For many PC users, DOS 6.0 has attractive features


April 05, 1993|By PETER H. LEWIS

Last week, the Microsoft Corp. introduced DOS 6.0, the latest major revision of the most widely used personal computer operating system software.

The new DOS adds a variety of new features, including data compression, that until now have been available only as add-on utilities from other companies.

For people who are buying a new computer, some form of DOS 6.0 will probably come already installed on the hard disk. That makes the decision to use DOS 6.0 easy. And for most veteran PC users, the new DOS 6.0 features are an attractive bargain. Microsoft has set a price for the DOS 6.0 upgrade kit that will allow most stores to sell it for $50 or less until May 31. After that, the suggested retail price will be $129.95.

Some PC users, however, particularly those who want to wring the maximum performance out of their systems, may not find the DOS 6.0 upgrade quite so compelling. The reasons will be discussed next week. But first, here is what DOS 6.0 does offer.

The DOS 6.0 feature that Microsoft is touting most enthusiastically is built-in data compression. The data compression technology, called Doublespace, reduces the amount of space that a file takes up on a disk, on average, by a little less than half.

As a result, a hard disk with a listed capacity of 40 megabytes may be able to store almost 80 megabytes of data, or a 100-megabyte drive will suddenly have almost 200 megabytes of capacity, and so on. Some types of files squeeze more tightly than others, so your mileage may vary, as they say in the automobile ads.

Sound good? It certainly has the potential of saving the user the cost and aggravation of buying and installing a new hard disk drive. But reliable data compression software has been available for some time from other companies, and yet few PC users have tried it.

"People are very conservative about how they handle hard drives," explained Chris Le Tocq, senior analyst at Infocorp, a Santa Clara, Calif., market research company.

"Although these are perfectly viable technologies and have a major impact on system performance, people are still wary."

The fact that data compression is now officially endorsed by Microsoft may persuade more people to try it, and Doublespace's inclusion as part of the actual operating system will make it easy to do so.


Other major features new to DOS 6.0 include the following:

* A much more elegant memory-management system that allows the user to take optimum advantage of the computer's precious system memory. The result is fewer "out of memory" messages. Just type MEMMAKER and DOS 6.0 does the rest. It is much easier to use than other memory management utilities.

* Built-in virus protection that uses technology licensed from Central Point Software. The threat of getting a computer virus is remote for most users, but the protection is there if the user wants it.

* A new backup utility, from the Symantec Corp., that is faster and easier to use than Microsoft's backup software in DOS 5.0. Maybe people will start backing up their hard disks, now that the software is built in. The DOS version lacks some of the features of other backup programs, but for most users it is a painless insurance policy for the day, which will come, when your hard disk stops working.

* New utilities that fine-tune the hard disk to make it operate faster. Again, Microsoft is making it easy to get better performance from most systems. For example, when a given file is stored on your hard disk, the disk may scatter it in pieces, rather than in one continuous space. When that happens, the file is said to be fragmented. When the file is summoned later, it takes longer to gather and assemble the pieces. Using the DOS 6.0 DEFRAG command, most files are tidied up and stored in a more efficient manner.

* New start-up options that will make it much easier to start the day in either DOS or Windows, depending on which applications are needed. They also eliminate a lot of headaches if the user needs to trouble-shoot the system.

* A superior "help" system that virtually eliminates the need to grab the manual. Instead, by typing a few commands, the user can quickly retrieve and view all the DOS 6.0 help information on screen.

There are other tricks as well. Two new DOS commands, MOVE and DELTREE, will save lots of time. MOVE, as the name suggests, moves one or more files to another location on the disk, or simply renames a directory. DELTREE is a new delete command that in one stroke wipes out a directory and all the files and subdirectories appended to it. Until DELTREE, erasing a directory required first erasing all the subdirectories individually.

(Peter Lewis works out of the New York Times' Austin, Texas, bureau: [512] 328-8258.)

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