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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
Forget about Me, save yourself! How to stay out of trouble with the new Windows upgrade

MICROSOFT'S LATEST UPGRADE to Windows 98 -- Windows Me -- finally hit the stores on Sept. 14. The Me operating system is being shipped already in new computers from most PC manufacturers. The vast majority of retail consumers will receive Windows Me on new machines unless they specifically request Windows 98 or Windows 2000.

During the past two years, Microsoft sold 30 times as many copies of Windows 98 preinstalled in new PCs than it did as a packaged product in retail stores. Perhaps for this reason, the Redmond, Wash.-based company skipped the big promotional extravaganza given to previous products. Even if its retail sales are zero, Windows Me will be running on more than 100 million PCs sometime within the next year or two.

Perhaps you'd rather forget about Me, because it's not the most compelling upgrade ever. Despite this, you'll soon find yourself needing to know how the new operating system behaves. Eventually you'll have to help someone install it, or you'll have to help someone who had a disaster installing it, or something like that. What you don't know can hurt you so this week I'll let you in on some tricks that will help you stay out of trouble when installing Windows Me. Save this column for future reference.

1. Scandisk. Assuming that you're upgrading Windows 98 to Me, run Scandisk in Windows 98 first. (Windows Me setup also runs Scandisk, but instead of fixing errors the setup routine halts if there are any.) In Windows 98, click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scandisk. Select the Thorough test, and tell Scandisk to automatically fix errors it finds.

2. Anti-virus software. If you haven't checked for viruses lately, run anti-virus software with the latest signature files. Then disable your anti-virus software (including any anti-virus routines built in to your BIOS setup) before installing Windows Me. The setup of Me writes to PCs in a way that anti-virus checkers will object to.

3. Drivers. If you have any peripherals connected to your PC, such as scanners, modems, and so forth, check the manufacturers' Web sites for new drivers optimized for Windows Me. If necessary, install them now.

4. Backup, anyone? Those who don't perform a full backup before starting the Windows Me install process won't get any sympathy from me later.

5. End tasks. For a smooth install, shut down as many tasks as possible. Use each application's normal Close process rather than bonking each one using Ctrl+Alt+Delete. End Internet sessions you may have open.

6. Readme. Whether you're upgrading Windows 98 or installing Me to a new hard disk, it can pay off big-time to read the text files on the CD-ROM first. The Readme.txt file in the root of the CD lists several others. Before installing Windows Me, find these files in D:\add-ons\document\textfile (where D: is your CD drive). To read these files before starting the install process, hold down the Shift key while inserting the Windows Me CD into the CD drive of any PC running Windows, then run Notepad.

7. Emergency disk. After you've started installing Windows Me, absolutely, positively do make an emergency start-up diskette when prompted to do so. If you have a problem later and Windows Me hangs during start-up, booting from this diskette will be the only way to get to a DOS prompt so you can try to fix what's wrong. (Unlike earlier versions, Windows Me doesn't support keys such as F8 and Ctrl that bypass the Windows interface.)

8. Save system files. When prompted during the Windows Me install, do have Me save a compressed copy of your Windows 98 system files. This consumes 150MB of space, but it's the best way to go back to a working system if your PC really doesn't like Me. After you're satisfied that Windows Me is stable, you can delete the old, saved files via the Add/Remove Software control panel.

Despite all the above precautions, you might still run into problems with an upgrade to Windows Me. The upgrade routine will tell you if it detects software programs that aren't compatible or need to be uninstalled before upgrading to Me. But these programs may not completely remove themselves when you run their uninstall routines. In such a case, Windows Me will once again refuse to install, because it still detects the offending software -- which you thought you just uninstalled.

Some of the programs that Windows Me requires you uninstall are Norton Internet Security, Network ICE's BlackICE Defender, PGP Personal Privacy, and GoBack (versions less than You can reinstall these after you've obtained an updated version.

Microsoft provides advice on the best way to disable GoBack and PGP in a text file that's in an inexplicably hard-to-find location. See Hdblock.txt in the D:\add-ons\document\hdblock folder of the Windows Me CD.

Send me tips on Me. I'll print more soon.


Operating Systems

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