By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Reinstalling Windows 95 is sometimes the only way to get back the performance you had when the PC was new.
Windows 95 can get bogged down after many months of normal use _ if by "normal use". we mean installing new software, accidentally deleting important files, failing to remove unwanted programs through the Control Panel, and so on. (Don't feel guilty. We all do this.)
Over the last two weeks I've explained the main steps in reinstalling Windows 95, and this week I'll describe some ways you can make sure you're setting up Windows right. (You can read the previous articles on my Web site or the newspaper's mirror, at http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/ or http://www.syracuse.com/pluggedin/.)
Last week we left off at the beginning of the actual installation. The first part needs no intervention. The way Windows takes over to install all its necessary files is about as flawless as software gets. It's the second stage that needs help.
That occurs after Windows has put enough of its own operating system files on your disk drive to boot itself up. Windows shuts itself down and comes back to life, then starts searching for things that are plugged into your computer, internally or externally. (These things are called hardware.)
To many users, this is panic time. If Windows can't find what would seem like an obvious piece of hardware, are you sunk? No, not at all. It's important to realize that Windows keeps a detailed log of what it's doing, and it will look again for missing hardware the next time it gets a chance. (And if it's still partially blind, Windows can be prompted to find anything through the Control Panel's "Add New Hardware". icon.)
Far better to devote your worries to what happens when Windows finishes setting up all its defaults. That's because the defaults are wrong most of the time. (Don't get me started on this. It's one of my biggest complaints against Microsoft.)
So here's what you should change.
First, double click My Computer. Click the "View" menu, then choose "Options.". You'll see "Browsing Options.". There are two round buttons. Click the bottom one. That makes sure that you don't get half a zillion windows scattered all over your screen after you've opened folder after folder to find things. If you REALLY want to get another window to open when you click on a folder, you just hold down the Ctrl key when you double click.
Second, right click on the Desktop and choose "Properties.". Click "Settings.". You'll see two things that need changing. The first is at the left; it's the number of colors Windows can handle. The default is 256, which is ludicrous. Change it to High Color or True Color.
You always want it set higher. The only exception is for some games that require a 256-color setting. If you play games that need the 256-color setting, pick up the Power Toys from my Web site and install QuickRes so that you can switch color settings on the fly. If you have Windows 95B _ look for "400.950 B". after right clicking My Computer and choosing "Properties". _ you have QuickRes already, and you can activate it by clicking "Show settings icon on task bar". in the "Settings". window.
The other item you should change is the "Desktop area,". on the right. It defaults to 640 pixels by 480 pixels. That's not even enough of a display area for a word processor, let alone a Web browser. Change it to 800 X 600 or 1024 X 768, depending on the size of your monitor. (Important note: If your video card doesn't have enough of its own memory, you won't be able to choose True Color at 800 X 600 or 1024 X 768. In that case, choose a compromise such as High Color at 800 X 600.)
Third, click the "Appearance". tab (at the top of the window) in the same window you were just working in. You'll see a mock window that shows the fonts and colors Windows uses. You can change any of them. What needs changing in nearly every case is the default background color of the main window area, labeled "Window Text.". It's far too bright. A bright color can cause eyestrain and fatigue.
Click on that area and then click on the small "Color". box below it. You'll see color choices. Pick a light gray or click "Other". to create your own subdued white. (Or take some time to create your own pale ivory. That works well, too.)
Your Windows 95 PC will now work better, will be better on your eyes and will be less confusing to use. Enjoy it!