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Patch Patrol
by Lenny Bailes

Microsoft's first service update for Win95, issued in January 1996, contained a number of patches and revised dynamic link libraries (DLLs) that fixed minor problems in the operating system. With the service update, Microsoft included Update Information Tool. This program (QFECHECK.EXE), placed in the System Tools folder under Accessories, tracks which of the 10 Win95 update patches are installed on your system. If you've installed some of the patches separately and want to track them, you can also download QFECHECK.EXE from Microsoft's Web site.

Version Control
Click to enlarge.
Version Control. If you need any important version information on your Windows system files, Version Info 1.0 has it for you.
Update Information Tool searches for all of the DLLs in your C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory and examines the system Registry. The dates and version numbers of DLLs associated with operating system fixes appear on the Registered Update tab of the program. If the version number of the DLL in the Registry does not correspond to the one on your hard disk, this information appears in red. The second tab in the program lets you search for all system update files, whether or not they appear in the Registry. If you installed an early update or simply copied one of the patches to the hard disk and bypassed the setup program, it will show up on this list.

Don't Dread the Red

If Update Information Tool reports an invalid driver in red, that doesn't necessarily mean you have a system problem. Sometimes the version number for the active DLL is not updated in the system Registry. You may have a perfectly good file with a later date installed on your hard disk.

Update Information Tool
Click to enlarge.
Keep up with Updates. The Updated Files Found tab of Update Information Tool finds system update files, even if they don't appear in the Registry.
Microsoft's utility reports only on DLLs included in Win95 Service Pack 1, but it is a step in the right direction for troubleshooting stubborn Windows 95 system problems. Nearly 80 percent of all program failures (general protection faults) within Windows 95 are caused by conflicting system or program DLLs. Windows 95's core set of drivers (COMMCTRL.DLL, MSVCRTXX.DLL and so on) are constantly overwritten with new versions whenever you install new applications.

Theoretically, the latest version of each system DLL is backward-compatible with programs that ship with older modules. However, some cranky applications become crash-prone or refuse to run whenever another application substitutes a new system file. A classic example of this is a conflict between Microsoft Office and early versions of Netscape Navigator. After Netscape had been installed, Word and Excel would refuse to run. The only way to fix the problem was to recopy the MS Office versions of system DLLs to the Windows directory or reinstall the entire suite.

Duplicate versions of DLLs in multiple directories can also cause system problems. A couple of free utilities might help you solve problems with program GPFs. Version Info 1.0 (http://www.shareware.com) will display the filename and directory path, version number and other pertinent information for any Windows system file (DLL, DRV, EXE, VBX, VXD, OCX and so forth) on your hard disk. It will also track down duplicate versions of these files hidden in other directories. This utility is available in both executable program (EXE) and Windows Control Panel (CPL) formats.

Another freebie, Symantec's Norton CrashGuard 1.0 (http://www.symantec.com), protects your file data when programs freeze or conflicting DLLs precipitate GPFs. CrashGuard revives frozen and crashed programs, bringing them back from the twilight zone long enough for you to save your files before closing the sick application.

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Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.