Decision Support: Leave Windows 9x behind

Consider upgrading from Windows 98

You have no doubt come into contact with slow systems that have such a paltry amount of resources available that they take an eternity to respond to commands. As a support professional, it’s your job to keep these system resource hogs from slowing down your users. To help you recover your system resources, I will show you the most likely sources for resource hogs and give you some information to help you rectify this problem.

Memory leaks
The main reason resources are never returned back to the operating system is because of early poor programming practices that placed resource-draining bugs in applications. These bugs are actually referred to as “memory leaks” because memory addresses that have been reserved for data and program code continue to exist in certain sections of the PC’s memory after their corresponding program shuts down or a data file is closed. Therefore, the memory resources are unusable to any other application, including the operating system.

Which programs offend the most?
Surprisingly, Windows 98 often is the main culprit for its own resource and memory problems. There are two Windows 98 system files that are generally regarded as the main source of these problems (gdi.exe and user.exe). Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to resolve the problems contained in the code of these files because they are critical to the operating system. One solution is to simply reboot the computer. However, this is impractical because it consumes time and is definitely not an effective permanent solution. Another solution is to change the way that the operating system manages resources by changing the default role for the computer. This change of roles is accomplished by right clicking on My Computer and selecting Properties; clicking the Performance tab; selecting File System; and, under the Hard Disk tabs, selecting the Network Server option from the drop down menu labeled Typical Role For This Computer. This should reduce, if not eliminate, all of the problems with the operating systems management of resources.

Start-up resource hogs
Many programs automatically set themselves up to run when Windows is booted up. Once several of these programs are loaded into memory, the resources available to Windows and the other applications are diminished dramatically. Some of the programs that do this are antivirus programs, CD burning software, PDA synchronization software, and Real Player. The solution is to remove these applications from memory by simply accessing the msconfig.exe program from the Start | Run menu of Windows 98, selecting the Startup tab, and unchecking the boxes of all of the programs that are not essential to running Windows 98. For example, on a typical computer, the nonessential files would include everything except systray and loadpowerprofile.

Please remember to back up your system before performing any change to your computer start-up files. Some changes made may render your computer inoperable.

Dealing with Office
The Microsoft Office 97 suite of programs is another major offender in terms of lost system resources. If the applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are opened and then closed several times, none of the resources used to open these programs is freed up for use by the computer. There are three possible solutions to this problem. First, reboot the computer when system response time becomes unbearable. Once again, this is not very practical because, depending on the number of applications opened and closed, you may have to do this several times a day. Second, upgrade your Office suite to Office 2000. The Office 2000 suite does not have any of these system resource problems. This solution may also be impractical due to cost of the software as well as the time users require for training. Finally, a solution that appears to work with none of the drawbacks of the others is to have users open the application only once during the course of the day and close the files associated with that program as they are done with them.

Animation problems
Another culprit that eats system resources and never relinquishes them is the Animate Windows option contained in the Effects tab under display properties. This can be accessed from Control Panel under Display Properties or you can right-click on the desktop and simply go to Properties and click on the Effects tab. To get rid of this resource hog, simply uncheck the box labeled Animate Windows, Menus, and Lists.

Still having problems?
If you are still experiencing problems after applying the above solutions, then there are a couple of generic options you can try. First, check and make sure your swap file size is adequate for the hard drive in your system. To determine your swap file size go to the System Properties dialog box by right-clicking My Computer, selecting Properties, and navigating to the Performance tab. Click on the Virtual Memory button to see the current swap file size. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10 percent of the size of your hard drive available for a swap size partition. Another item to check would be the amount of RAM in your computer, which is also found in the System Properties dialog box at the General tab. The minimum amount that I would recommend to run Windows 98 would be 64 MB. Obviously, the more RAM you have, the better your system will perform.


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