Operating system challenge

My home Windows 98 machine began to crash with increasing frequency. When I first installed the operating system it would run for weeks without a problem. Lately, a daily crash was common. It shouldn’t be that way, and I was determined to do something about it.

Over the years, I have installed and uninstalled a large number of programs. My suspicion was that the Registry on my Windows 98 machine was corrupted. The Windows Registry keeps track of what is, or was, installed and how it should work. It can get out of whack.

There are programs that will clean your Registry. Microsoft had such a program, RegClean, but it’s no longer available. RegCleaner (http://www.jv16.org/) is a freeware program that tries to figure out what should be in your Registry and then correct any mistakes is finds. It seemed to help, but only for a few days.

I decided that I had to move on/up from Windows 98, but knew that the modest 128MB on my home machine would not be enough. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that another 256MB cost less than $100. Installing the new memory was easy.

With 384MB of memory, Windows 98 seemed to behave itself. But I was committed to an improvement. Windows ME is the natural step up. Last year, I failed in an attempt to install the ME upgrade. Back then, I was forced to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows 98.

I was hoping for great things from the extra 256MB of memory. I again tried to install Windows ME using the copy I had purchased more than a year ago. I failed, but did not have to reformat the hard drive to get back a working system. A simple reinstallation of Windows 98 was possible.

The system was back up and running, … except that now I could not print. The hardware saw a properly working printer port, but Windows 98 refused to print. I tried alternative print drivers, and alternative printers. I reinstalled Windows 98 another time, but that didn’t help. What to do?

I had copies of NT 4.0, ME and XP, beta 2, at home. Because of my Internet connection (using RASPPPoE), I didn’t want to go to NT. I was understandably reluctant to move to a time-limited beta. I decided to try ME one more time. But first I physically cleaned the CD-ROM.

My home system is now happily running Windows ME. It has run without a problem, even when left on for extended periods of time. And ME does have some nice features. The main improvement, for me, is that I now have better control over my high-speed Internet connection.

It’s unfortunate that Windows operating systems need to be “refreshed” every few years. A short-term fix, if your system is similar to mine, may be to increase memory. The current price for memory is low and more memory will improve system performance.

During all of this, I was forced to reinstall Windows 98 and ME a number of times. Will Microsoft tolerate this in the future? Their new ActivationWizard limits you to one automatic reinstall. With future products, I will need their approval for what I did. Colour me uncomfortable.

Fabian is an established Canadian management and system consultant (www.fabian.ca) who has always been fascinated by technology.