Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
Windows 98 - Up Close and Personal
Product Review by
Your erstwhile editor sacrificed himself and upgraded
to Windows 98. My experiences to date relate to my own
machine: a hot - well, it was when I bought it - Pentium
166, 64 MB memory with an ASUS motherboard and the FX
chipset. Initially, I upgraded over Windows 95 but then
decided to "clean house" and install to a
freshly formatted hard drive. Now, there are pros and
cons to each approach. The upgrade is less time consuming
since you do not have to reinstall all your applications;
conversely, it may allow a lot of unnecessary baggage to
This installation is certainly smoother and faster.
There were many fewer questions to answer; Windows 98
Setup has automated most of the hardware detection and
for me it was flawless. As a test, I turned on my vintage
scanner with a proprietary pseudo-SCSI card; Windows 98
detected it and installed its driver! Under Windows 95, I
was on my own.
Windows 98 is supposed to be faster and more stable. I
have not noticed any speed differences - mind you, I did
not time everything with a stopwatch. Suffice to say that
it is not noticeably slower! Crashes: Windows 95 did on
occasion. Windows 98 itself has crashed much less
frequently; however, I notice that the Windows 95 crash-prone
applications still crash on occasion while running under
Windows 98. On the plus side, they rarely dragged Windows
98 down with them. Check the web sites for your
applications; there are many Windows 98 upgrades
I have deactivated the Active Desktop and Webcasting.
This might be useful if you are a Microsoft Network
client. I am not; "Nuff said!" Anyway,
tradition dies hard.
Yes, I installed FAT 32. I was not desperate for hard
drive space; however, I believe that the future is here
and I might as well adjust. Yes, it does promote
efficiency (smaller clusters) although I can't determine
if it is faster or slower. Regarding stability: well, it
has not crashed - yet! To be fair, any drive will crash;
the correct question is "when" not "if"
and the FAT version is not relevant. I feel more secure
running FAT 32 than I did while experimenting with drive
compression (Stacker, DoubleSpace or DriveSpace).
Yes, there are reports of problems: indeed, horror
stories; however, that has not been my experience.
Apparently, there are problems with some applications (these
are third party reports and not my personal experiences)
including: Office 95 or earlier, Photoshop 4.x and some
plug-ins for it, and some development packages. For those
anticipating upgrading a Stacker compressed drive - don't
remove the compression before upgrading.
Many applications will run better with the latest
version; often, these are free downloads from the
company's web site. In particular, upgrade utilities (for
example: Norton Utilities, Nuts and Bolts, or First Aid)
to make them FAT 32 aware. Virus checkers and backup
programs are other potential problems.
Given the wide choice of backup media available, I was
disappointed that Windows 98 backup module (licensed from
Seagate Software) supports only QIC 80 devices - support
for removable media (Zip drive) would have been a nice
touch. Seagate apparently offers an all the "bells
and whistles" upgrade if you are willing to pay.
I have no new hardware (for example, USB, AGP, or
notebook power management) and cannot comment from
personal experience. Out-takes from others suggest that
USB enjoys improved support; most of the problems
reported under Windows 95 are history. I gather AGP is
disappointing for some; however, this may be merely a
question of software drivers for a new technology (similar
to USB's problems running under Windows 95).
The Windows 95 Tweak UI has been upgraded; the new
version is on the upgrade CD-ROM. (I don't know about OEM
versions.) The other Powertoys, from Windows 95, remain
functional. Microsoft's policy remains unchanged: while
Powertoys and Tweak UI are in-house creations, they are
not officially supported.
One nagging problem that you may experience: the
Version Conflict Manager (VCM) is a utility to track
disabled files and provide a way to restore earlier file
versions. Unfortunately, Windows 98 Setup gives no notice
the files are changed. If Win 98's Setup detects a more
recent shared file from a competitor then Setup relocates
the file - that is, disables it. Windows 98 installs the
older "Windows 98 shipping" version of the same
file into the proper location. Microsoft claims that this
will establish a common baseline operating system;
practically, the bottom line is applications don't work. [An
aside: your editor's attempt at humour - rumour has it
that Microsoft has posters stating: "The job's not
done until the competitors' software won't run."]
Frequent victims are: TWAIN.DLL, Version 22.214.171.124 replaced
by 126.96.36.199; MSCONV97.DLL, Version 1997.4.2 replaced by
1997.3.12; and W95INF32.DLL, Version 4.71.17 by 4.71.16.
VCM is only turned on during Windows 98 install; then
it ceases to monitor the system. A subsequent third-party
installation that causes a problem will not activate it.
If you experience problems immediately after the Windows
98 Setup routine check VCM: click Start
Version Conflict Manager to determine if any
shared files were changed. It should show the names and
version numbers of any modified files.
If you elect the clean install and you own Office 97
you may experience a bizarre problem when you attempt to
perform the Service Patch 1 upgrade. Windows 98
incorporates a utility called SpeedLoad. This utility
rearranges the application files on the hard drive to
speed the loading process. By default, this feature is
activated in Windows 98. (As an aside, Norton Utilities
has a similar program called Norton Optimization Wizard.
I suspect that this utility might trigger the same result.)
While rearranging the file module order on the hard drive
does speed loading the application, the Office 97 patch,
in contrast, expects to find various modules of code in a
specific relationship. SpeedLoad has usurped this
relationship; the patch will fail! To avoid this problem
you must disable - temporarily, at least - SpeedLoad (suggestion:
rename the executable, C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\WALIGN.EXE)
before you install Office 97 and the subsequent patch.
Once the patch has been applied, SpeedLoad can be re-enabled.
If you were caught already then you must uninstall Office
97, disable SpeedLoad and reinstall Office 97.
I also opted to obtain the Windows 98 Plus! Pack.
Although I am not a gamer, rave notices about Lose Your
Marbles have been posted by several trade writers. For
those who enjoy CD music while you work, the Deluxe CD
Player has also received good grades. If you are entering
the world of image editing, Microsoft has included a lite
version of Picture-It. (Windows already includes a
version of Wang/Kodak's Imaging utility that I believe
has similar capabilities; pay your money and make your
choice.) I was mainly interested in the McAfee Virus Scan
package to upgrade an older engine. While an upgrade is
an option, if you consider only the direct cost plus
exchange rates (download from the web site) then the rest
of the Plus! Pack is a freebie. The Windows 95 Plus! Pack
screen savers are now part of the Windows 98 upgrade
package (OEM?). Plus! Pack 98 has several new themes for
those who want a change of scenery.
Upgrading the upgrades
Despite the "just released" status of
Windows 98 there are already several upgrades. The
Microsoft Intellimouse (with the scrolling wheel) has a
software upgrade. Windows 98 included a driver; however,
this offered no significant new features. The upgrade
will add the scrolling feature to most applications
instead of the limited array at present.
Hilgraeve is offering a free upgrade for the version
of HyperTerminal that shipped with Windows 98. It
promises a number of improvements and a few bug fixes. I
use it infrequently and have had no problems; however,
the price is right.
The multimedia arena is primed for several updates.
Windows 98 shipped with DirectX, Version 5. Direct X is a
series of system utilities that run in the background to
support multimedia (for example: motion video, 3D, sound,
joysticks). Microsoft has posted DirectX, Version 6 for
download (about 1.6 MB) from its web site. There is also
a Windows 95 version, I believe. Other upgrades or add-ins
scheduled to appear include: Media Player (incorporated
into Internet Explorer 4), more fonts (primarily for the
Web), Microsoft Chat 2.5, and WebTV Guide.
Microsoft release these individually or as an upgrade.
They hesitate to use "Service Pack" as the
description; however, some bug fixes will be incorporated.
No release date is announced; internally, Microsoft is
"aiming" for late August or September 98.
One bug that certainly deserves extinction is the
Explorer file deletion bug. If you navigate quickly among
different folders (directories) while deleting files in
some folders, it is possible that the wrong files would
be deleted since Explorer has not recorded the folder
Proprietary package from Microsoft
Web Site: http://www.microsoft.com/windows98/default.asp
Copyright and Usage
Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street,
Ottawa, ON K2G 1S6
The opinions expressed
in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.
Original HTML coding for this page provided by Alan
Page updated: 26-Aug-98