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June 15, 1998

Use the Update Wizard in Windows 98 without having to register

The commercial release of Windows 98 is scheduled for June 25, but many people are using earlier versions and finding out the secrets of this new product. I invited my readers to send me the latest findings, and we'll examine them in this and future columns. If you don't have Windows 98 running yet, save these columns for when you upgrade.

One trick I mentioned in last week's column involves the Update Wizard. This is a handy utility Microsoft includes with Win98. When you run the wizard, it checks Microsoft's Web site for new versions of drivers and other Windows components. If it finds newer revisions than the ones you have, it offers to update your system for you.

This is the kind of easy upgrading that I've been advocating for a long time. (See my columns on software that detects and installs its own patches: "Upgrading can be painful, but relief is on the way," Feb. 19, 1996; and "Upgrade packages learn the fine art of self-healing," Feb. 26, 1996.)

There's a problem that can keep you from using the Update Wizard, however. If you skipped Microsoft's Registration Wizard when you installed Windows 98, the Update Wizard won't run.

Larry Passo, in Newport Beach, Calif., was the first to send me a work-around for this foolishness. Passo points out that running the Registration Wizard changes two lines in the Windows 98 Registry. You can easily make those two changes yourself by running the following Register.reg file. Create a text file with the following text on your Desktop using Notepad, or download the file.


To run Register.reg, right-click the resulting file, then click Merge. This creates the key RegDone and gives it a value of 1 in the Registry.

After this, you can run the Update Wizard without complaint. Although there isn't much to update in Windows 98 right now, because it has barely been released, there will be in the future. It would be a shame if users couldn't take advantage of the Update Wizard just because they were shy about giving their personal information to Microsoft.

I asked Rob Bennett, group product manager for Windows 98 for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., if there was anything else readers should know about this trick.

"There is actually some value in registration," Bennett said. "It's not just about Microsoft getting name and address info -- it's really about helping Windows Update grow over time so we can learn more about what people are actually doing out there."

I asked whether Passo's patches would have any side effects.

"For now we're going to leave it as is, but we may do some more stringent checking in the future," Bennett replied.

If a later version of Windows 98 really checks to see if the Registration Wizard was run, you can always run it for real -- but I hope that won't be necessary.

Passo will receive the new Windows 98 Secrets for this analysis.

Brian Livingston is the co-author of several best-selling Windows books, including the most recent Windows 95 Secrets (IDG Books). Send comments to Unfortunately, he cannot answer individual questions.

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