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Cover Story
Want the Ultimate Upgrade? Buy a New System

-- by Lenny Bailes

Microsoft recently shipped a face-lift for Windows 95, but you won't see it unless you buy a new system or wait for Windows 97. The new version, Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 (OSR 2), combines a new file system for 2GB and larger hard disks with several driver and application enhancements, improved Internet support, an updated Microsoft Network online service and Internet Explorer 3.0.

With OSR 2, Microsoft intends to get Windows 95 up to speed with emerging PC technologies such as 2GB and larger EIDE hard drives, new video and motherboard chipsets, enhanced storage management devices and 32-bit PC Cards. You might be surprised, and disappointed, to learn that most of the improved hardware support in OSR 2 (including the FAT-32 file system) won't be available as downloads for user upgrades. But OSR 2 is available on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) for developers who are building applications to run on the OSR.

Microsoft also plans to integrate OSR 2's enhancements into the next retail version of Windows, code-named Memphis.

Here are some of OSR 2's key upgrades:

DriveSpace. The updated DriveSpace supports compressed volumes up to 2GB in size. But you can't create compressed drives on FAT-32 disk partitions.

FAT-32 File System. This long-awaited upgrade does away with the FAT-16 partition size limit of 2,048MB. FAT-32 also removes the exponential increase in cluster size on disk partitions ranging from 260MB to 8GB. Under FAT-32, partitions of up to 260MB use 512-byte file clusters, partitions from 260MB to 8GB get 4KB clusters, and partitions of 16GB to 32GB use 16KB clusters. This allows partitions of 1GB or more without wasting disk space. (Note: Windows NT 4.0 does not yet support FAT-32.) Under FAT-16, a partition of 1GB to 2GB would use a 32KB cluster.

ScanDisk. ScanDisk runs automatically on boot-up after an abnormal shutdown.

Storage. OSR 2's new IDE drivers include support for bus mastering motherboard chipsets, IDE tape backup units and SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology), a hard-drive fault prediction system developed cooperatively by several disk vendors. The new CD file system supports Adaptive Read Ahead for improved random access performance, the ISO-9660 CD (up to 4GB) standard, and CD-I and Macintosh CDs. It adds support for 120MB Floptical drives.

Universal Serial Bus. USB support is not included in OSR 2, but it is expected to ship in the next OEM release early this year.

Feature: FAT-32

Description: Enhancements to the Windows 95 FAT file system to efficiently support large hard disks (up to 2 terabytes). Includes updates to Fdisk, Format, ScanDisk and Defrag disk utilities to support FAT-32 partitions.


Feature: DriveSpace

Description: Compression utility that now supports compressed volumes up to 2GB.


Feature: Power Management

Description: Support for Advanced Power Management (APM) 1.2 BIOS, wake-on-ring for modems, multi-battery PCs, drive spindown and powering down of inactive PCMCIA modems.


Feature: Storage

Description: Support for IDE bus mastering, 120MB Floptical disk drives, removable IDE media, Zip drives and CD changers. Also adds the SMART predictive disk failure APIs.


Feature: PC Card

Description: Adds support for new PC Card 32 (Cardbus) bridges, 3.3-volt PC Cards, multifunction network/modem PC Cards and PC Card Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.


Feature: CD Drives

Description: Support for ISO-9660 disks up to 4GB and CD-I format CD-ROMs.


Feature: PCI Bridging/Docking

Description: Support for PCI devices used in PCI docking stations.


Feature: IRQ Routing

Description: Support for new PCI Interrupt Routers.


Feature: Intel MMX

Description: Support for third-party MMX-enabled software.


Feature: NDIS 4.0

Description: Adds support for new NDIS 4.0 network interface card drivers.


Feature: ScanDisk

Description: ScanDisk runs automatically after abnormal shutdowns.


Feature: Online Services Folder

Description: Client software for America Online 3.0, CompuServe 3.0 and AT&T Worldnet.

Windows Magazine, February 1997, page 196.

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