Back then, all PCs had Config and Autoexec files. Today, some Windows system ship with no Autoexec or Config file at all. Others ship with a vestigial file that's either empty - it's just a placeholder - or that contains just a few simple commands. If you only run Windows applications, that's fine. But if you ever run DOS apps, you can run into problems.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that DOS apps are all fossils, or that you'll never run any: Some superb, high-end, fully-current, mainline apps run in DOS even today. For example, I use PartitionMagic and Drive Image to manage disk space and create super-fast-loading backups of my Windows PCs. Although PartitionMagic and Drive Image have Windows front ends, they do their real work from DOS. Likewise, some utilities such as ScanDisk or Norton Disk Doctor sometimes do their work from DOS. The presence or absence of a properly-done Config.sys and Autoexec.bat can greatly affect how apps like these run.
And many games still run in DOS, even if you launch them from inside Windows; and the presence or absence of a properly-done Config.sys and Autoexec.bat can greatly affect how apps like these run - or even if it can run at all.
(Before we go on, the standard cautions apply: None of this stuff is very dangerous, but it always, always, always makes sense to make a backup before you twiddle any system settings.)
For example, in about two minutes, with just a couple of simple cut-and-paste commands, you easily can tell your PC how to reclaim a chunk of commonly wasted memory space. Try this: On the Start menu, choose Run, and type in Sysedit. Choose Config.Sys. On Windows systems of recent vintage, there's a good chance you'll see just an empty screen, which means you have an Config.Sys file, but it contains no commands.
If it's empty, add these lines: DEVICE = C:\WINDOWS\HIMEM.SYS
DEVICE = C:\WINDOWS\EMM386.EXE NOEMS
DOS = HIGH,UMB
If your Config.sys has the "himem" line in it, but not the "emm386" or DOS line, just add those lines.
If your Config.sys has any other lines (not the himem or emm386 lines) that start with the word "Device," change each of those instances of the word "Device" to "DeviceHigh."
Now open Sysedit's Autoexec.bat window. If you have any DOS commands that run programs (e.g. files that end in .COM or .EXE) in the Autoexec file, add the letters "LH" before the command. For example, if your Autoexec has the command "C:\WINDOWS\AU30DOS.COM" in it, change that to read "LH C:\WINDOWS\AU30DOS.COM".
(What the above does is to tell your system to use to two "memory managers" (himem and emm386) to access to all your PC's memory including a normally wasted area of "high" or "upper" DOS memory; to allow certain types of device drivers to reside in that otherwise-wasted space; and to load the core elements of DOS itself and any DOS apps in your Autoexec file "high" and out of the way of other programs. I'm going fast here to keep this column from getting too long: We can explain this in more detail in the discussion area, if you'd like - just click on over!)
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