Whatever became of Windows 95?
by Alan Zisman (c)
published in Computer Player, May 1996
If you believed the hype all last summer, August 24th
was going to be
the first day of a new age for personal computer?perhaps, in fact, a
first day of a New Age.
?Start Me Up?. A grey button with a multi-coloured
Windows logo, floated
in a blue sky, in front of fluffy, white clouds. The dawn of an age
we all will easily make full use of the ever-increasing power of
computers, for work, for play, for information, for connections with
and distance no barrier.
Now, somewhat less than a year later, the reality is
somewhat more than
?Windows 95? Who?? but quite a bit less than promised by the hype.
Personally, I?ve been running Windows 95 for over a
year and a half?starting
with over a dozen different beta versions, for nearly a year before its
official release. It is the computing platform that I use most often. I
co-moderate the Windows 95 discussion group on the international Fido
network. From my own experiences, and from monitoring an average of 200
message a day from Win 95 users?fans and critics, I think I have some
of the reality of Windows 95 (and if you disagree, you can send me
First of all, Windows 95 is a computer operating
system for modern PCs?
the 1990s descendants of that IBM Personal Computer. And
that?s all it is. One of several competing modern OS?s for that
with OS/2, NT, Linux, and more? not a cure for AIDs, not world peace or
full employment, not even a zero-calorie fat-substitute. Just an
system. It?s important to keep perspective on these things!
All those operating systems have their strong points,
and their uses,
and each has its fans. Even older OS?s like DOS or Windows 3.x may be
depending on the mix of hardware and software in use in a particular
I?m not going to suggest that Windows 95 (or any of the other
is the ideal system for all users at all times? in fact, at the school
where I teach, on our mix of machines ranging from 386SX-16s to
we run DOS and Windows 3.1?and it?s going to be a long time before we
enough machines with powerful enough CPUs, large enough hard drives,
enough RAM to convince me to switch.
And ironically, Windows 95?s main competition isn?t
OS/2. It?s not the
Macintosh. It?s not even Microsoft?s other alternative 32-bit operating
system, Windows NT. It?s plain old DOS and Windows 3.1. Millions of
remain in use like the ones at my school?functioning reasonably well
the old generation of operating systems, and lacking the oomph for any
of the new generation. And they?re going to remain in use for years to
At the same time, there are also many millions of
machines that could
be running Win 95 (or OS/2 for that matter)? machines with a 486 or
processor, 8 megs or more ram, and some hard drive space to spare. But
whether these machines are at home or at work, their owners don?t see
compelling reason to switch. And maybe they?re right. Until there?s a
reason to make the switch?until the so-called killer app that only runs
on the new platform, many people may be best off with the guidelines of
that old cliché, if it ain?t broke, don?t fix it!
Despite all that, Windows 95 remains a big improvement
over the old
DOS/Windows combination. And for many users, it is the best current
for an operating system? certainly if, like 85% or more computer users,
you?re going to stick with the PC platform.
? The interface solves many of the problems that new
have with DOS and Windows 3.1?the Taskbar, for example, makes it
to ?lose? programs, when they get covered with another program?s
As Macintosh users have been saying for a decade, long file names are a
much more intuitive way to work, and reduce many users? frustrations
(And with utilities such as Vertisoft?s Name-It, they can be used, even
with most old, Windows 3.1 applications?if you have Windows 95).
Note, however, that it is a new way of working?DOS and
Windows 3.1 power
users will often find it frustrating, at least until they spend enough
time to learn its tricks and quirks. For instance, it isn?t necessary
mouse-click through four or five levels of Start menus to get to your
programs? put shortcuts in a folder on your Desktop for easy access.
the default interface was created with new users in mind, it is
customizable?if you take the time to learn how. And yes, there should
a better printed manual.
? -- Several of Windows 3.1?s weaknesses have been
The system resource problem, causing Windows to report that it was ?out
of memory?, even with lots of RAM left, has disappeared. The result is
much more stability, even when running large numbers of older, 16-bit
While Windows 95 lacks the ability of OS/2 or NT to run Win 3.1-style
in pre-emptorily multitasked windows, for most users, that doesn?t
(Yes, it would have been nice to have the option, which reportedly was
left out of Win95 in order to meet the target of running within 4 megs
of RAM?something that it doesn?t do very well, in my opinion, anyway).
? Plug and Play isn?t perfect, but it can be a huge
many users. This is particularly true for any user of a recent portable
with a PC Card slot?plug that modem in, and have it instantly
Connect to the network, all without having to reboot or fuss with
driver sets. Anyone who has had to guess at PC hardware IRQ and DMA
will be pleased with Control Panel?s Device Manager?even working with
so-called legacy devices on an older, non-P?n?P system.
? Game players finally get some respect. More and more
DOS games are
running properly, directly from Windows 95, and being able to use
mouse, sound, and CD-ROM drivers. And for those that won?t run that
Win 95?s MSDOS Mode lets them have the control of the computer that
crave?without having to resort to the infamous boot disk.
Microsoft has done an inadequate job of explaining how games players
properly customize MSDOS Mode? and even worse, if you buy a new system
with Win 95 pre-installed, you may not even get the DOS drivers you
to use your CD-ROM or sound card in that mode. (Go back to your dealer
and insist on getting those drivers!). Microsoft is continuing to push
Win 95 as a gaming platform, and seems to realize that this is vital to
its success in the home market.
? With its mid-1995 release, Windows 95 was inevitably
by the Internet. Win 95 offers solid, built-in Internet connectivity
add a Web browser such as Netscape or Microsoft?s free Internet
Increasingly, newer features such as Java support will appear in
95 versions first (if they ever appear in 16-bit, Win 3.1 versions at
? Windows 95 offers many advantages for many business
users. It includes
good networking support, both for Novell and NT networks, as well as
peer-to-peer networking. As well, while the transition from 16-bit, Win
3.1 business software to 32-bit Windows 95/NT software will be slower
many predicted, it is inevitable. Many businesses are thinking of
Windows 95, and jumping directly to Windows NT as their next upgrade
this does require more RAM and hard drive space, and while the expected
next version of NT, version 4.0 will add a Windows 95-style interface,
Plug and Play will be more limited even in that version of NT.
(By the way, get the Service Pack? some users have
been holding off
upgrading to avoid the inevitable Version 1.0 problems. Win 95, while
perfect, has been remarkably stable. Microsoft has released a
of basicly minor fixes, however, as a free upgrade?called Service Pack
1. The price is right, and it?s available over the Internet or other
sources, as a 1.2 meg file. Alternatively, Microsoft will mail you a
for a small postage and handling fee. There is also a 14 floppy (get
CD-ROM version), which also includes a huge number of driver additions
and updates, and a bunch of stuff mostly of interest to network
but the core upgrades are identical to the single-floppy version. This
is not Windows 96, and according to Microsoft, there will be no Windows
? Despite rumours to the contrary, Microsoft isn?t
going to merge the
NT and 95 platforms anytime soon? there are too many home users,
users, and other users with enough oomph to run Windows 95, who won't
or enough CPU, RAM, or hard drive space for NT (or need its
security, or be willing to take the performance hit required for that
Windows 95 and its successors will be with us for a while.
A few things I can?t stand?
I?ll work with DOS and Win 3.1 and OS/2 and the Mac,
but my current
choice is Windows 95. Still, there are a few things I?d change about it
(as well as lots of things I have changed, by customizing the
There are also a few things I absolutely dislike.
? Explorer, the File Manager replacement is more
usable than its detractors
claim? but it can take too many mouse clicks to perform operations that
ought to be simple. Try to rename a bunch of files? something that is
either in DOS, or in File Manager. If you prefer to view file
it?s impossible to sort files by extensions? sorting by Microsoft?s
of File Type simply isn?t the same thing. You can use the old
Manager?Win 95 puts it on the hard drive, even in a new installation,
doesn?t install an icon for it (type ?winfile? in the Start Menu?s Run
command)? but that lacks long file name support. Couldn?t we get the NT
version, which has support for long file names?
? Documentation is virtually non-existent. Help files
are not good enough?
neither is the difficult to read Windows 95 Resource Kit, buried deep
a sub-directory (er, excuse me, sub-folder) on the CD-ROM version.
it?s designed to be much more discoverable than Win 3.1, and is, in
much easier for a new user to get up and running quickly, it is
to learn middle-level operations, such as customizing the desktop, or
up your CD-ROM and sound cards to work in MSDOS Mode. There should be a
warning sticker on the outside of the CD-ROM or floppy container
that use of DOS-era disk utilities (such as older versions of Norton
or PC Tools) can cause damage to Win 95?s long file name structures.
many users have only found this out after the fact.
? I hate Exchange. This would-be one-stop mail and fax
center was dumbed-down
near the end of the beta-period, when Microsoft discovered that
no one could figure out how to use it. It?s still far too complicated,
and far too slow. I?ll stick to the free version of Qualcomm?s Eudora,
for Internet mail, thank you, especially now that a solid beta 32-bit
is out. Unfortunately, you have to use Exchange to access mail via the
Microsoft Network, another bit of Win 95 that hasn?t lived up to
partly too slow, and partly again, over-shadowed by the Internet. In
the most interesting thing about Microsoft Network is seeing how
Microsoft is back-pedalling, and essentially converting it into a
Internet Service Provider/Web page.
? A false sense of security. A nice feature of
Win 95 is the way
users can set different desktops for different users? but when users
in, they may be asked to type in a password. While this creates a sense
of security, all that?s needed to log in without the password is to
escape. Some security! Microsoft obviously wants users who need a
system to get NT? but this bogus password system lets people feel
Not a revolution, but a success
Win 95 is a success, perhaps more in spite of the
In has sold millions of copies (though not as many as in the most wild
predictions), and is pre-installed on most new computers. While lacking
some of the power features of OS/2, NT, or Unix, it is more compatible
with DOS and Windows 3.1 software than any of its
for game-players. It?s a great choice, particularly for portable users.
It?s not going to wipe out DOS or Win 3.1 overnight?or OS/2, the Mac,
NT? but it (or its immediate descendants) is going to continue to gain
market share over the rest of the decade.
Read This First?Windows 95 Frequently Asked
Here are the collection of Windows 95 tips posted
weekly as the FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions) file on the international FIDO Win 95
echo. This echo, available over thousands of free BBS systems (but not
on the Internet) is, in my humble opinion, the best source of ongoing
and support for Windows 95 users.
1) Can I run Win 95 on a __________ with ___ megs of
? Microsoft says Win 95 will run on a 386DX with at
least 4 megs of
ram... some people have reported running it on 386SX machines as well.
While some people have used it on 4 meg machines, the general consensus
is that 8 megs is a more satisfying minimum amount.
? You'll need 35 megs or more free hard drive space.
2) Do I have to format my hard drive before installing
3) Can I easily uninstall Win 95 if I find I don't
? If you choose to SAVE SYSTEM SETTINGS, early in the
you'll be able to uninstall Win95 by choosing Control Panel/Add-Remove
Programs, and clicking on Windows 95.
Note that this option takes about 6 megs of drive
space for the saved
Otherwise you're best off to back up your drive before
and keeping a bootable system disk with your old DOS and the SYS
That will allow you to restore your old system if desired.
4) Installation fails on disk 2 of the floppy set:
? Hard drives that were infected with viruses such as
this, infecting floppy disks 1 & 2 and aborting the installation.
Phone Microsoft, who will send out new disks... and
make sure to open
the write protect window before installing!
5) Does the Dial-up-registration process send private
my hard drive to Microsoft?
? Dial-Up-Registration does look on your hard drive
and makes a list
of specific, well-known applications that are present there... it does
not, however, check for anything else-- pirated software, private data,
etc., and does not send anything without your express permission. If
process makes you uneasy, register by more traditional methods.
6) How do I copy the Win 95 floppy disks?
? The floppy disks are formatted to 1.7 megs, and
can't be copied with
normal diskcopy routines (including DOS or Win 95). There are several
utilities such as DCF (version 5 or later) or Win Image, that can be
to make copies of these disks.
7) How can I boot to a DOS prompt instead of WIN 95?
? Edit the new text system file, MSDOS.SYS (first
resetting the hidden
and read-only attributes). Change the line:
8) How can I have the option to boot to my old DOS and
? If you install Win95 to a new directory, you can
multibook to either
Win95 or your old DOS/Windows. To do that, you need to edit the new
system file, MSDOS.SYS (first resetting the hidden and read-only
Add the line:
to the [options] section.
Note-- do not delete the C:\*.DOS files-- these are
your old DOS versions,
needed for the multiboot option.
9) Can I get rid of the Cloud Screen on bootup?
? If you press the ESC key at bootup, the cloud screen
will not appear,
and you can see the DOS boot messages. To get rid of the clouds
you can edit the MSDOS.SYS file (see above), adding the line:
to the [options] section.
10) How can I stop being asked for a log on password
each time Win 95
? Go to Control Panel/Network, and check the options
for Primary Log
On. Select Windows Log On. If you're asked to log on the next time you
start Win 95, press Enter.
11) Why do I have less free DOS memory after
installing Win 95? (Alternatively--
Do I still need a DOS memory manager with Win 95)?
? Win95 doesn't, by default, load a DOS memory manager
such as EMM386
or QEMM, and doesn't create upper memory blocks or load Command.com,
drivers, or DOS TSRs into upper memory. As a result, even though it
many or most DOS drivers and TSRs unneeded, users can still end up with
less free DOS (conventional) memory.
Just as with older DOS versions, you can load a DOS
To use DOS's EMM386.EXE, for example, add the line:
to your CONFIG.SYS file, with the RAM or NOEMS
parameter depending whether
you want it to create EMS memory or not.
Then, add the line
to Config.sys, and change all the DEVICE= lines
(except HIMEM.SYS and
EMM386.sys) to DEVICEHIGH=
Similarly, add LH (or LOADHIGH) to the beginning of
any lines in Autoexec.bat
that load DOS TSR programs.
Reboot and check the amount of free DOS ram, using the
DOS MEM command.
(MEM /C /P for a more detailed report).
12) How do I set parameters for a DOS program?
? Find the file that starts the DOS program, in
Explorer or My Computer.
Right click on its icon, and choose Properties from the pop-up menu,
the Program Page. This allows you to set many properties of memory use.
You can point to a startup.bat file that will be run automatically when
the program starts up, providing many custom features, but not
a customized config.sys.
If you need custom config and autoexec settings
(similar to using a
custom boot disk), click on the Advanced button, and choose to run the
program in MSDOS Mode. This allows you to create custom config and
settings for that program.
Doing this for the file "Exit to DOS.PIF" will allow
you to modify the
settings for the Start Menu's Shutdown/Restart in MSDOS Mode option.
13) I need to use a backup program or disk utility
designed for an older
version of DOS or Windows. How can I do so safely?
? In order to avoid damage to your Win 95 Long File
Names (LFNs), you
need to run the LFNBK.EXE utility. It can be found on the CD-ROM disk,
in the \WIN95\ADMIN\APPTOOLS\LFNBK folder
Before running your backup program (etc) run LFNBK /B
to backup your
LFNs. Afterwards, run LFNBK /R to restore the LFNs.
(Note: there is also a shareware DOSKFNBK program,
that has more capabilities--
well worth tracking down).
14) My CD-ROM drive lights up briefly every few
? You have it set for AutoPlay, and it is checking to
see if a disk
has been inserted in the drive. Go to Control Panel/System and click on
the CD-ROM... select Properties/Settings, and turn off Auto Insert
15) Do I still need my old CONFIG and AUTOEXEC files?
? Your DOS startup files may be unnecessary. They are
useful in several
a) If you want to edit some of the defaults, such as
b) If you have hardware that doesn't have WIN95
drivers yet, and you
need to load DOS device drivers or TSRs.
c) If you want to set up a multiple
boot-configuration... the DOS 6.2
commands for this still work.
16) I can't get 32-bit internet programs such as
Netscape to work with
my old Trumpet Winsock.
? You need a 32-bit Winsock to run 32-bit internet
software. You can
install the Microsoft TCP/IP networking protocol from Control
and install Dial-Up-Networking from Control Panel/Add Programs. It
PPP connections. For SLIP, you'll need to add the SLIP driver from the
CD-ROM's \WIN95\APPTOOLS\SLIP folder.
You'll need to configure this for your Internet
Service Provider's settings--
your old Trumpet script will no longer work. (Note: there is a new,
Trumpet Winsock available if you want to upgrade from the 16-bit
rather than using Win95's Dial Up Networking).
17) How can I get the INBOX/MSN/Network
Neighborhood/My Briefcase (etc)
icon off my desktop?
? While there are complicated ways to edit the
Registry to accomplish
any of these, much simpler is to download the file TWEAKUI or POWERTOYS
(which includes TweakUI among other features) from MSN or
or other online sources. It installs as a Control Panel icon-- its
tab includes options to easily remove the icons of your choice.
(PowerToys are a collection of user interface add-ons
written by Microsoft
programmers, but not supported as part of the standard package. They
available for free, and some --especially TweakUI, are quite useful).
18) What is the Internet address of xxxxxxxx?
? For many if not most commercial organizations, a Web
address of http://www.xxxxxxxx.com/
is worth a try-- how about trying that before posting a message?
(i.e. http://www.microsoft.com, http://www.adobe.com,
19) How can I get Dial-up-Networking to save my
? You need to add a Networking client in order for
D-U-N to remember
your password. (No, I don't know why...)
Open Control Panel, choose Network, click on the ADD
button, then choose
a Network Client-- Microsoft Network Client (which has nothing to do
the Microsoft on-line service) works well. You'll be asked for your
floppies or CD disc.
Alternatively (thanks Carl Morris!), if you set Win95
for multiple users,
it will remember your password for your Internet account. To do this,
to Control Panel/Passwords/User Profiles, and select the [x] Users can
customize... option. Of course, then, you'll be asked for a password
you start Win95!
20) Can someone please tell me how to get
HyperTerminal to display better
ANSI graphics when I call a BBS ? I get the right text and
but then instead of nice bars and lines there's nothing but strange
? HyperTerminal (and other Windows comm programs) will
do that, if the
font that they are using does not include the PC-DOS line drawing
most Windows fonts don't.
Pick from one of the ones that do, and the problem
you can use HyperTerminal's View/Font option for this-- but
you'll have to do it separately for each different HT icon you use.
TERMINAL (included w. Win 3.x and Win95)
MS LINE DRAW (included w. many Microsoft applications)
MINITEL ARIEL fonts (included in the far corners of the Win95 CD-ROM).
21) What's this Microsoft Plus! Pack-- do I need it to
? Microsoft released the Plus! Pack at the same time
as the main Win95
package, as a collection of add-on features. While you might find some
of the features useful or entertaining, they are not necessary to get
use of Win95, and are not recommended for users of 386 machines.
Included in the Plus! Pack are:
-- System Agent, allowing users to schedule regular use of Defrag,
Scandisk, or other utilities
-- Dial-Up-Server, to let other machines connect to yours
-- DriveSpace 3, allowing larger compressed partitions, and more
than the DriveSpace that is included with Win95 (but with the penalty
a 100+kb driver in MSDOS Mode, which makes it unusable for many who
on that mode to play games, etc).
-- Internet mail add-on for Exchange, a nice Internet Connection
and Internet Explorer ver 1.0 web browser (note that these, along with
more recent versions of Internet Explorer are freely available via
-- A collection of Desktop Themes: wallpaper, screen-savers, sounds,
and icons on themese ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Sports
-- A 3-D Pinball Game
--> It's entirely a matter of personal opinion
whether it's worth about