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August 3, 1998

Readers report the effect Windows 98 has on their other apps

My past three columns have sparked a controversy over Windows 98's setup routine. First I described how Windows 98 replaces newer system files with older ones, whether or not some programs need the newer files. Then I showed how you can tell which programs use which files, and finally I printed Microsoft's response: The replacements are necessary to ensure "a known, working baseline operating system."

Readers have flooded my mailbox with their own experiences with Win98. Many readers are grateful that I described a Win98 feature that they had never heard of and a utility, the Version Conflict Manager (VCM), that helps them exchange versions of system files that may have changed.

"Great article ... I found almost 20 replaced files," Bradley Jones writes.

"I found your VCM info very helpful and discovered that 27 files had been replaced with older versions," Tom Dominguez says.

I'll be busy for quite a while making a list of programs that Win98's setup routine affects in some way; this has been requested by numerous readers. Here are just a few affected programs that have been mentioned.

  • Reader Ed Barnett says, "Win98 will not run the Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 4/c." I mentioned in my July 13 column that Win98 can install an older version of Twain.dll, a file used by scanners, and this could be the cause of some devices failing to work. You may need to restore or re-install your scanner drivers.

  • Another Hewlett-Packard device was problematic for Dennis Wingo: "I have an HP 7200i internal CD writer," he says. "After installing Win98 I have been unable to use my CD writer at all."

  • "When you install Windows 98, it replaces Internet Explorer 4 Service Pack 1 (4.72.3110 .6) with an older version (4.72.3110.1)," says Erik Funkenbusch. "Win98's version of IE is older than Win95's version of IE because the Win95 version was finalized after the Win98 version was. The Win95 version is incompatible with the Win98 version. That means that if you have Win95 with IE 4 installed, Win98 has to replace it with Win98's version in order for IE to function."

Other readers gave examples that are generic to Microsoft, not Windows 98.

"This isn't new," James Bullock says of version conflicts. "Installing DirectX 5.0 disabled the following apps on my machine: Personal AltaVista, McAfee Anti-Virus, and WinFax Pro 6.0. In this case, DLLs were removed and replaced by DLLs with different names. So copying the original files back worked."

Several readers objected to my characterization of Win98's file changes.

"You make it sound as if Microsoft is purposely doing something to mess up the competitors' software," Jim Stumbo writes. "This is not true. Microsoft products that use files that have been replaced may also experience problems."

Michael Spagnuola provides a case in point: "Twain.dll, Version, was installed in my OSR2.5 [a version of Windows 95B] by Microsoft Picture It, Version 2."

Win98 rolls Twain.dll back to Version I'm researching what functions of Picture It and competing software are dependent on the ".3" features of the Twain driver.

The biggest controversy about Windows' interfering with other programs is the charge by Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks, that Microsoft's Media Player disables RealPlayer Plus and other competitors' software. Microsoft disputes the charge. This is a separate but related issue that deserves more scrutiny.

I'll have more reports in future columns.

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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