Upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows 98

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By Ronald Nutter MCSE/MCNE

Published in TechRepublic's Windows Support Professional

At some point, if it hasn't already happened, someone in your company is going to come to you and ask you to upgrade his system to Windows® 98—or will have tried to do so himself and now desperately needs your help. The upgrade process should go pretty much without incident once you do a little homework. This article will take you through the steps of preparing for and carrying out an upgrade from a Windows 95 system to Windows 98.

Doing Your Homework

Before beginning any system upgrade project, you need to find out a few things. The first step is to do a complete inventory of the system hardware in the unit being upgraded. If your company is fortunate enough to have Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) software running, most of the work has already been done for you. If not, you'll need to spend a little time checking the Web sites and probably placing a few phone calls to technical support companies checking for Windows 98 compatibility with the hardware. In your discovery process, write down any pertinent information you can find on the hardware: part numbers, model numbers, and so on.

Once you turn the system back on, repeat the same process for the software loaded on the system. It's likely that one or more of your packages will require an upgrade or at least strongly suggest downloading a service pack to avoid any potential problems after the Windows upgrade. As you identify the updates required to make everything work properly, download each to a separate floppy disk or area on your hard drive, clearly labeling each download to identify how it will assist you in working with Windows 98.

Microsoft to the Rescue

Microsoft has come to the aide of those upgrading to either Windows 98 or Windows 2000 without realizing it. Check out http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/hwtest/default.mspx , which displays the window shown in Figure A. For a mere $15, you can order a set of five CDs that will help test your hardware for compatibility with Windows 98. Although intended for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to use in their qualification for displaying the Windows logo, these resources are helpful for those using the equipment in the day-to-day world and who want to take that step to avoid problems.


Figure A: Microsoft makes resources available to help ensure that hardware is compatible with the platform you're using.

Go Forth with the Upgrade

Before inserting the Windows 98 upgrade CD into the CD-ROM drive of the system you're upgrading, make sure you have at least one (if not two) full tape backup. If necessary, the backup will help you make a reasonably quick recovery to the point you were at before the upgrade. Have the original media for all applications installed on this system within easy reach. There's a possibility that part of the solution to fixing any application-related problems after the upgrade may be resolved most easily by reinstalling the application software in question.

When you're sure that everything is ready, insert the Windows 98 upgrade CD into the CD-ROM drive of the workstation. If the Autoplay function has been disabled in Windows 98 or doesn't kick in for some reason, double-click the My Computer icon, double-click the drive icon for your CD-ROM drive, and then double-click the Setup.exe icon to start the upgrade process. Once the program is running, you should see a window like that shown in Figure B.


Figure B: This is the opening screen for the upgrade process to Windows 98.

The upgrade process itself is as simple as following the onscreen prompts. I highly recommended that you create the startup disk recommended by the Windows 98 upgrade program. That way, you can boot the system in the event of a problem during the upgrade process that stops things from continuing, or if your system doesn't successfully reboot after the upgrade has finished. From my tests in the lab, I like seeing the gas gauge or file-copy progress meter at the bottom of the screen advising of the estimated time remaining for the upgrade process.

After the upgrade process has completed (which will involve about three different reboots), you should run through the installed applications and see what works and what doesn't. After addressing those problems, it may be wise to perform another backup before proceeding further. You may think I'm harping a lot about backups, but they're the cheapest form of insurance you'll ever have when dealing with computers.

Getting Updates to Windows 98

One of the chief criticisms of Windows 95 was that system administrators or users would have to go on a treasure hunt to find the appropriate updates for their systems and then download and install those updates. Windows 98 has made that process a lot easier. When you choose Start, then Settings, then Windows Update, a window like that shown in Figure C will open (the figure is a screenshot using Internet Explorer 4).


Figure C: This Windows Update site offers a shopping-list approach to updates on your system, scaled in order of importance.

Although you can download all the updates listed, I strongly encourage you to download only the ones labeled Critical. I also suggest you immediately get the module that will automatically advise you when updates are available for your particular system. Note that download times are quoted for a 28.8 dial-up speed connection; if you have an ISDN line or faster, the time spent downloading the updates should be noticeably less.


In this article, you've seen that with a little preparation, a significant system upgrade such as going from Windows 95 to Windows 98 can go fairly easily. Take your time to do complete research on your system prior to the upgrade and during the upgrade itself, and the end result should be successful.

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, Kentucky. He's an MCSE, Novell Master CNE, and Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He's also the Help Desk Editor for Network World. You can reach Ron at rnutter@networkref.com. (Because of the large volume of e-mail that he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

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