Windows 95 installs easily?most of the time
- By David M. Dodge
- Mar 31, 1996
I have installed Windows 95 on at least four machines and I've found that the install wizards are nothing short of amazing. No matter how hard I try to select or change what it has selected Windows 95 knows what it should have to work. It is rarely fooled by the more common hardware found in PCs produced over the last 12 months. It does a pretty good job at detecting legacy hardware as well if that hardware was a mainstream product when it was produced. However several factors can hang up an installation on stand-alone systems and these also hold true for networked systems. When Windows 95 starts the installation routine it checks for deadly TSRs. These are Terminate and Stay Resident programs that are active in memory while Windows 95 installs. Typical TSRs include virus utilities screen savers disk scan utilities undelete utilities UMB managers disk caching menu systems and so forth. Many configurations of the more common government contract computers also have a BIOS-enabled virus scan feature that must be disabled. Microsoft Corp. also recommends that BIOS shadowing be disabled during installation. In addition Microsoft recommends that you disable third-party memory managers because they may cause instability after the installation is complete. This process sounds pretty easy for one machine but the challenge comes when you have users who enable certain features after the IS department sets up the machine. If you plan on doing a network installation this may be the biggest problem to overcome unless you have Draconian control of every desktop. The smartest advice before installing is not to install if the hardware and software aren't working properly. Chances are if they worked before they should work after but that isn't always true. I helped recover a failed installation of Windows 95 on a computer for one of our computer user group members and it was not an easy task. Everything had worked under Windows 3.1. The culprit thwarting Windows 95 was identified after four hours of checking and reinstalling. The CD-ROM drive connected to the sound card wasn't supported by Windows 95 and it would not load a driver. I eventually reinstalled the real mode driver which worked but the system wasn't running optimally. The member got an updated driver from the manufacturer and installed it but then the CD-ROM didn't work. If the hardware isn't mainstream and very popular it may be hard to get a decent driver at all. This situation is more prevalent for consumer items but it could also happen to many business systems if the manufacturer isn't supporting the particular item installed. Housekeeping Is a Must Housekeeping is important. You may have some users who have cluttered their desktops. Windows 95 supports nested folders or—in Windows 3.1-speak—nested program groups. Before installing Windows 95 it is recommended that you consolidate as many groups as possible. Windows 95 sets up a cascading menu for each program group. The fewer groups you convert from Windows 3.1 the fewer menu items you will have to scan to figure out where things are located. Once converted it is much easier for users to configure the folders to their liking because they can then create "groups of groups " which they could not under Windows 3.1. The appeal of Windows 95 may be compelling but you must plan and test. Our organization has at least three configurations of 486 computers and is working on three versions of Pentium computers. I know that not every computer has an asset inventory. Do you have a complete listing of BIOS make and revision numbers what graphics subsystems and network cards are employed and the respective IRQs and memory addresses? These are important. Like a fast-moving train you can't stop at every station. The computers that agencies buy are a mix of custom orders off-the-shelf local purchases and procurements from General Services Administration schedules. No control. What are the implications for migration to Windows 95? The most touted technical feature of Windows 95 is the Plug and Play (PnP) capability. The newer machines with PCI local bus architecture and a PnP-enabled BIOS take the pain out of installing new hardware. But the older equipment most people have is probably not PnP-enabled. If you bought the same brand of network cards are they all set to the same IRQ and memory address? Probably not if your technical support people have had to fine-tune any system to get its inventory to work. This can be particularly troublesome if you think installation will go smoother with a network installation script. The script will load the driver but the Windows 95 hardware detection may not catch the different configuration and the installation will fail. This can be particularly troublesome with self-configuring cards that need the manufacturer's DOS setup routine to change the IRQ and address. Does this give you some doubts and concerns? Microsoft has developed a "Corporate Deployment Guide" to assist in your planning. The ideas presented in the guide should be followed and adapted for your organization. Switching an operating system is not easy. Microsoft has worked hard to make most older applications work with Windows 95 but not all applications work and some don't work at all. You should test all your business-critical applications before you make a decision. An asset inventory will assist during the installation when Windows 95 can't detect the hardware. Sixty to 70 percent of the time Windows 95 does a good job. The other 30 to 40 percent is where proper planning will smooth the upgrade and shorten installation time. These words of advice might also apply to Windows NT. That operating system is not as smart during the installation process as Windows 95 and the asset inventory might be required. ** Dodge is an active-duty Army officer with 16 years of service. He has extensive experience with Windows having started with Version 1.0 back in 1985. His current assignment is at Rock Island Arsenal with the Armament and Chemical Acquisition and Logistics Activity as a weapons system manager. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.This column is available on FCW's Web page at http://www.fcw.com.