One of the simplest ways to ensure the most stable operation of your Windows PC is to install as little software as possible on the beastie. You'll reduce the number of software conflicts, make the system easier to manage, and save disk space. But gee, Mr. Wizard, I thought computers were designed to run software...I know, I know.
In a strange, rather Zen way, system crashes, purges, and reboots can be good. A surprising amount of technically savvy users periodically flush and reboot their system as often as twice a year. They claim that it significantly improves performance and reliability. So, when your computer crashes and you have to scrub the whole thing, keep telling yourself that it's a good thing in the long run.
Windows 95 and its sibs Win 98 and Win ME are all rather unstable operating systems, partially by design (to accomodate Win 3.x and DOS-driven programs and devices, Win 95 left itself open to trouble) and partially by design flaws (a troublesome and only partially fixable memory leak). Never let either version run for too long when you're not using it; the memory leak accumulates over time and causes the system to crash. When you're not using the system, either shut your computer down or shut Windows down and let the computer stay in DOS. One source advises that you keep Windows running for two hours maximum before rebooting, unless you're using it to do something simple like typing; that sounds a little much to me. Other ways to lower the system stress on Windows is to keep the number of apps running as low as possible; to keep the number of windows open as low as possible; to minimize the open apps except for the one being used at the time (so much for layers of open windows); to avoid using the Alt+Tab shortcut with maximized windows (use the Taskbar instead); reduce the speed of the mouse to the lowest one you feel comfortable with (go through Control Panel/Mouse to play with the speed settings); avoid screen toys like fancy screensavers, wallpaper bitmaps, animated icons, desktop themes, and the like (use the ones provided by Windows itself, they are much lighter on system resources), avoid heavy apps like Lotus Organizer or MSOffice whenever possible, and when you do run them, don't run other programs along with them; avoid alarm/scheduler programs; stick to tried-and-true anti-virus programs and avoid newcomers which may gobble resources and cause crashes. Don't clutter up your Start menu with lots of extraneous toys, and check out WIN.INI for unneeded programs cluttering the LOAD= and RUN= lines. Does all of this sound rather anal to you? Me too, but low system resources cause crashes more often than anything else.
A sidenote to the above: while dozens, if not hundreds, of mainstream commercial programs are significant RAM hogs, here's a list of a few -- a very few -- of the worst offenders: Adobe's Photoshop, Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, and other graphics programs; Corel's WordPerfect Suite and other apps not originally written for Windows; RealPlayer and other streaming media utilities; and instant messaging apps like AOL's IM and ICQ. Not that these are the only memory suckers, just some of the most frequently identified.
Second sidenote: the above.mentioned memory leak was partially plugged in Win 98, but for some ungodly reason got worse in Win ME. Microsoft...gotta love 'em.
You need more RAM (Random Access Memory). Yes, you do. Low
system resources is one of the biggest reasons for the frequency
of Win95 crashes. This generally refers to memory. Although Win 95
advertises itself as being able to run on as little as 4mb of
resident memory, this is much too low for the system to sustain
itself over a period of time. The recommended 8mb of memory is
barely adequate; 16mb or above is a little better. The "sweet
spot" for Win 95, according to one wonk, is 24mb, where you get
the most for your RAM dollar. Additional RAM speeds things up
more, but with an ever-decreasing rate of return. Buying a new PC
with less than 32mb is foolish; and if you run large software
programs like Office 97, the newer machines with 64mb start to
sound more like a necessity rather than a luxury. The price of
memory upgrading is dropping daily; it's worth a trip to your
dealer to check it out. (By the way, a survey of experts resulted
in the infuriating recommendation that you always need at least
16mb more RAM than you already have. Start saving your pennies.)
(Note: If you want to get truly powered-up and install over 64
megs - say you decide to go for 128mb - have a techie check to see
if your chipset will support more than 64mb without slowing down.
Those using Intel's Pentium FX, TX, or VX chipsets might actually
slow their systems down with too much RAM.) A common misperception
is that Win 95 can't handle over 64MB of RAM without slowing down
appreciably. The truth is that Win 95 can handle up to 2GB of RAM.
The problem came with the Intel chipsets listed above, most
noticably the 430TX and the 430VX. Their Level 2 cache ignored all
but the first 64MB of RAM, thus reducing their performance. Almost
all Pentium II, and all PIII, users are in the clear, because
their chipsets are either 440LX, FX, or BX, which can cache all
the system RAM without choking.
One common sign that your memory is running dangerously low is when Explorer starts displaying the wrong icons. If you see this happening, immediately save your work and reboot. (One neat method is the "cool-boot" -- restarting Windows without shutting down the computer. Go through Start/Shut Down/Restart the computer, and as you click "Yes," hold down the Shift key.) If a program starts to misbehave (including making the system run more slowly, making the mouse jump around, making the screen twitch, whatever), save your work, shut down all programs, and cool-boot. Check your usage of system resources by going through Control Panel/System/Performance/System Resources. When the value displayed gets below 50%, save, shut down apps, and cool-boot. System Monitor is a useful tool to keep an eye on your system resources as well; it is provided with Windows but doesn't install in the Typical scenario. Fire it up through Programs/Accessories/System Tools, or just type SYSMON in the Run box. Most Windows apps take between 5% and 25% of the system resources, depending on their size and complexity. When you exit them, they release their resources. Groups and icons within a group, however, take between 1% and 25% of system resources and, once opened, keep resources in their grip until Windows is restarted. (Norton Desktop is an exception, taking 10% of the system resources but having its icons and groups self-contained and not dependent on system resources.) To find out how much RAM a particular app is sucking up, run System Monitor before firing up the app. Add the numbers from "Other memory" and "Swappable Memory," and subtract the result from "Disk Cache." Start the app and do the same calculation in System Monitor. The difference between the two totals is the amount of RAM that app is using.
Every one of us has seen the scary error message, "There is
not enough free memory to run this program. Quit one or more
programs, and then try again." It isn't your memory that's
depleted, it's your system resources. Without getting too
technical (and confusing both you and me), Windows divides some of
its memory into five specific areas called heaps, as in,
"You got a heap o'memory, boy." These heaps belong to the core
Windows libraries USER32.DLL and GDI32.DLL. The three USER heaps
store internal info about active programs and their menus, along
with other esoteric data we don't want to know about, while the
two GDI heaps store system objects related to graphics. If you've
read the earlier section about Win 95 being the bastard child of
Win 3.x, then you'll understand when I tell you that one of the
USER heaps and one of the GDI heaps are 16-bit leftovers from the
3.x days. They only have 64K capacity, and when they get jammed,
they cause the bottlenecks that result in the ugly error message
above. (Win 3.x only had 3 heaps, all 16-bit; as a result, it got
jammed much more frequently than Win 9x on average.) Win 3.x
depended on the individual program to clear the pipes after
termination; the badly written ones that didn't would hog memory
even after it was closed, resulting in a jam that required a
reboot. Win 9x is a little better at memory management that 3.x,
but programs that don't terminate, particularly those that run at
startup, choke it regularly. If you find yourself getting this
error message frequently, one of your startup apps is probably
causing the system depletion. To locate the offender, you'll need
to use the Resource Meter applet in Accessories. It's a simple set
of bar graphs that is pretty self-explanatory. Fire up Windows,
then fire up Resource Meter and note the USER and GDI settings. Go
entertain yourself for a half an hour, come back, and record the
settings again. You can do it a third or fourth time to really
establish a flow. If there's a significant drop, one of your
startup apps is draining your system.
In a related matter, all the current 9x flavors of Windows,
including ME, have a documented glitch that crops up in PCs
equipped with more than 512 MB of RAM. Windows sets aside enough
memory so it can work with big files, and if the amount of
available memory is large, the memory chunk it sets aside is
large, too. Unfortunately, if the amount of available memory is
over 512 MB, the file-handling routines can grab so much memory
that nothing is left for more mundane functions. Even more
confusingly, if Windows hits this bug, it may report the problem
to you by saying "There is not enough memory available to run this
program. Quit one or more programs, and then try again." Or it may
hang completely. To warn Windows that you have more than 512MB of
memory installed, add the following line to the [VCache] section
of your WIN.INI file:
MAXFILECACHE = 524288.
Some people like to use the "dual-boot" setup, keeping both Win 3x and Win 9x/NT on the same machine. If you've got that setup and you want an easy way to migrate a set of programs and files from Win 3x to 9x/NT, here's how: Make an exact duplicate of your Win 3x folder and all the folders and sub directories therein. This isn't as huge a task as it sounds; just the Windows and Windows\System folders will usually do the trick, and shouldn't cost you more than 10MB of hard disk space. Create a folder titled Win95, Win98, WinME, or WinNT, depending on what OS you're using. Now, go into MS-DOS or use the Windows File Manager program to copy all your files from C:\Windows (substitute your drive/folder/directory name in place of C:\Windows) and your C:\Windows\System (same) to your C:\Win95, C:\Win98, or C:\WinNT System folder. You will need a sub-folder/directory in your DUPLICATE COPY of Windows 3.x named "System" where you copy the old Windows 3.x system files from the Windows 3.x system sub-folder. Still with me? Now run Windows's installation program and tell it to install itself in the C:\Win95, or whatever, folder. Make sure it "overwrites" your previous installation, if you've already made one. All your original apps are ported to Windows 95, 98, or NT, while still available for use in 3x; additionally, your Registry and your Start Menu are also updated.
Before installing any programs, close all open apps and disable all anti-virus programs, screensavers, desktop ornaments such as Neko, or whatever. They gum up the works. I don't know whether or not desktop theme packages need to be disabled.
Before installing any software, make room on your hard drive (double-click on My Computer, right-click the drive, and select Properties to see how much room remains). If the program won't leave you with at least 10% of your drive free, don't install it until you clear some space. Back up the Registry before installing anything; installations turn Registry into an overgrown mess over time. (See above.) You may not want to let the app install itself in its default directory; think about where you want it to go. If appropriate, have it store data in your data folder, not its own. After installing a program, "cool-boot" Windows to see if the program is going to behave. If you have a problem, you know that the new program isn't going to coexist with Windows and you can delete the thing before it wreaks more havoc. (You may need to restore your WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI, CONFIG.SYS, and/or your AUTOEXEC.BAT files if you've installed a really gnarly piece of software. You do have clean copies backed up, right?)
Windows uses a disk cache called VCache to hold the
hard-disk information you've accessed most recently. Those of us
with 16MB or more of RAM (if this isn't you, it oughta be) can
tinker with the way Windows handles its VCache to improve app
performance. The problem is that Windows sometimes allocates more
of your system memory than it needs, reducing the amount of system
memory available to your apps, thus increasing the number of times
Win 9x has to access the hard drive and waste your time. The fix
is to limit the size of the VCache. Do so by editing SYSTEM.INI.
From the Start/Run command, type SYSEDIT and click on OK (Win ME
users, type MSCONFIG). Look for the file labeled [vcache] and
either add the following lines or edit the lines to read as such:
MinFileCache=***The *** values for minimum and maximum file cache can be found in the listing below:
You can manually adjust the size of your swap file and avoid some of the aggravating random disk accessing that makes you wait while Windows adjusts your file's size. Microsoft advises against this, but in this case the Redmond boys are wrong. Go into Control Panel, double-click "System," click the "Performance" tab, click the "Virtual Memory" button, select "Let me specify my own virtual settings," and set them where you like (a good rule of thumb is three times your RAM). If it gives you a little thrill to do this in the face of the dire warnings Microsoft gives you here, revel in it. Note: Win9x's swap file doesn't work the same way as Win3.x's; in Win9x, the swap files continue to grow, hogging more and more system resources, until you reboot.
An oddity crops up with Win 98SE's swap files: once you select the "Let me specify..." setting, both the minimum and maximum boxes become active. The max starts out being set to the amount of available disk space, even if that is bigger than the maximum Win 98 file size. The best thing to do here is not worry about it, but instead just leave it alone. It is essentially the same as not setting a maximum. You can reboot and come back to see that it's set to No Maximum (albeit grayed out). The grayed-out Mininum setting is honored, however. Why do you care about this? Well, if you're up on swap file minutiae, you'll know; if the whole idea of reworking your swap files bores the stew out of you, then don't worry about it.
While we're talking about caches, you can tinker with your CD-ROM cache as well. Go through Control Panel, double-click the System icon, and choose the "Performance" tab. Click "File System" and the CD-ROM tab. Move the Supplemental Cache Size slider to the right to allocate more memory for the CD cache or to the left to allocate less. Hints on what, if any, adjustments to make: Multimedia programs don't need a lot of cache because they seldom reuse data from the CD drive. There's also a setting called "Optimize Access Pattern;" increase this if you use a lot of streaming media or heavy-duty graphics files such as .AVIs. Decrease the "Optimize Access Pattern" setting and increase the Supplemental Cache Size if you access a lot of random data. Confused? Best to leave the settings alone if you aren't sure what you're doing.
If you've got two physical hard drives in your system, you can use them to boost Windows performance. Put your Windows swap file on the second drive. To set it up, right click My Computer and choose Properties. Click the Performance tab, then the Virtual Memory button. Click "Let me specify my own virtual memory settings." Then click Hard Disk, and from the drop-down menu select your second hard drive. (You'll see the free space for each drive listed in this dialog. If there's less free space on this second drive, either leave things as they were or clear away space on the second drive.) Don't mess with the minimum and maximum settings. Click OK and let Windows restart. When it comes back up, check the virtual memory screen again to make sure that Windows is now managing virtual memory for you again. If not, set it to do so. One source recommends clearing off your second drive completely so that the swap file will be the first thing on that file; if you do that, move all files off the second drive, and run both ScanDisk and Defrag on that drive regardless of whether they say you need to or not. Another way to boost performance is by putting some applications on your second drive. Microsoft Office works perfectly this way, for example.
View the properties of these multiple drives by opening My Computer and selecting all of your hard drives (hold down Ctrl and click on each drive in turn). Right-click on any drive and choose Properties; Windows will give you a single dialog box with Properties tabs for each drive. This works with floppy drives, removables, and mapped network drives as well.
If you're one of those Net junkies who love to upload and download files, you can do yourself a favor by using a file compression program such as WinZip, PKZip, Pacific Gold Coast's TurboZip97, or Ontrack (formerly Mijenix)'s rather complex ZipMagic98. WinZip is the standard, and is readily available for download from Nico Mak's Web site at www.winzip.com. WinZip has a function called CheckOut, which allows you to create a temporary folder to unpack and test-drive a downloaded program, and if it doesn't suit you, easily and cleanly delete it without worrying about what it has strewn around your hard drive. Those of you who are into voluminous amounts of stored, catalogued zipped files may prefer TurboZip, which sports a superior file management system over WinZip. ZipMagic is an add-on to Windows Explorer that converts compressed files into accessible directory folders. Hint: Keep your downloaded files in a separate storage folder. Believe me, they will end up all over your disk if you don't keep them in line. If there's no reason to keep a .zip file or a SETUP.EXE file, delete it. Win ME users, don't forget that you have WinPop, the onboard file compression utility. You may need to install it through Add/Remove, but it's there.
While we're on the topic, here are some general tips for uninstalling programs. If you like to install and uninstall programs frequently (checking out new free and shareware, trying out game demos, etc), you're going to end up with a lot of crap on your hard drive. Take out the garbage by following these tips:
If ScanDisk creates a file (or lots of files) called something like FILExxxx.CHK and you want to see what's in it, use WordPad. If ScanDisk creates a good number of these, chances are you have a problem somewhere. (.CHK files contain clusters of data that were marked as in use by the file allocation table, but were not actually allocated to any file. These lost clusters are formed when your system crashes while programs have files open, or when you shut down the system without going through the shutdown procedure. Sometimes a .CHK file will contain part or all of a file you were working on at the time of a system crash or power outage. Check the root directory of each drive after running ScanDisk. You can have WordPad load the files so you can eyeball their contents and perhaps recognize something salvageable, but at least one expert says he has never recovered anything useful from a .CHK file. Unless you're recovering from a system crash, that expert says you're probably better off just deleting them and moving on. When I have had a system crash, ScanDisk has reorganized half my hard drive into .CHK files. Even though I could recognize much of the material contained in the files, I found it maddeningly difficult to restore the data; it was easier just to scrub the disk and start over. Unless you're a systems guru, you will probably find the same to be true.)
Do I even need to warn against downloading and/or running beta programs? (Beta programs are works-in-progress, unfinished by their manufacturers and definitely not yet ready for prime time.) Yes, it sounds cool to impress your nerdy friends by telling them you're a beta tester, but you're asking for system crashes of wide and varying kinds. Unless you like driving yourself nuts, or you're using a PC that isn't necessary for your daily life, stay away from beta programs. In fact, it's a good idea not to download the first release of any new program. Wait until it's been out a while and the most obvious bugs have been caught.
-Computers new and old. Software, hardware as well. Dos,
Windows 95 etc. Servers and HTML web.
-Electronics and radio frequency (RF). Some ham radio and pirate radio topics. High Voltage projects. X-rays, Tesla, Free Energy etc.
-Fitness, Outdoor physical activities. Preferably summer time activities. Walking swimming and exercise.
-Learning. Education and study.
-Travel. Leisure, mostly out of the Country (World) by air.
-Music, Dance, High energy type. Mainstream house and club. Anything with good amount of vocals so I can play it on licensed and hobby FM as "AC".
-Broadcasting, Read up for types of music preferred. Not to be confused with an on air personality.(Voicing)
Year Born 1986. Sex male. (Duh) Take a look at picture on the left :) Name. You can call me Mister Lagaseeno. From and currently living in Ontario Canada. 10 Months of Winter and 2 months of summer keeps my skin extra pale. I am best known locally for my role in community broadcasting. I also keep surprising my friends and family with new ideas and projects, such as my free energy devices that some have been lucky and have seen working in my lab. I keep myself busy by keeping myself out of trouble. It really works! Learning new things, Things that make me go :) and of course helping people out if I can along the way!
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