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January 6, 1997

A new year and a new slew of Win95B work-arounds to do

Windows 95B, a new version that Microsoft has made available only through OEMs, is appearing on more PCs as they are shipping with it already installed. Users may not at first even notice that they are running a new Windows version.

To sum up my previous columns (Nov. 18, Nov. 25, and Dec. 23/Dec. 30, 1996), you can only get the B version by buying a new computer or by finding an OEM equipped to sell you Win95B bundled with a hard drive or motherboard. These are the only conditions in which Microsoft licenses the new version for sale. Once you get your new hardware and the accompanying CD-ROM with OSR2 (OEM Service Release 2, Win95B's official name), there is no method supported by Microsoft to install Win95B over a previous version of Windows. It's supposed to be installed on a fresh hard drive.

And once you've installed OSR2, Microsoft provides no way to convert a hard drive to use Win95B's most significant new feature -- FAT-32 -- without running Fdisk and Format, erasing everything on your drive, and forcing you to install from scratch again.

(There's a secret to avoid installing Win95B twice: Run Setup only to the point where you are asked to create a start-up diskette. Make such a diskette, then cancel the install. You now have a bootable floppy from which you can run the FAT-32 versions of Fdisk and Format. After you have a FAT-32 partition, install Win95B fully. Sheesh.)

FAT-32 supports drive letters (partitions) larger than 2GB and stores files without the 30 percent or so of wasted space typical of older 1GB FAT-16 drives.

You may already have Win95B, and the following are things you should know -- the usual "gotchas" that strike whenever Microsoft revises anything. If you don't have Win95B, you soon will, so save this column for a few weeks.

  • People who've used Win95B for a while say it's more stable than regular old Windows 95. But if you do happen to exit Win95B abnormally, Scandisk automatically alerts you when you reboot that it will scan your drive and fix any errors. (To make this scan take place automatically, with no prompt, add the line AUTOSCAN=2 to the [Options] section of the text file C:\Ms dos.sys. To prevent any such automatic scans, use the line AUTOSCAN=0.)

  • To determine whether you have Win95B, Win95A, or plain-old Win95, double-click on the System icon in the Control Panel. "Version number" should say 4.00.950 followed by B, A, or nothing. Microsoft has already released OSR2.1 (Windows 95B.1?), which adds support for the new Universal Serial Bus. The System dialog box, unfortunately, doesn't tell you whether you have OSR2 or OSR2.1. To determine this, check whether "USB Supplement to OSR2" is listed in the Add/Remove Programs applet of Control Panel. If so, you have OSR2.1.

  • I've heard of some Win95 video drivers that won't work under Win95B, such as the Matrox MGA Millennium. Microsoft hasn't verified this yet, but you can always run the video drivers included with Win95B until affected third-party drivers are upgraded. Microsoft does say that the Drivers tab in the Win95B Device Manager tends to show erroneously that "no driver files are required or have been loaded" for devices. This can be fixed by running an improved Hardware Diagnostics utility from the OSR2 CD-ROM. It's located at X:\Other\Misc\Hwtrack\Hwdiag.exe, where X: is the letter of your CD-ROM drive.

  • OSR2 tends to prematurely shut down PC Card modems if you enable the "Turn off PC Card modem when not in use" item in Control Panel's Power applet. Deselect this item and restart OSR2 if this happens to you.

    Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets Gold and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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    Copyright © 1997 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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