By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Most computer users have a charming flaw. They think computers are supposed to work right.
Much of the time, as many of us have learned the hard way, computers don't work right at all. This usually happens once you install a dozen new games and a couple of 100-megabyte home-and-office organizers, but it sometimes occurs as soon as your turn the darned thing on.
I have a solution. You won't like it, but it's good for you. Eat your peas, keep your life insurance paid up, don't quit your day job—and practice reinstalling Windows 95.
Reinstalling Windows is the only guaranteed way of curing the bloat that paralyzes your PC after a year or so of constant use. There is no other method that works.
Yes, there are programs that claim they can fix the problems of Windows. I've tried all the ones I could find. The best of the lot can straighten out minor difficulties. The others just make things worse.
That's why you need to know how to reinstall Windows 95. Trust me: It's not hard to do and it doesn't take all weekend. You can clear out everything on your computer's hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch in an hour or two. Add the time required to reinstall your other software—your word processor, your Web browser, your office suite, your favorite games and things like that—and you'll probably be able to get the job done in about four hours.
You might think that's a lot of time. But it's just a fraction of the time you'd spend trying to fix something that can't be fixed. And you'll escape all the frustration of coping with strange error messages and indecipherable file names.
There's a catch. (There always is.) I'm not talking about running the Windows setup program and having it take out or put back parts of the operating system. This method of doing a "hot fix'' for Windows 95 doesn't work when your PC is really misbehaving. I'm talking about the Big Wipeout here. I'm telling you to come clean. The only effective way to reinstall Windows 95 is to get rid of every trace of every file on your hard drive and start fresh.
This week and the next two I'll explain how to do the job quickly without losing anything. Keep these articles handy and be sure to follow my advice step by step.
Step 1: Make fresh backup copies of all your documents—all your word processing files, all your financial data, everything of that kind. It doesn't matter how you do it. Copying them to floppy disks is fine, if that's the only method available. Just do it, and label the disks or tapes so you know what's on them. (You don't need to back up your programs. See Step 2.)
Step 2: Locate all the installation disks for your programs. Make sure you know where they are. If you use shareware programs that you downloaded off the Internet, look through the documentation or the help menu of each program to find a Web address where you can get the program again.
Step 3: Get out a notebook and write down all the registration numbers, passwords, serial numbers and other vital information for all the programs you own. Even the Windows 95 CD requires a code, so don't overlook it when you collect these numbers. (A tip: If you lose the Windows CD code, called the Product ID—it's on the Certificate of Authenticity that came with your PC—you can use the Product ID from any other Windows 95 installation CD issued around the same date.)
That's enough preparation for this week. Next week we'll get into the slash-and-burn stuff.