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Upgrade Your BIOS in a Flash
If your computer's more than a year old, chances are there's a flash BIOS upgrade available from the manufacturer. Get it (usually via download from a BBS, Web site, or on CompuServe or America Online) and do the upgrade before you run the Windows 95 setup procedure.
Make sure all your system components work properly before taking off on your first setup flight. If something "isn't quite right" before you install Win95, fix it or get rid of it.
Don't Upgrade to Win95
If you have the space, install Win95 into a fresh directory. It will take a bit longer to reinstall all the applications you want to keep, but you won't be stuck with all that stuff you don't want to keep. (For more on this, see "Optimizing Windows," December.)
If you do decide to upgrade over Windows 3.x, delete anything on the load= and run= lines in the [windows] section of WIN.INI. If you've been using a non-Windows shell extension, open SYSTEM.INI and restore the following line in the [boot] section: shell=progman.exe. Next, reboot the system and hold down the Ctrl key to bypass the Startup group applets (if any).
Do It the Hard Way
Resist the temptation to let Win95 decide what you need. Choose custom setup and take the time to select just the options you want. Note that Win95 usually has trouble finding a PS/2 mouse, and may think you have a standard serial mouse connected to COM1 even if you don't. It may also think you have an unknown monitor. In either case, highlight the appropriate device, click on the Change button and select the correct hardware.
Run Setup in Unprotected Mode
If your Startup files load any kind of virus protection, disable it and reboot. Some virus watchers will get quite upset at the Win95 setup procedure, so put them to sleep before starting the installation.
Power to the Peripherals
If you have any external devices you want Win95 to discover, turn them on before you run the setup procedure.
It's Not Over 'til it's Over
When Win95 finally opens at the conclusion of a successful setup procedure, select Control Panel/System and then the Device Manager tab. Scan the list of devices under the Computer icon and check for missing hardware (CD-ROM drive, for example), an incorrect modem or monitor, duplicate entries (especially under the Mouse icon), warning icons overlaid on other icons and anything else that doesn't look quite right. With luck, everything will be in order, but if not, now's the time to make the necessary corrections. Once that's done, the setup procedure is truly over. Enjoy!
Both Win3.1x and Win95 run a lot of little programs that don't shown up on the task list or the task bar. In Win3.1x, you couldn't shut them down if they were running properly. In Win95, you can see a list of these "behind the scenes" programs by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete. This brings up a Close Program dialog box. Your installation may go more smoothly if you close or shut down everything but Explorer. When you're done with your install, use Alt+F4 to shut down Windows. When it's safe to do so, turn off the power to your computer and restart.
Options? Just Say No
When reviewing the various lists of installable options, if you're not sure what something is, don't select it. Do you really need the Calculator? Screen Savers? If you don't, clear the appropriate check boxes to save a bit of space. If you guess wrong, you can always use Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet later on. Select the Windows Setup tab and you'll find a complete list of components waiting to be installed.
Don't Overlook Accessibility
The Accessibility Options are a series of enhancements for users with various physical impairments. Even if you don't need them, install them anyway. They don't need much space, and the ToggleKeys option on the Keyboard tab is a welcome addition to anyone's system. It discreetly beeps at you if you hit the Caps Lock, Num Lock or Scroll Lock keys, accidentally or on purpose. Check out the Mouse tab, as well.
What's the Password?
When prompted to enter a user name (required) and password (optional), don't enter the latter unless you really want password protection. That way you won't be pestered for a password every time you start Windows. You can always disable the password prompt later, but if you know you don't want it, skip it now and be done with it.
Let Win95 Help
In Win95, you're never alone at installation time, particularly when you install new 32-bit apps. To access the installation wizard, select Start/Settings/Control Panel, then double-click on the Add/Remove Programs icon. The Install/Uninstall tab is the default. Click on the Install button. Win95 searches for an install program on removable media, and will ask for your help if it can't find one.
Create a Rescue Diskette
In Win95, as in Win3.1x, installation of new applications sometimes renders your system unbootable. To help in these situations, create a bootable "rescue" floppy disk. Insert a diskette that's either blank or contains nothing you need. Select Start/Settings/Control Panel and double-click on the Add/Remove Programs icon. Click on the Startup Disk tab then click on Create Disk. When Win95 is done, make the disk read-only, label it and test it to be sure you can boot your computer from it. To be extra safe, make two boot disks.