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Always restart your computer after you install a new application, even if the program doesn't tell you to. And don't just exit Windows. Turn off the power to your computer and reboot. Sometimes, a newly installed application makes your system unbootable. It is a lot easier to figure out which application disabled your system-and to repair the damage-if you install applications one at a time and reboot each time.
Close 'Em for a Clean Install
Many Windows applications share system files. Your installation program may fail-and it may not even tell you it has failed-if other programs are running during the installation. Most installation programs ask you to close all other programs, and some will even do it for you. But if the program doesn't, close all your other apps anyway; you're less likely to run into a problem with shared files, and your installation will go faster. You can close all your applications by switching between them (press Alt+Tab in any version of Windows) and then pressing Alt+F4.
Back Up for Peace of Mind
When you purchase software, back up all the installation disks. That's not piracy, it's common sense and it's your right. Store the original disks safely, away from magnets, static, excessive dust, or extreme heat or cold. Save the box and documentation. If there's an installation key, tape it to the box.
Tiptoe Through System Files
You've installed a new software package, but when you restart your computer it won't boot up. If you have MS-DOS 6.0 or later, you can "step" through the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files a line at a time. Wait for the words "Starting MS-DOS" to appear, then press F8. As it executes each line of the two files, DOS will send a message to the screen. You've found the problem when you execute a line that makes your system hang.
If your system "breaks" during or after installation, you can restore your old configuration easily if you have made copies of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files in your root directory, and WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI plus all the GRP files in your Windows directory. One way to do this is to keep a subdirectory on your C: drive called BUP, where you can stuff copies of these files before you start an installation. An even better idea is to stow them on a bootable diskette.
Floppy to the Rescue
In case an errant installation prevents you from booting from your hard disk, you can use a bootable "rescue" disk. Take a blank floppy and run the DOS command FORMAT A: /S. Copy your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS (the system files) as well as any files they call. Be sure to copy any files mentioned in DEVICE= lines in CONFIG.SYS. These lines are required to run your hard disk, CD-ROM and other storage devices. If in doubt, copy the file. Edit the copies of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT on the floppy, deleting the paths to the drivers and leaving only the filename. This way, when the files are called, they'll be located in the root directory of the floppy. Copy EDIT.COM and QBASIC.EXE from your DOS directory onto this disk too, so you can edit files if you need to. Write-protect the disk when you're done.