Win 95 upgrade just a start - consider buying a new computer

HELPLINE

March 19, 2001|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Now that Windows 95 is obsolete, what do you think about an upgrade to Windows ME?

When Microsoft Corp. announced last month that it was retiring Windows 95, it marked something of the death of a superstar in the world of personal computing. It was Windows 95 that finally gave desktop computers powered by Intel chips the same sort of graphical user interface that the Macintosh operating system from Apple Computer Inc. had been delivering since 1984.

After almost six years, chances are that the great bulk of PCs running Windows 95 are dinosaurs that lack the power and hardware features that make the latest Microsoft operating systems do their stuff. Specifically, Windows 95 does not support - among many things - Universal Serial Bus and high-speed FireWire peripherals such as printers, scanners and video camcorders. So the very first piece of advice to offer people still running Windows 95 is not to merely upgrade their operating system but get a new computer that will, indeed, be running Windows ME.

I would hasten to suggest, however, that anybody who has waited this long before considering an upgrade to Windows 95 should probably wait another four or five months until machines start shipping with the brand-new Windows XP operating system.

XP is supposed to mark the long-awaited fusion of Microsoft's industrial-strength Windows 2000 or NT operating system and its various consumer products such as Windows 95/98/ME. We'll see.

I have a cable connection to the Internet, and it seems like every time I turn my computer on I get a pop-up window from Microsoft telling me that they have "critical" updates for my machine. Apparently there is no way to stop them from displaying their infuriating messages on my machine anytime they feel like it. Or is there?

You can shut off the upgrade reminders by calling up the Internet Options command under the Tools menu at the top of the Microsoft Internet Explorer display. Look for the tab Advanced in the options settings and scroll down to an item called Browsing. There you will find a check box that will allow you to deep-six all future nagging for updates.

I have been a longtime Macintosh user and have always found the Macs easier to use than PCs. However, I have found that the PC has one advantage over the Mac: its Add/Remove Programs function. Unless I'm missing something on the Mac, there is no easy way for uninstalling programs unless they happen to have an uninstall icon built in.

This lack of a built-in uninstaller has become an almost contrarian tradition at Apple, where executives have never seemed to have the kind of clout that Microsoft wields over software developers. Microsoft forces program writers to include Windows-friendly uninstall modules or else they cannot advertise their products as Windows-certified.

The good news, I guess, is that Aladdin Systems, the foremost maker of Macintosh utilities, for $50 will sell you Spring Cleaning 3.5, software that will search all the files and folders, extensions and control panels for previously loaded software and show a user how to eliminate it. Spring Cleaning also does a fine job of getting rid of the Internet clutter that builds up on Mac hard drives just as quickly as it does in the Windows world. Details at www.aladdinsys.com.

My Windows 98 computer frequently malfunctions when I click on the Start button and order it to shut down. A screen comes up "shutting down Windows 98," but then the machine just sits there with that screen showing until I have to turn the machine off manually, which then forces the computer to use the ScanDisk next time I run it. This happens every time I play FreeCell, the game that comes with Windows. How can this problem be solved?

There are so many things that could be interfering with an orderly shutdown that you would be better off simply disabling that automatic running of ScanDisk every time you are forced to switch off the machine manually.

To disable automatic ScanDisk, you need to run a Windows module called msconfig. Click on Start and choose Run, where you should type "msconfig" in the command box.

In the box that comes up next, click on the Advanced choice and you will get a series of options, including Disable ScanDisk on bad shutdown. Pick that, and you no longer will get hassled by those mandatory ScanDisk sessions.

It is a good idea, however, to still occasionally run ScanDisk, to guard against serious problems on the surface of your hard drive and to prevent data loss.

Send e-mail to jcoates@tribune.com.

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