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July 20, 1998

How to fix the DLLs that are disabled when you install Windows 98

I revealed in last week's column that the Windows 98 setup routine blithely writes to your system any shared files (such as DLLs) that it may have on the Win98 CD-ROM. This occurs even if the DLL version on the CD is older than the DLL that was previously installed to your system by a competitor's application.

This can have serious effects if an application relied on a DLL's newer version. I've already heard from readers who lost the use of their scanners after installing Win98. (In one test, Win98 replaced Twain.dll with Twain.dll

I quoted a Windows product manager last week saying, "We wanted to be assured of a known, working baseline operating system when we were done with installation." In my opinion, Microsoft should eliminate "DLL hell" for every application -- not just for Windows.

Fortunately, Microsoft provides a little-known utility in Windows 98 that can help you get out of jams caused by file conflicts. The utility is called the Version Conflict Manager, or VCM. If the Win98 installation loaded any older files onto your system, the VCM utility shows you their names. You can swap them with the newer versions, if necessary, to restore ailing applications.

Unfortunately, VCM doesn't tell you what applications used a particular file or which version of the file would be "better." Here's a procedure that can help you recover.

  • Step 1. After installing Win98, start VCM by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information, Tools, Version Conflict Manager.

  • Step 2. If VCM shows any files that have two different version numbers, your original file or files will have been moved to the C:\Windows\VCM folder. Rather than tinker with the files manually, it's better to use VCM to swap them, if you determine in Step 6 that swapping them is desirable.

  • Step 3. To determine whether any of your applications are dependent upon one of the files listed in VCM, obtain a copy of the Barry Press Utilities. This is a $20 set of shareware utilities by the author of The PC Upgrade and Repair Bible (IDG Books). The utilities are available on the Windows 95 Secrets or Windows 98 Secrets CD, or by download from

  • Step 4. After installing BP Utilities, run the DLLMan program. Click File, Open, then select a file that is listed in VCM. (For example, try C:\Windows\System\Mapi32.dll.) You will see a window showing other resources that Mapi32.dll is dependent upon.

  • Step 5. To see the programs that are dependent upon the DLL you've selected, click Search, Set Search Root, then select a drive to search (normally C:). Then click Search, Locate Usage. DLLMan will take a few moments while it searches your hard drive for programs with dependencies on your chosen DLL. (DLLMan can't see dependencies in some programs, notably Visual Basic programs.) If you see a message that a program file is in use, simply click OK and DLLMan will continue.

  • Step 6. If DLLMan lists an application that uses a file changed by Win98, test the application carefully. If it crashes, use VCM to swap the two file versions. When you do this, VCM saves the swapped-out file in the C:\Windows\VCM folder with the file extension changed to .000. You can use VCM to change back at any time.

Sheesh. It's time for Microsoft to give up on "shared files" and develop a system that rules out these conflicts for good.

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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