reimaging a system usually resolves most problems. If you understood
all of the instructions then you should easily be able to get your system
running and should never need a technician.
If you run into driver problems with a device you can't find a driver
for try http://www.windrivers.com/.
See the description directly above but, in
addition it should be noted that the more programs you install on your
system the larger the registry will become and the increased likelihood of
corruption. This is especially true if you frequently uninstall and
install various programs to make room for other programs.
TECHNICAL SAVY HEAVY USER SUGGESTION:
If you are a heavy user you
should prepare to reimage your machine at least once and possibly more
times per year depending on the type of activities you are doing. If you
go in with the attitude you are going to have to do this then here is a
Have either a 2 drive or a partitioned drive so, that your
personal files are stored on a drive other than C: this will negate the
need to backup data before reformatting C: and needing to reimage. It is
recommended you have at least an extra 200MB of space on your C drive to
accommodate virtual memory.
IV. Myths and laying them to rest
difficult to troubleshoot - not so, it follows strict guidelines and is
easy to isolate and replace defective parts. In fact, software problems
are far more difficult to fix.
Dell, Gateway, Compaq and others have something special about their
hardware - not so, they buy their parts from companies such as Western
Digital, 3COM, Lucent, IBM, Creative Labs, and others and put them into
their machine. The only thing unique about any of these companies will be
their customer service, and warranties. The parts they use can be obtained
by anyone. It is true that in some cases a company such as Packard Bell,
or HP may have a card or keyboard unique to their system but, it is my
experience that these devices usually are not as nice to use as a standard
off the market device and may in fact have some quirks that are better
done without. The HP keyboards for example have tended to use a chunk of
system resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.
One machine is better than another: comparing machines is very
difficult to do unless both machines were used in identical situations
with identical software.
One machine should be bought over another because it is cheaper - This
is not always the case. You must keep expandability in mind. It is
possible to buy a machine for cheaper that is using a less expandable
motherboard or is using the minimum part needed to support the machine.
What this means is YES the machine is cheaper but, when it comes time to
expand that machine... FORGET IT. This occurs in Gateways, and Dells
Build your own machine - NO, not unless you know a lot about what you
are doing and can support any problems on your own. If you have a support
person nearby that you trust then have them build you one and offer you
support otherwise buy a name brand with a warranty, and support. When you
buy DELL, GATEWAY, and others that is what you are buying... their support
and warranty. If you are in a remote location this may not be the ideal
- Written by Deva Winblood, Future Wave Computer Solutions
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