PC Hardware

How Much RAM Is Enough?

The amount of RAM really needed depends on the user and which applications are to be run. Typical Microsoft Office users can usually work quite well with 8 MB of RAM. Moderate users of the Copy and Paste commands will need to increase RAM to at least 16 MB. If users require their applications to be a click away (all running at the same time), they will need 32 MB of RAM. In the 32-bit Windows world, additional RAM will always boost performance. Remember:

  • You can never have too much RAM.
  • RAM is the key to optimization of Windows.
  • The simplest and least expensive way to improve the speed and performance of any computer is to add RAM.
  • Moore's Law: Processing power doubles every 18 months (from Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel).
  • Parkinson's Law of Data: Data expands to fill the storage space available (from the original Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time available).

Upgrading from Windows 3.x (Windows 95 Version A)

Windows 95 installation is a relatively painless affair (in most cases) and requires minimal intervention. Before starting an installation, consider the following:

  • The more complicated the system, the more complicated the installation.
  • Incompatible hardware is probably the number one cause of installation problems.
  • Conflicting software is probably the number two cause of installation problems.
  • Patience and persistence are two requirements for a Windows 95 upgrade.

Before you start the installation, consider the following:

  • Back up, back up, back up! Make copies of all the current system files-.INI, .GRP, AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, .DLL, and all critical data files. You can use the MS-DOS version of MSD (Microsoft Diagnostics) to record (and print) a complete configuration of the system.
  • The best tool for an installation is a pad of paper and a pencil. Write everything down. Document, document, document!
  • It is probably better to remove any questionable hardware and software before starting the installation. Be sure to back up any data files and check the integrity of the installation disks. Reinstall after Windows 95 is up and running.
  • Check the Microsoft Internet Web site for its incompatible hardware list. Search: www.microsoft.com.
  • Be sure to turn off all TSRs (terminate-and-stay-resident programs) and active programs before starting the installation.
  • Check the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) setup for any antivirus programs and deactivate. Windows 95 installation does not like virus protection. You will need to open the BIOS setup and disable virus checking before proceeding. While you are there, document your CMOS.

Windows 95 Installation Process

The Windows 95 installation process can be divided into five distinct steps:

Step 1-Startup and System Check

Run the SETUP.EXE from either the CD (best choice) or Disk 1. Windows 95 is shipped on CD; if your computer does not have a CD-ROM drive, you can request the floppy disk version from Microsoft. The setup process goes like this:

  1. SETUP looks through the system for a previous version of Windows. If you are installing the upgrade version, it must find the previous version of Windows or it will not install.
  2. SETUP runs SCANDISK. You must correct any disk problems before continuing the install. If problems are encountered, run SCANDISK again after they are repaired.
  3. SETUP confirms that the system is ready to accept a new operating system (OS).
  4. SETUP checks for the presence of an extended memory manager (HIMEM.SYS) and a disk cache (SMARTDrive). If they are not present, it loads XMSMMGR.EXE and SMARTDrive.
  5. SETUP checks for any TSR programs and device drivers.
  6. If SETUP was started from MS-DOS and this is an upgrade, it copies the basic Windows 3.1 files to a temporary directory (WININSTO.400). It uses the old GUI to get started.
  7. SETUP looks for a directory named Old_dos.x and asks if you want to remove it.
  8. SETUP adds the following to the AUTOEXEC.BAT file:
   @if exist c:\wininst0.400\suwarn.bat
   call c:\wininst0.400\suwarn.bat
  @if exist c:\wininst0.400\suwarn.bat
   del c:\wininst0.400\suwarn.bat

If for any reason the installation process aborts, this will display a warning that Windows 95 was not installed completely and that you need to rerun SETUP and choose the Safe Recover option.

Step 2-Information Collection

This step runs the Installation wizard, which presents a step-by-step series of dialog boxes. The purpose of this process is to collect any custom information required, including:

  • The directory in which to install Windows 95.
  • Which components to install.
  • Your name and company name.
  • Any network configurations.

SETUP creates a text file named SETUPLOG.TXT in the root directory. This file stores the requested information.

Step 3-Hardware Detection

SETUP attempts to automatically determine all hardware-IRQs, addresses, DMA (direct memory access), and so forth. If the hardware is Plug and Play-compatible, the detection manager simply queries the BIOS for the information. With legacy (the older non-Plug and Play) devices, it is more complicated (and dangerous). This low-level detection can cause device drivers to go haywire and cause delays to the system. Therefore, Windows looks for "hints" of these devices. This is called safe detection.

Hardware devices are divided into four classes: sound cards, SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) controllers, network adapters, and proprietary CD-ROM drives. Windows SETUP will look in the following places for information about these devices:

  • The DEVICE= lines in CONFIG.SYS
  • Device drivers residing in memory
  • The hard drive, for files that might be associated with a driver (*.drv, for instance)
  • Read-only memory strings
  • Warnings in MSDET.INF that spell out prescribed actions

Remember, SETUP is looking for "hints." If it makes an incorrect assumption, problems can occur when Windows 95 tries to run for the first time. (Consider uninstalling any questionable legacy devices before starting the Windows 95 installation.) The data found during the search is stored in a file called DETLOG.TXT in the root directory of the C drive. It is not deleted at the end of setup, and can be examined if you like.

After finding all the devices, SETUP creates the Registry (the database for this information). During this process, go get a cup of coffee and a doughnut. This might take awhile, and you will need a break, anyway.

Step 4-Startup Disk Creation and File Installation

SETUP next asks if you want a startup disk created. (It is highly recommended that you select "yes.") This will create a bootable floppy disk with several useful files. This is also called an emergency startup disk, and you can create one at any time, on any Windows 95 computer, by selecting the Startup Disk tab of the Add/Remove icon found in the Control Panel.

The following files are put on the emergency startup disk:

  • IO.SYS

After creating the startup disk, SETUP checks the SETUPLOG.TXT file and begins copying all the necessary files from the CD (or floppy disks) to the hard disk.

If you are installing Windows 95 or 98 on a laptop that can support only a CD-ROM or a floppy disk drive in a single bay, you can defer creating the emergency startup disk by choosing cancel when the dialog box that prompts you to insert a floppy disk appears.

Step 5-Windows Configuration

Now that everything has been copied to the hard disk drive, Windows 95 needs to set itself up to take over the operating system duties. Configuration is a multistep process as Windows:

  • Replaces the Master Boot record with the Windows 95 version.
  • Renames several system files: IO.SYS to IO.DOS; MSDOS.SYS to MSDOS.DOS; COMMAND.COM to COMMAND.DOS.
  • Copies the Windows 95 operating system files: replaces IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS with IO.SYS.

Now, the computer reboots, invoking a special routine used only when Windows 95 is run for the first time. This process:

  • Combines all virtual device drivers into one file called VMM32.VXD.
  • Loads the Run-Once module, which configures the hardware.
  • Installs any network information (if required).
  • Converts any Program Group files from Windows 3.x into Windows 95 shortcuts for the Start menu.
  • Runs wizards for configuration of printers and other peripherals.
  • Initializes the Windows 95 Help system.
  • Enables MS-DOS program settings.
  • Sets the date and time properties.
  • Reboots to set final hardware configuration.