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2,001 Tips
Windows 3.x
Windows 95 may create the excitement, but earlier Windows 3.x versions still reside on many a desktop. These tips will help you get the most out of your old, reliable Windows installation.


Avoid Directory Overload

Avoid trouble: Install your programs in subdirectories beneath a directory called APPS or PROGRAMS. What kind of trouble? Many people overload the root directory of their hard disk. DOS can only handle 512 entries in this directory. Subdirectories can have as many entries as needed. However, when there are more than 150 entries in a subdirectory, performance can be sluggish. Create PROGRAM2 if you need to. Insert \APPS immediately after the colon when prompted by the install program for the directory into which you wish to install. If the default is to install in C:\FOO, change it to C:\APPS\FOO.

What Are My Options?

You can take advantage of Windows Setup's many command-line options, even if you don't have the documentation handy. Change to the Windows directory in DOS (usually CD \WINDOWS at the DOS C: prompt) and type SETUP /?|More. The |More causes DOS to pause at the bottom of the first screen; the description of Setup command-line options takes more than one screen. If you don't change to the Windows directory, you will be shown the commands for DOS setup.

Splash Panel of Death

One of the first things Windows 3.1 does is display a splash panel after you start it. If Windows displays the splash panel, then either locks up or returns to the DOS prompt without displaying Windows' Program Manager, it means you probably have a driver problem, a hardware problem or a memory conflict. Try starting windows with the command line WIN /S which will start Windows in standard mode. If Windows comes up, your installation problem is definitely an enhanced mode problem; Windows has failed to virtualize some piece of hardware or can't get to the memory it needs.

Defrag First

Improve your disk performance by using the DOS defrag command-or a good third-party package-to defragment your drive before you install any new software. Any disk you've used for a while has empty spaces scattered all over it. DOS loads new files into the first space it finds, no matter how small. As a result, a single file can be spread all over the disk, slowing down disk access. Defrag regularly, and always defrag before installing new software.

Head Off TSR Trouble

When you launch Windows with this command line: WIN /T it searches the hard drive for memory-resident (TSR) programs and notifies you about certain programs known to cause trouble.

Maybe It's in the Cards

You can debug your Windows installation. Instead of just typing Win at the C: prompt, type: WIN /D:XSV. The D: means debug mode. The X means EMMEXCLUDE. It excludes the entire memory range occupied by adapters, such as network cards, sound boards or video cards-in short, anything that uses shared memory. The S means SystemRomBreakPoint=Off. That just keeps Windows from messing with the BIOS. Windows tries to alter the BIOS to improve performance, but sometimes that doesn't work and Windows can't tell it isn't working. The V means VirtualHDIRQ=Off. It tells Windows not to virtualize the hard drive, which can lead to problems on computers whose hard drive hardware is not compatible. For example, SCSI drives often require this line. If your drive isn't WD1007-compatible you may require this parameter. If entering one or more of these debug parameters makes Windows work, you can enter them permanently in the SYSTEM.INI file.

Debugging Windows Install Programs

The best sequence for debugging a non-functional Windows installation is to try WIN /D:XSV first. If Windows boots, try just X, just S and just V; this should narrow down the likely problems. If none of the parameters work individually, try them in pairs; in the worst case, you should only have to try six combinations.

Tracking Down Video Trouble

Video problems are the most common problems during Windows installation. You may even get an error message during setup indicating a video problem. Make a backup copy of SYSTEM.INI. Close Windows, and then type SETUP at the C: prompt in the WINDOWS directory. Use the arrow keys to highlight the video system, and press Enter. Then select either the VGA driver or the 8514 driver, and attempt to start Windows again. If Program Manager appears, your problem was a video driver. You can run Windows like that, or use SETUP to install a driver that was provided on a floppy disk by your system manufacturer.

Troubling Memory

Memory problems can cause Windows to hang on start-up. You can track down memory problems, but before you start, make sure you have a bootable floppy disk with the correct version of DOS (if you don't have one, create one with FORMAT A: /S, then copy CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT from your hard drive to the bootable floppy). Boot your system with the floppy, and rename CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT on the hard drive. Then, create a new CONFIG.SYS on the hard drive with a single line: DEVICE=C:\DOS\HIMEM.SYS. Reboot your system. If Windows works, use Notepad to restore lines from your regular CONFIG.SYS file, one at a time, then reboot and start Windows again. Restore lines in your AUTOEXEC.BAT a line at a time, and reboot. Continue this process until Windows stops working. When Windows fails to start, the last line you added is the culprit; work with customer support at the vendor involved and see if they will help you resolve the problem. In the unlikely event that DOS will not boot after you have changed CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, reboot from the floppy and rename the versions on the hard disk.

Change Windows at Will

You can install multiple copies of Windows without doing a full install each time. This allows you to test software or hardware without messing up your normal production copy of Windows. First, enter SETUP /A at the DOS prompt to create a shared directory containing all the files Windows needs. Normally, this is used on networks, but you can use it on a standalone computer as well. Make sure you are either in the shared Windows directory or that it is in your DOS PATH statement. Then enter: SETUP /N. This will set up a new version of Windows with just the files needed to create a unique version; this new copy of Windows will share the files in the shared directory. You use much less disk space than you would with multiple complete copies of Windows, yet each is clean and separate.

Hardly What You Expected

Sometimes Windows, in its earnest effort to identify your hardware during installation, will get something wrong. If you check the setup after an installation and Windows has misidentified your hardware, you can try again, typing SETUP /I. This causes Windows to bypass hardware detection. However, you may have to check the accuracy of the System Information Windows develops, either from SETUP in DOS or WINSETUP (usually found in the Main program group in Program Manager).

Log Reveals Knotty Problems

Windows can help you find trouble, if you ask it nicely before you start making changes to drivers or system components. First, open Windows with the command line WIN /B. This causes Windows to write a file named BOOTLOG.TXT. It also causes Windows to skip its opening screen (or splash panel); you'll see the C: prompt until Program Manager appears. As Windows concludes each step of its startup procedure, it writes a line in this file that tells you the step was completed. Rename the file to something easy to remember, like bootlog1.TXT. Now, make your changes to Windows. By looking at the new BOOTLOG.TXT (and comparing it to the previous version) you can tell what went wrong.

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