But if you like the way your computer works now, pass on upgrading to Windows 98.
Besides, next spring they’re throwing it out for an all new NT!
by John De Bellis
Within days of its June 25 launch in the United States, Windows 98, Microsoft’s updated operating system, came under fire from computer manufacturers and home users. Microsoft denies it, but there are some serious problems with the new operating system.
Hardware manufacturers such as Dell, Compaq and Gateway issued warnings about upgrade suitability for certain models and home computer users found themselves with ill-functioning peripherals.
As manufacturers scrambled to address the compatibility issue with notices on their Web sites, reports of trouble with the operating system have made many computer users question if upgrading is worth the effort and the $100 (14,000 yen) price tag.
“Why bother upgrading to Windows 98?” said Brad Bartz, the president of a Tokyo-based Internet services company called Internet Access Center. “I mean, if you use your computer for the basics like the Web, e-mail and word processing, and it works fine already, why upgrade?”
Computer users in other parts of the world will likely be asking themselves the same question soon, since all the non-English language versions will hit the store shelves by Nov. 1. The Japanese-language version was released here on July 25.
Windows 98 is a less radical an overhaul of the Windows operating system than the Windows 95 upgrade of the old Windows 3.1 system.
Many of its new features are files and enhancements that missed the deadline for the Windows 95 release three years ago.
Microsoft is smoothing out the final system wrinkles before the Win 95-Win 98 operating system is phased out in favor a more powerful system called Windows NT 5.0, due for release in early 1999.
Some Windows 98 features have been around for about two years. A new feature called Maintenance Wizard, for example, is a collection of system cleaning software that was available with Windows 95.
And the controversial Internet Explorer 4.01 browser, which is now integrated into the operating system, has the same features that were available before the release of Windows 98.
“If you like the way your computer is working now (under Windows 95), pass on Windows 98,” said Crissman Loomis, a network engineer at LINC media, a Tokyo-based Internet marketing company. “Unless, that is, you enjoy toying with your computer.”
Toying, or tinkering, has proven unavoidable for users with older computer models, particularly notebook computers that are 17 to 24 months old. Windows 98 interferes with the sleep mode in older models as well as the Basic Input and Output System, or BIOS.
The BIOS is a file supplied by computer manufacturers that controls hardware input and output. It also saves computer settings when the computer goes into sleep mode. These BIOS files have trouble saving to the augmented hard drive that Windows 98 delivers. Hardware vendors such as Dell and Gateway have posted file updates or instructions on how to work around the problems.
Other common difficulties include the software not recognizing previously installed peripherals, particularly modems, although experiences have varied widely with different makes and models. Some have experienced crashes. Others found the updates handy.
“I installed Windows 98 on a few older notebooks,” Loomis said. “It buried the Microsoft Fax software, but it made my software generally load faster. It also gave my units a battery gauge, which it didn’t have before.”
Other additions have the potential to benefit home and business users, but only if they have recent computer models and peripherals.
For example, Windows 98 allows computers with hard drives of 2 gigabytes and larger, to convert to a more efficient file system called File Allocation Table (FAT) 32. Under Windows 95, the file system is FAT 16.
FAT 32 stores data in smaller clusters on a hard disk so that the data can be accessed faster. Microsoft claims hard drives converted to FAT 32 under Windows 98 will load faster than under Windows 95. But without 64 Megabytes of RAM memory, there is little difference. Windows 95 functions adequately with 32 megabytes of RAM.
Still other Windows 98 features will only benefit the newest of the new computers and peripherals.
Windows 98 supports emerging technologies such as Digital Video Disk, or DVD, and the Universal Serial Bus (USB), a standard port for connecting peripherals. And it can bring users with a TV viewing hardware card a step closer to the future with Web TV–software that allows users to watch TV on their PC.
But given the technology lag of 1-2 years for most computer users, the vast majority of people who upgrade to Windows 98 will find several headaches.
“The first time I installed the upgrade, it knocked out my hard disk,…” Bartz said. “I am fed up with Microsoft. The next operating system I buy is going to be Macintosh OS.”
Here are some upgrade tips before taking the Windows 98 plunge:
1.) See if it’s feasible for you to completely reinstall of all your software. Most computer users will benefit from doing this, especially if they add and delete software often. Remember to back up important files.
2.) Uninstall all programs you are no longer using. Windows 98 occupies up a whopping 200 megabytes of hard disk space.
3.) Empty all browser cache files. These files are photos and other multimedia files downloaded when your browser loads Internet Web sites.
4.) If you have a compressed hard drive, decompress it. Parts of Windows 98 will not function properly with all or partially compressed hard drives.
5.) Run any form of disk diagnostics you may have. If you do not have a third-party client, use Windows 95 Scandisk followed by Disk Defragmenter.
6.) Make sure you create a boot disk when Windows 98 prompts you to do so.
Reprinted from Asahi Evening News