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Software // Enterprise Applications
10:57 AM

The Essential Guide to Installing Win98

Clean install? FAT32? A painless upgrade? You'll find it all in our step-by-step guide to setting up Windows 98

Over the past few months, we've installed Windows 98 more than 100 times on dozens of PCs and notebooks. Now our pain is your gain.

We serve as your experienced guide, helping you steer clear of all the possible pitfalls by showing you how to install Win98 right the first time. Once you've read this guide, you'll know how to make the right decisions based on your needs. And with our timesaving tips, you'll breeze through the upgrade.

The Roads Ahead
Here are your available Windows OS upgrade paths.
If you have: You can upgrade to:
Win3.x Win95, Win98, NT 4.0, NT 5.0
Win95 Win98, NT 5.0
Win98 NT 5.0
NT 4.0 NT 5.0
Win98 is no NT, but it's noticeably more reliable than its predecessor. Given how much your operating system affects your productivity, there are only two reasons not to upgrade: You're happily using NT 4.0, or you're content with your current OS and plan to upgrade to NT 5.0 when it becomes available (Microsoft is now saying year's end).

If your plan was not to wait and to install NT 4.0 instead, forget it. You can't get to NT 4.0 from Win95 without starting from scratch. But Microsoft says you'll be able to upgrade to NT 5.0 from both Win95 and Win98.

As for Win98, you can upgrade not only from Win95, but also from MS-DOS and Win3.x (see the chart, "The Roads Ahead"). So, if you're ready to take the plunge, grab your upgrade CD and position these pages beside your PC.

Preinstall Checklist
Before you pop in the CD, save yourself tons of aggravation by completing these 12 steps.

1. Make sure your PC meets system requirements. Microsoft says you'll need a 486DX2/66 or faster CPU with at least 16MB of RAM. Our tests corroborate this.

2. Back up your data. Create a folder called Document on your local drive and place all your data files there. Store all your documents there or in another separate file-not with their associated applications. Back up all data files onto another hard disk or some form of removable media.

3. Create a Win95 start-up disk. If you don't already have a Win95 start-up disk, make one (see "Clean Install the Old Fashioned Way").

4. Uninstall antivirus programs. Remove all antivirus and terminate-and-stay-resident programs that may be loading from DOS. And be sure to remove any references to antivirus programs in AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS and WIN.INI. This disables any antivirus routine your system BIOS may run.

5. Remove Stacker disk compression. Win98 is incompatible with Stac's Stacker 4.1 and earlier disk compression. This is no longer a shipping product, but if you have it on your system, we recommend you get rid of it. Although Microsoft's DriveSpace is compatible with Win98, we recommend removing this, too, because you can't run it with FAT32.

6. Remove nonessential apps. Remove any programs you won't be using any time soon, as well as any folders or directories you no longer need.

Fun FAT Facts

For a better way to find out which version of FAT you're running, download Microsoft's free FAT32 Conversion Information utility (direct download link). It tells you not only which FAT version you're running, but also how much disk space you'll free up if you convert to FAT32.
7. Free up hard disk space. Win98 requires anywhere from 120MB to 295MB of hard disk space, depending on your system configuration, the options you choose, and whether you're installing fresh or over an existing Windows OS. The setup process requires 50MB of temporary storage space for file decompression. The typical upgrade from Win95 requires a total of 200MB, depending on your system configuration and the options you choose, whereas the average clean installation requires 225MB on a FAT16 drive and 175MB on a FAT32 drive.

8. Consider converting to FAT32. If you're running Win95 OEM Service Release 2 or higher, and you want to convert to FAT32, it may be wise to convert in advance. That way, you can keep FAT32 if you ever decide to uninstall Win98 (see the sidebar "Look Before You Leap into FAT32").

9. Have device drivers at hand. Locate all your original Win95 device drivers, such as those for sound, video, network cards, printers and other peripherals. Win98 ships with more than 1,200 new drivers, but it pays to be prepared.

10. Run ScanDisk. The disk scan Windows setup runs only detects errors, it doesn't fix them. It's best to fix them in advance. To disable Win98 setup's disk scan, launch setup either at the command prompt (for clean installs) or from the Run dialog (from Windows) using the SETUP/IS switch.

11. Free up a few hours. It takes about an hour to upgrade to Win98 and about an hour and a half for a fresh install, if all goes well. It's best to leave yourself 2 to 3 hours in case you run into trouble.

12. Start fresh. There's no better time to give your PC a fresh start than when you're moving to a new operating system. That's why we recommend you opt for a clean install. It means more preparatory work, it takes longer and can sometimes require fiddling around with device configuration, but in the long run, it's worth the extra effort-especially if you're running Win3.x, or if your Win95 installation was an upgrade of a previous Win3.x installation. Besides, Win98 runs better when you've installed it fresh.

Microsoft considers anything you do with the Win98 Upgrade CD an upgrade, even if you're installing it onto a blank formatted hard disk that has the bare minimum MS-DOS files required to boot to a C: prompt. So if you own a Microsoft OS, you don't need the Windows 98 full install version, which has a list price of $209 and is almost impossible to find anyway. (Note: You may be prompted to insert the first floppy disk of a Microsoft OS to prove you're upgrading.)

Abort the Launch

For a smoother Win98 setup, it's a good idea to stop all programs from autolaunching. Two System Registry keys are the most obscure places from which programs autolaunch:

You can find them by running RegEdit and drilling down their paths. When you click on the last element in each of the keys, any programs configured to run at start-up will display in Registry Editor's right pane. You can disable them by deleting those right-pane items. Any changes you make to the Registry are permanent, so back up the Registry files first using Microsoft's Emergency Recovery Utility (in \Other\Misc\Eru on your Win95 CD). A good rule of thumb when editing the Run and RunServices keys is this: If you're not sure what it does, don't kill it.

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