Skinny Windows for Your Tool Chest

Do you remember back in 1998 when there was the big stink during the first volleys of Microsoft Corp.’s prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice over whether you could remove Internet Explorer from Windows 98 without breaking the system somehow?

The Redmond spinmeisters tried to make it look as though removing Internet Explorer was the trigger that would cause the end of life as we know it. Much silliness and posturing surrounded the issue, all in good clean fun.

Well, in December that year, a programmer by the name of Shane Brooks decided to have a crack at the problem and produced the “Win98 IE Extraction Project.” This was, and is still, claimed to be the first utility to cleanly remove Internet Explorer from Windows 98.

Now why would you want to do such a thing? Brooks points out the following: The Windows directory drops from 130,608,199 bytes to 99,063,806 bytes while the registry files – system.dat and user.dat – shrink from 1,495,072 bytes and 114,720 bytes, respectively, down to 876,576 bytes and 49,184 bytes. Another 935,568 bytes are saved from the Internet Explorer files. That’s a total disk space savings of almost 32.5M bytes!

The benefits are simple: More disk space is available, and because the registry is smaller, overall system performance is improved. Brooks suggests that these changes make Windows 98 run like Windows 95. Cool.

Well, that was back in ’98 and ’99. Microsoft has since made changes and upgrades and Brooks had to do some fancy footwork to stay compatible. The result can be found in a product called 98Lite 2.0 Professional.

Essentially, 98Lite allows you to make changes that can give your PC a significant performance boost. For example, 98Lite offers three different desktop configurations: “sleek,” which uses the fast Windows 95 Explorer; “chubby,” which provides Windows 98 Explorer with most Web integration components removed; and “overweight,” which delivers Windows 98 Explorer with Web-view and active desktop (ugh!).

98Lite also promises to let you install Windows 98 or Windows 98SE (Second Edition) cleanly without Internet Explorer ever getting involved and remove Internet Explorer 4.0 and 5.0 from both operating systems. Versions to support Windows Millennium and Windows 2000 are planned as free upgrades.

One of the most interesting versions of Windows 98 is called “98micro,” which Brooks describes as “the naked guts of [Windows 98] running at full tilt and totally Webless – the closest [Windows 98] has ever come to its operating system roots in less than 70M bytes.”

The Professional version can also convert a number of the theoretically integrated Windows 98 components into optional features that can be removed or added using the control panel add/ remove applet. 98Lite also supports multiple languages.

I’ve only just begun to play with 98Lite – it appears to do just what it claims and does it very well. Given its shareware pricing (starting at US$25), 98Lite ( should be in your toy chest.