If you’ve been working with computers for a while, you’re no doubt familiar with common startup files, such as Config.sys and Autoexec.bat. In the days of DOS and Windows 3.x, these files were nothing short of an absolute necessity. The Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files often provided the only method for loading the hardware-specific drivers that your system depended on.

With the release of Windows 95 and on through Windows 98 Second Edition, these files became optional. These operating systems did still support the use of Config.sys and Autoexec.bat to ensure backward compatibility on older systems. You could use these files to load any real-mode drivers for hardware that you didn’t have protected-mode drivers for. Of course, if you didn’t require any real-mode drivers, Windows 9x would work just fine without a Config.sys or Autoexec.bat file.

Now, Microsoft has released a brand-new version of Windows, Windows Me (Millennium Edition). Microsoft claims that the latest version loads more quickly than previous versions. Multiple independent benchmark tests have confirmed this to be true; however, it seems that no one is asking why Windows Me loads faster than Windows 98.

One of the main reasons for the faster load time is that Windows Me doesn’t include real-mode support. If you’ve upgraded to Windows Me from a previous version of Windows, your Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files from the old version will still exist, but Windows Me completely ignores them. The ironic part is that the SYSEDIT program still loads the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files, even though they don’t do anything.

Also gone is the ability to boot into DOS mode. As you may recall, DOS mode gave you the ability to go to a pure DOS environment in which you could run troublesome applications or correct system problems outside the GUI interface. If you want to access a DOS prompt outside the Windows Me GUI, you’ll have to resort to using a boot floppy.

Of course, all isn’t lost. When you consider the hardware requirements to simply run Windows Me, you’ll see that the chances of having hardware that meets the minimum requirements but that also requires real-mode drivers are slim to none. If you still have older DOS programs that you need to run, or if you just like working from the command prompt, you can still do so through the familiar MS-DOS Prompt window. However, some of the DOS commands have been altered or removed. Most of the more common commands still work, though. Sure, there are some older programs (mostly games) that absolutely will not run under Windows Me, but such is the way of progress.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

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