Optimizing MS Windows 98

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August 1998

Maintenance Wizard is the first thing to look for after you install Windows® 98. With the Maintenance Wizard's regular tune-ups, it may well be the only tool you ever need. To set up the Maintenance Wizard:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and click Maintenance Wizard.


  2. If the Maintenance Wizard has been configured previously, check Change my maintenance settings or schedule and then click OK.

  3. If you want to use the most common maintenance settings check Express then click Next. Choose Custom if you want to change the maintenance jobs Windows 98 performs for you.

  4. If you keep your computer running around the clock, it's best to let Windows 98 perform maintenance at night, which is the default setting. Otherwise, select a time when you don't use your PC heavily — say, around your regular lunch break, Days, or in the Evenings. Once you've selected a time that works for you, click Next.

    The final screen displays the maintenance tasks that Windows 98 will run. If you've selected the Express option, these are:

    • Speeding up your most frequently used programs

    • Checking your disk for errors

    • Deleting any unwanted files

  5. You can run these tasks straightaway by checking the option box before clicking Finish.


But you can go further and get better performance out of your disks with the Windows 98 FAT32 file system. FAT32 uses your hard disk more efficiently with a smaller "cluster" size. A cluster is the smallest amount of disk that Windows can use in a file. Windows 95 stores bits of data in 32 KB clusters, which means that if you had a 3 KB bit of data, that data would be stored in a cluster with a lot of empty space. Windows 98 stores data in 4 KB clusters, so smaller bits of data won't take up more space than they need.

To convert a hard disk drive to FAT32:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and click Drive Converter (FAT32).

  2. Once this starts, click Next. Select the drive or partition you want to convert, then click Next. You might see some warnings about antivirus software or previous versions of MS-DOS® — FAT32 is not compatible with these. The Drive Converter now searches your disk for any incompatible programs and gives you the option to abandon the conversion if any are found.

  3. Click Next, and if you want to backup some or all of your disk, click Backup and follow the instructions. When you are ready to move on, click Next.

  4. Click Next again to let the Drive Converter shut down your PC, restart it in MS-DOS mode, convert the drive, and restart Windows 98 again. After Windows 98 has restarted, the Disk Defragmenter tunes up your new FAT32 drive. Once it's complete, click Finish to exit the Drive Converter.

Microsoft System Information

The System Information utility replaces a whole load of third party diagnostic tools. Windows 98 is pretty good at sorting your system, but you may find it useful to use Microsoft System Information to investigate further and see what's really going on.

To run System Information, click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and click System Information.

You can look at several categories of information with System Information. When you start it, an overview of your system is displayed — the version of Windows, available memory, free disk space, and so on. From there you can drill down to further detail. For example:

  • Look at the IRQ allocations by clicking Hardware Resources and then selecting IRQs.

  • View running tasks by clicking Software Environment, followed Running Tasks.

  • Check out which versions of the DLLs programs are using by clicking Software Environment and then 32-bit Modules Loaded (or 16-Bit Modules loaded for Windows 3.1 software).

  • Review and repair Windows 98 system files. Click Tools from the main System Information menu, then choose System File Checker to verify the integrity of your Windows 98 system or extract an individual file from the Windows 98 distribution disks. This is a real benefit where, say, an uninstall program accidentally removes a file — it really does beat reinstalling Windows!

Disk Defragmenter

The one thing that really slows your PC is file fragmentation. Files are often stored in pieces all over your hard drive, which causes the disk reader to travel great distances to seek, retrieve, and reassemble the file for use.


Maintenance Wizard runs the Disk Defragmenter, which can reassemble most files on your drive, storing them end-to-end for quicker access. You can run this utility separately and defragment your disk at will, checking how badly (or not) your disk is fragmented. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and click Disk Defragmenter. If your disk is in good shape, this only takes a few seconds. On the other hand, if your disk is badly fragmented it can take up to several hours. If it's not a convenient time to defragment, click Pause or safely quit by clicking Exit.

The Disk Defragmenter doesn't just glue together the scattered fragments of your files. It uses information gathered in your normal use of Windows to move the files you use most often into the best position on the disk, so they load faster whenever you want to use them.