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May 5, 1997

Readers shed light on the mysteries of Windows 95

Three weeks ago, I wrote that my own PC is not exactly a model of stability. In fact, even after the years I've spent installing every type of application ever invented, my Windows 95 system crashes at least once or twice a day, sputtering, "Fatal exception 0E" or "GPF in Kernel32.exe."

I didn't even ask for suggestions, but boy, did I get 'em! I have received hundreds of e-mail messages, most of them from people who are experiencing the same problems. (See "Think you've got PC problems? Oh, the troubles I've seen," April 14.)

After slogging through this mountain of messages, I found that many readers had useful suggestions for Windows 95 users. So here's my distillation of the best ideas from you all, including some disturbing information about possible instabilities in the Windows 95 kernel itself.

Numerous readers said the RegClean 4.1 program I wrote about two weeks ago helped their systems crash less frequently. (See "RegClean 4.1 could solve problems with existing apps," April 21.) You run this program at least two times, until it no longer finds any "orphaned" and possibly harmful obsolete code in your Registry. This program is available for download from Microsoft's Web site at

Peter Batterton wrote that after experiencing numerous messages about "GPFs in User.exe," he added the line FILES=100 to his Config.sys file. He said he hasn't had a GPF, or General Protection Fault, problem in months. The FILES command, which defaults to 30 if the line isn't present, sets aside a small amount of memory to track each of the files Windows has open. It can't hurt to try this, but you do lose some RAM.

Ron Bruno suggested turning DriveSpace compression off and slowing down the Acceleration setting of your video card. You can find the Acceleration setting in Control Panel, System, Performance, Graphics.

Several readers suggested that "0E" errors indicate mismatched or faulty RAM chips; others said adding RAM was helpful. Still others cleared up their errors by testing their wall outlets and finding that hot and neutral were reversed and that ground was missing.

I was startled by the number of people who periodically reinstall Windows and their applications after backing up their documents and then formatting their C: drives. I've heard of individuals doing this, but I didn't realize how many corporations routinely perform this procedure for all users. One IS manager does it every 95 days. (So that's what the 95 stands for ... .)

The most insidious possibility is that the Windows 95 kernel is not fully compatible with today's Pentiums. Tom McNally quoted an anonymous Award Software BIOS engineer: "This seems to be an ongoing problem with Win95 and the external cache. Until they come out with a patch or fix for this, you may need to leave that disabled." Although you can usually disable a system's external cache through the BIOS configuration screen, this can make your system noticeably slower. I'll have more on this in two or three weeks.

Finally, many readers expressed opinions such as Jenny Greenleaf's: "As a person who has some influence, I wish you'd use it to demand that Microsoft clean up its act."

I'm touched by readers' belief that Microsoft cowers before the power of my pen. Actually, if someone in Redmond even returns my calls, I consider it a good day. Take that, software magnates.

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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