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Essential Windows 9x Tips & Fixes

If you're a Win9x user, these tips and fixes are essential to working with your PC. (Note: These tips haven't been updated in quite some time. Most were originally written for Windows 95.)

By Scot Finnie

F i x e s

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How to Extract Files from Win95 .CABs

Did you know you can manually extract files from your Windows CD or IE setup .CAB files? This tip can be very useful when your PC tells you KERNEL32.DLL or another system file is corrupt. Win95 users can get the job done with the DOS mode EXTRACT.EXE tool (found in your \Windows\Commands folder). By typing EXTRACT /? from the DOS window, you'll get the syntax and available options for using this tool. But to really get the most out of it, read through and print out Microsoft's Web page: How to Extract Original Compressed Windows Files" first

Painless Win98 .CAB Extraction

If you need to extract a fresh copy of any file, the Windows 98 System File Checker will do it for you. Launch System File Checker from by double-clicking the SFC.EXE file in your \Windows\System folder. In the dialog that opens, click the "Extract one file from installation disk" radio button, then type the full name of the file you want and press the Start button. Type {CD}:\WIN98 (where {CD} is your CD-ROM drive letter) in the Restore From box. Then enter the destination in the Save File In box and click OK. The utility will search the CAB files in the \WIN98 directory for the file and extract it into the specified folder.

Weed out Control Panel Icons

Windows 95 is very protective of icons in the Control Panel window — it won't let you move or delete them. Sometimes extra icons appear after installing new software or hardware. To remove an unwanted Control Panel icon, look for its .CPL file in the \Windows\System folder. Before deleting the file, move it to a new subfolder, and restart Windows to see if you picked the right .CPL file. --Michael Dale Read

Program Files By Any Other Name

The Problem: You install a program that insists that its program folder be installed into the C:\Program folder instead of Windows' C:\Program Files folder. The Solution: Such programs do not recognize Windows 9x or NT long filenames. When they see "Program Files" they stop at the space and interpret the input as "C\:Program." In order to get the program to install properly, start by uninstalling it if it's currently installed. Then re-install it, instructing setup to install the program folder to into this folder: C:\PROGRA~1. That's the DOS abbreviation of the long filename for the C:\Program Files folder. You can see it if you enter DOS and type the DIR command. (Note: Some programs may need the trailing backslash, like this: C:\PROGRA~1\.)

When System Config Utility Doesn't Work

Has this happened to you? You attempt to disable startup files using the System Configuration Utility (C:\Windows\System\MSCONFIG.EXE), some or all of the files you disabled continue to load when you restart your PC. Microsoft reports this can occur if AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI, or WINSTART.BAT (the last one is only on some users' PCs) have been write protected, that is, if the files have been set with the read-only attribute. Another problem, the inability to print from Windows, potentially with a WordPad error message reading "The printer could not be found," is similarly caused by a write-protected WIN.INI file. Solve the problem by shutting down the computer with the Restart in MS-DOS Mode option. From he MS-DOS prompt, type the following commands, pressing Enter after each one.

attrib c:\config.sys -r
attrib c:\autoexec.bat -r
attrib win.ini -r
attrib system.ini -r
attrib winstart.bat -r

Type "exit" at the DOS prompt to re-enter Windows and see if things are working properly now.

Send Icons to Start

Make shortcuts of the Start Menu and the Programs folders, and place them in the SendTo folder (C:\Windows\SendTo)! When you come across icons you wish were on your Start or Programs menus, right-click it and choose the appropriate Send To destination. That's a move operation though. More appropriate for a desktop icon, perhaps. What if you find a shortcut icon buried in an application folder on your Programs menu that you'd like to copy to the Start menu? Select the icon by clicking it once, then hold down the Ctrl key while you right-click the icon and choose Send To | Start Menu.

For Send To Junkies

Here's the ultimate Send To tip. Make a shortcut of the SendTo folder, and place it right inside the SendTo folder, C:\Windows\SendTo)! That way, you can customize Send To by adding destinations to it on the fly. (In Windows NT, it's the \Winnt\Profiles\<username>\SendTo folder, where <username> is the name you use to log on to Windows NT.) --Rich Pope

Copy .CAB Files to Your Hard Drive
Whether you simply want to make your Win98 installation independent of your CD or you're performing a hybrid clean installation of Windows 98 as described in our Essential Guide to Installing Windows 98 story, it's easy to place your Win98 setup .CAB files right on your hard drive. And if you're working on a clean installation of Win98, there are serious advantages. Not only will setup run faster, but you won't have to set up DOS-based CD-ROM drivers.

The best place to put the setup files is in a newly created Options folder inside your Windows folder. (If you're clean-installing, create a new folder called \Win98, and then create the Options folder in that folder. Later, you'll rename or delete your pre-existing Windows folder and rename \Win98\Options to \Windows\Options just prior to running setup.)

Insert the Win98 CD, and decline to install the operating system when prompted. Choose the Browse This CD option, and open the Win98 folder on the CD. Select all the files in that folder, leaving out the four folders you see there. Drag and drop copy the files to the new Options folder you just created. If you're not setting up Windows 98 next, follow the steps in the tip the below called "Change the Default Win Setup Location" to finish off the job.

Change the Default Win Setup Location

Launch the Registry Editor and navigate to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup

Locate (or create) the SourcePath entry. Modify it to show the new path Win9x should use to find your installation files. (Don't forget to end the pathname you enter with a backslash.)

How to Restore a Win95 Registry Backup
Follow these steps to restore the backup copy of your Win95 Registry. Restart the Computer in MS-DOS mode. From your Windows directory, type the following DOS commands, one after another, pressing Enter after each one. When you get done, restart your computer.

attrib -h -r -s system.*
copy system.dat system.bak
copy system.da0 system.dat
attrib -h -r -s user.*
copy user.dat user.bak
copy user.da0 user.dat
attrib +h +r +s system.*
attrib +h +r +s user.*

Simple Fix for Registry Problems

A variety of Win95 symptoms can be traced back to a Registry corruption problem, with some symptoms being as severe as a blue screen crash before the graphical part of Windows 95 launches. There's a simple potential fix for Registry corruptions that'll take less than 10 minutes to try. Start by booting your system to DOS; you can hit Shift-F5 when you see "Starting Windows 95..." on your screen, or boot to your Win95 boot disk, if necessary.

From the boot directory of your primary hard disk, type:
regedit /e reg.reg [Enter]

Your screen may appear to hang, but wait it out. Eventually you'll get the C: prompt. Now type:
cd \windows [Enter]
to navigate to your Windows folder, and type the following commands to make your Registry files visible:
attrib -h -s -r system.dat [Enter]
attrib -h -s -r user.dat [Enter]

Rename the system.dat and user.dat files to system.bup and user.bup respectively. (You can delete these files later when you're sure Win95 is working properly.)

Next, return to your root directory by typing:
cd \ [Enter]

The last step is to re-import your Registry settings, type:
regedit /c reg.reg [Enter]

Reboot and see if your problems have disappeared.

How to Restore the Previous Registry

Windows 95 keeps one backup copy of your System Registry, created each time you launch Windows. If you install software or hardware that creates a problem on your PC, you may need to restore this backup. Follow these steps to accomplish that: Click the start button, and then click Shut Down. Restart The Computer In MS-DOS Mode so you won't create a backup over the backup you need. From DOS, change to your Windows directory. For example, if your Windows directory is C:\Windows, you would type the following: cd c:\windows. Type the following DOS commands, one after another, pressing Enter after each one:

attrib -h -r -s system.*
copy system.dat system.bak
copy system.da0 system.dat
attrib -h -r -s user.*
copy user.dat user.bak
copy user.da0 user.dat
attrib +h +r +s system.*
attrib +h +r +s user.*

Now restart your computer. --Pam Lansdowne

Dump Unwanted Auto-launching Programs Part I

Windows launch times bog down the more programs queue themselves to be run automatically on system startup. You may even be unaware that this is happening as you install programs and drivers. The first place to check for these unbidden programs is in your StartUp folder. Move them out of StartUp into a new folder named StartUp Holds. Another way to prevent programs from auto-launching is to remove entries you may find on the LOAD= or RUN= line in the WIN.INI file. Open WIN.INI from your Windows folder using Notepad and delete unwanted program names from these lines. You can also place a semicolon at the head of either line to prevent Windows from reading it--a good way to test your changes while preserving previous settings.

Dump Unwanted Auto-launching Programs Part II

Beyond the StartUp folder there are several places where programs may append themselves in System Registry. There are four separate places in Registry where you may find unwanted program entries and weed them out.





Any changes you make to the Registry will be permanent, so back up your Registry files first. Use the System Registry Editor to check each key, and when you find AB entries in the right pane that you're sure don't belong, just delete them. Note: Some entries, including SystemTray, may be required for Windows to run properly, so when in doubt, leave it.

Dump Unwanted Auto-launching Programs Part III

If you have Windows 98, you have an infinitely better resource at your disposal for handling all types of auto-launching programs. To access the System Configuration Utility, run the System Information utility in Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools. Click open SysInfo's Tools menu, and choose System Configuration Utility. In that separate program, click the Startup tab. At the very least, you'll see a short list of auto-launching programs and services. Remove the check mark beside any one to disable it.

Change Registered User Info

You can change Windows' registered user and company info from System Registry. Open the Registry Editor by selecting Start, Run, typing regedit, and clicking OK. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion key. You'll see the RegisteredOrganization and RegisteredOwner string values (or AB icons) in the right pane. To change one of these values, double click it to open its Edit String dialog, type in the new information, and press OK. Repeat for the other entry if necessary, and close RegEdit. Note: This changes the default registered user info. Any program registration, dial-up connection, or logon you've already created with the previous name will stay in effect.

Ctrl-Alt-Delete: Your First Resort

It used to be that when you ran into troubles with Windows or applications, your last resort was to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reboot the computer. Under Windows 95, the easiest thing to do when you suspect a problem is to save any data in open programs that are functioning and then press Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Instead of rebooting your system, that opens the Close Program box. As long as you don't press Ctrl-Alt-Delete again while Close Program is open, Ctrl-Alt-Delete will not cause you to reboot. Plus, Close Program offers a serious advantage. If a specific application has encountered problems, you can see that because the phrase [Not Responding] will follow the name of the program. You can just select such a troubled program and press the End Task button to terminate it. (Sometimes you have to wait several moments for an End Task confirmation dialog to come up before the program will close.) In many cases you can get Windows functioning again by closing a program this way. It's probably a good idea to restart your system at that point anyway, but at least it will do so normally.

Set Win95 Default Folder Attributes

Win95 has trouble retaining default folder and Explorer window settings-such as size, position, sort order, toolbar status and display type (large icons, details and so on). Here's a temporary workaround that may last weeks or months on your system. Open the folder for your C: drive, and without opening any other folders, arrange and configure it exactly as you'd like all your folders to appear. When you're ready to set the default, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift while you click the close box in the upper right-hand corner of the window. There's a limit to the number of specific folder instances Win95 can remember, so eventually your setting may roll off the list. Just repeat the steps to restore your settings. --Scot Finnie
Set Win98 Default Folder Attributes

Microsoft gave us a whole new way to do this in Windows 98. Follow the same steps as in the previous tip for Windows 95. Once you've got the C: drive folder the way you like it, choose View, Folder Options, and click the View tab. When you press the Like Current Folder button, you'll create the new default setting, which will be permanent (unless you hit the Reset All Folders button). You'll notice that when you deviate individual folders from these settings, those folders will retain the new settings if you have "Remember each folder's view settings" checked under Advanced settings. --Scot Finnie
Post-setup Win98 Monitor Adjustment

You say Windows 98 installation went OK, but you're getting headaches from the new refresh rate Windows 98 seems to prefer? Unlike under Windows 95, you really do need a monitor driver under Win98. And it's a good thing, since the correct monitor driver will both keep you from damaging your monitor with overly high refresh rates, and also help make you aware of available higher refresh rates. The bad news is that Win98 probably didn't install the proper driver file for you monitor during setup. The good news is that there's a good chance that it has the right driver on the CD. And even if it doesn't, you can usually visit your monitor maker's Web site and download a tiny file that does the trick. To add a new monitor driver, right-click the desktop and choose properties. Click the Settings tab and then the Advanced button. Now click the Monitor tab and the Change button. A wizard will launch that takes you through the process of searching your Windows 98 CD or loading the driver from a downloaded monitor .INF file. Once the new monitor is installed, you can click on the Adapter tab (beside the Monitor tab) and then select Optimal on the Refresh rate drop down. --Scot Finnie
Improved One-Minute Life Saver

The "One-Minute Life Saver" tip that tells you to backup 10 important system files in the August 1998 issue of WinMag is so useful that it seemed a good idea to set about automating it. To do that, start by creating a destination folder, such as D:\VAULT, in which you want to save your backups. It's better to do this on a different drive or partition, if possible, although it's not essential. Next, create a Notepad file called LIFESAVE.BAT and place it in your C:\Windows folder. Copy the following lines into this text file. The "d:\vault" expression in each line must match the actual destination folder name you created on one of your hard drives, so change it accordingly.

copy c:\autoexec.bat d:\vault
copy c:\autoexec.dos d:\vault
copy c:\config.sys d:\vault
copy c:\config.dos d:\vault
copy c:\windows\control.ini d:\vault
copy c:\windows\system.ini d:\vault
copy c:\windows\win.ini d:\vault
attrib -r -h -s c:\msdos.sys
attrib -r -h -s c:\windows\user.dat
attrib -r -h -s c:\windows\system.dat
copy c:\msdos.sys d:\vault
copy c:\windows\system.dat d:\vault
copy c:\windows\user.dat d:\vault
attrib +r +h +s c:\msdos.sys
attrib +r +h +s c:\windows\user.dat
attrib +r +h +s c:\windows\system.dat

You can test the tip from within Windows by double-clicking the LIFESAVE.BAT file. It will also run from the DOS command line. --Don MacDonald

Automate the One-Minute Life Saver

One way to automate the One-Minute Life Saver batch file is to make it run each time you launch Windows. Open your C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp folder. Right-click the background and select New | Shortcut. In the command line field, type: c:\lifesave.bat. Modify the path if you placed the LIFESAVE.BAT file in a folder other than your root directory. Give the new shortcut a name, such as "One-Minute Life Saver." One last step: Right-click the One-Minute Life Saver icon and choose the Programs tab. At the bottom of that tab, put a check in the box that reads: Close on Exit at the bottom. Now each time you start your machine, the One-Minute Life Saver will run automatically in a DOS window, and that last step makes the window close automatically.

T i p s

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Two-Pane to One-Pane Explorer, with a Click

Want to transform a two-pane Windows Explorer window to a single-pane Windows folder window in a snap? Just click the close button (the X) on the All Folders (left side) pane. Then change it back to a two-paned Explorer by choosing View | Explorer Bar | All Folders. Note: That last trick works only if the window was previously a two-paned Explorer.

One Logon Name Only

If you have multiple users and want to prevent people from inadvertently creating multiple logon names for themselves, use Microsoft Family Logon (Win98 and IE 4.0x over Win95). The Family Logon is a new networking/Windows profile client that presents a list of all previously created logon names for that computer. Users must choose from that list, and can't create a new logon name. It forces them to choose their name and enter the password for it. It might also be used by a single user to create customized versions of Windows for various applications determined by the selected logon name at startup. To set up the Microsoft Family Logon, open the Network control panel. On the Configuration tab, click the Add button and then double-click Client. Now select Microsoft on the left, and double-click Microsoft Family Logon on the right. Back on the Configuration tab, the click the down arrow beside the field labeled Primary Network Logon and select Microsoft Family Logon from the drop-down menu. Now click OK. --Gregory Neil Beason

Best-ever Desktop in a Folder

Here's the easiest way to make a folder that contains all the icons from your Win 95 Desktop, including My Computer, Network Neighborhood, Recycle Bin, and Internet Explorer. Other tips like this one don't usually show those items. To make it happen, create a shortcut in your StartUp folder with this target. Don't forget the comma at the end. Just run the shortcut when you're done.


Possible options: Make the folder automatically minimize to the taskbar by choosing Run: Minimized on the Shortcut's properties screen. Now place it in your Windows Startup folder if you want so it's always there when you need it. --Scot Finnie

Windows Key Cheat Sheet

If you bought a new PC since Windows 95 shipped, chances are you've got a Windows 95 keyboard, which comes with at least one Windows 95 key. The picture on it is the Windows 95 logo. Press this thing once, and you'll see the Start Menu open. But did you know it also offers shortcuts to several system functions when used in combination with other keys?

Win key + E Opens an Explorer window
Win key + R Opens the Run dialog
Win key + Pause Opens System Properties
Win key + F Opens Find: All Files
Win key + Ctrl + F Displays Find: Computer
Win key + M Minimizes all open windows
Win key + Shift + M An undo for Win key + M
Win key + D Toggle that minimizes or maximizes all open windows
Win key + Tab Cycles through program buttons on the taskbar
Win key + F1 Opens Windows help.

Ditch Office Utilities for Speed

If you're running Microsoft Office, you may be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Office Startup and Find Fast work to boost performance of various aspects of Office, but they tend to drag down Windows performance. Start by removing the program icons that launch the utilities from your Windows Startup folder by right clicking the Start button and choosing Open, then opening your Programs folder, and inside that your Startup folder. Delete the Microsoft Find Fast and Office Startup icons there. Find Fast is a Control Panel applet, and your best bet to fully remove it is by running Office Setup again. This isn't as big a deal as it sounds. Insert your Office CD and then use Add/Remove Programs to open the Office Setup tool. In Office 97, Find Fast is listed under Office Tools in the Setup program. Just uncheck the box beside it, click OK and Continue, and Office Setup takes over from there. You'll have to reboot to see the Find Fast Control Panel go away. On some systems, even that won't do it. To make it go away forever, shutdown to MS-DOS mode. Change directories to the Windows System folder. Delete the findfast.cpl file.

Fast Explorer Windows

Did you know you can right click any folder icon and choose Explore to open it as a two-paned window with a navigation tree? Or hold down the shift key and double click any folder to launch it as an Explorer window. If you really just prefer the two-paned Explorer windows in most cases, you can make that type of window open by default with this simple change: Open any folder and choose View | Options. (This will be View | Folder Options under IE4.0 or Windows 98.) Choose the File Types tab. Scroll down to and select the Folder item. Press the Editbutton. Highlight "explore" under Actions. Click the Set Default button. The explore entry will become bold. Click OK, and OK on the dialog below. If you ever want to reverse the setting, follow the same steps, but highlight "open" instead of "explore" to set it as the default.

Drag and Drop with Right Button

It's easy to become confused in Windows 95 about what's going to happen when you drag and drop a file from one place to another. That's because the operating system has context sensitive defaults for copying and moving objects. For example, if you're dragging and dropping a file from one hard drive to another, copying is the default operation. Yet, when you drag and drop a file on the same drive, Win95 assumes you want to move it. Go figure. The easiest way around having to remember how it's going to work in a given setting is to use the right mouse button for drag and drop operations. When you do that, Win95 pops up a small context menu from which you can select whether you want to copy, move, or create a shortcut in the new location. Make your choice, and you're done.

Near Perfect File Management

Ever wish you could make Windows 95 show a two directory view similar to the way the old Windows for Workgroups File Manager? You can. Open to folders you want to drag and drop from. Then right-click on the Taskbar and choose "Tile Vertically" from the context menu.

Find Stuff Quickly, Again and Again

Windows 95's Find utility (Start | Find | Files and Folders) is one of the most useful tools you may have overlooked in the operating system. The fastest way to open Find is to press F3 from any part of Win 95. Once you start using Find, you'll probably think of new uses for it all the time. And you may find that you frequently run the same searches. To make repetitive searches faster, choose Find's Options menu and click Save Results. Next, run the search and, when you're done, choose File | Save Search. This places a small .FND file on your desktop that's automatically named for your search values. To access the same search again, including your previous results, just double click the .FND icon. --Scot Finnie