Windows 95 - Are You Ready?

Operating System: Revamped Windows Poses Dilema To Upgrade Or Not.

Addison Ching, Los Angeles County Office of Education

"Should I upgrade to Windows 95?"

I was asked that question a couple of weeks ago. Not until January, I indicated, would I even consider looking at it, allowing Microsoft ample time to fix all the initial release bugs and come out with version 1.03. As with most new software programs, I'm suspicious of the first release because it usually doesn't work the way it's supposed to. The fact that an acquaintance of mine attempted to install one of the prerelease betas and wiped out his entire hard disk didn't influence me; I just don't like to install Version 1.0.

However, my interest in keeping abreast of the latest technology developments changed that. So I bit the bullet and bought an upgrade copy of Windows 95.

Not having extra computers at my disposal, and not wanting to jeopardize the use of my computer by upgrading over the existing DOS and Windows environments, I spent some time trying to devise a method of somehow adding a second hard disk that would contain the Windows 95 operating system independent of the DOS environment with the ability to boot up from either hard disk. The problem with most boot loaders is that they expect to load from the first hard drive and don't have the capability of booting from the second hard drive.

I located a program on a local bulletin board called BOOTIT which allows you to specify booting from either the first or second hard drive at bootup time. If this program worked as its documentation indicated, I would be able to choose which hard drive (and operating system) to load. As a test, I installed DOS and Windows on the second drive and then installed BOOTIT. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the program worked as documented! I uninstalled BOOTIT in preparation for the Windows 95 upgrade. I unhooked my DOS drive and connected the new drive as my primary drive and proceeded with the Windows 95 upgrade. I was in for a nice surprise.

The installation, while taking a bit long, is relatively foolproof and quite effective in self-installing. It is full of Microsoft's now-famous "Wizards" that analyze your system and figure out all the hardware you have. My computer is a 486 workstation, complete with multimedia capability, networking, Extended IDE hard drives, IDE CD-ROM drive, and a modem. I did have to go back and modify the interrupts for my modem and network card since I didn't have them configured the way Windows 95 expected. The installation was otherwise uneventful; I even registered my copy online, an option that is now available for new Microsoft products using an 800 number.

I then decided that I would listen to an audio CD while familiarizing myself with the new desktop and features of Windows 95. I inserted the CD and started searching for the CD player using the new Start button on the new Windows Taskbar. Before I could locate the media player application icon, the CD started playing by itself! Wow! My next question was: If Windows 95 could auto-detect and play an audio CD, could it auto-detect a software CD ROM and automatically begin the installation?

I removed the Doobie Brothers CD and inserted the Microsoft Office for Windows 95 CD ROM in the CD ROM drive. After a few seconds, an eerie attention-getting theme and an introduction screen greeted me although I hadn't done anything with the keyboard or the mouse. It seems that Microsoft has added an auto-start feature for the installation programs of Windows 95-specific applications, a nice touch.

I've now been running Windows 95 for a few days and haven't had any problems with its performance. I've migrated several applications, including my Internet dialup service, to Windows 95 using its internal TCP/IP support instead of the Trumpet package, and it all appears to work as it should. This article is being created with Word for Windows 7.0 under Windows 95.

Some of WIN95's nice features are extended filenames, folders within folders, hotkey startup icons, and the multitasking toolbar that includes a volume control and a clock (Yes!). Many options are single mouse-click or right mouse key-activated and there is a new button to close folders or windows that are open.

Some disadvantages to existing DOS/Windows users are learning the "new way" to do things, getting used to new sounds, having to use the Windows Explorer to manipulate files rather than DOS commands (the DOS Command Prompt is still there for those who insist on using it) and setting up new Program Groups and aliases (I found this the most difficult.)

Macintosh users still have the last say! While Windows 95 comes the closest yet to replicating the Mac's graphical desktop metaphor in the PC world, the MAC's operability is still a bit easier.

"Should I upgrade to Windows 95?"

If you're thinking about it, I recommend that you use a non mission-critical 486 with 8 megabytes of RAM and install the Windows 95 upgrade on it to make that determination yourself. This machine could also be used as a training computer to allow you and potential users to become familiar with Windows 95 before it is installed on mission-critical computers. Before upgrading, make sure you're completely backed up. While Windows 95 "preserves" your file environment and comes with an Uninstall feature, nothing substitutes for a good backup. Migrate your applications to Windows 95 gradually and check each thoroughly before proceeding with the next migration. And keep your fingers crossed!