If you have recently come face to face with Windows 95 for the first time, you may not believe it, but computers used to be really difficult to use... Modern PCs use a graphical user interface or GUI (pronounced ‘gooey’), with little pictures or icons on a sort of virtual on-screen desktop, representing various functions and programs.

The desktop metaphor is well chosen; on a new Windows 95 PC the first thing you see -- after it has finished booting up -- is an almost empty work space, with just a handful of icons. Remember it well, it quickly fills up, as you load new software and create files. Soon it will start to look like a real office desk, cluttered and covered with things that you don’t use or no longer need. Even though there’s only a few icons to start with, newcomers often want to know if they can get rid of the ones they don’t use, need or understand. The best advice is to leave well alone, for the moment. In any case Windows 95 won’t let you delete any icons it installed, at least not without a struggle.

There are two desktop icons that you should get to know straight away, they are My Computer, and the Recycle Bin. My Computer is way to navigate and examine the various bits of hardware and software installed on your PC. Recycle Bin is a real lifesaver, should you ever delete anything by accident (and you will...),  Windows 95 can restore files, even whole programs, but only if the dustbin hasn’t been emptied recently!

The purpose of the Inbox, Microsoft Network and The Internet icons will become apparent if you sign up for internet access, via Windows 95. Inbox is where your Email messages end up. The Internet and Microsoft Network are ways of automatically signing up an internet account and then using it. However, don’t rush into anything, shop around and seek advice from seasoned net users. Laptop owners with Windows 95 machines will encounter an icon called My Briefcase. This is used to update files on a desktop PC  -- when it is connected to the laptop by cable, network or internet link.

Desktop icons are a quick way to access frequently-used programs when a PC is first switched on, but far and away the most useful feature on the desktop is the Start button and Taskbar. However, it takes up valuable screen space, so one of the first things you can do is to make it disappear, until you need it. That option can be found in the Settings option; after clicking on the Start button, select ‘Taskbar’ and check ‘auto-hide’. After that the Start button and Taskbar will only appear when the mouse pointer goes to the bottom of the screen. If you prefer, you can move it to the top or sides of the screen, by clicking on the Taskbar, and dragging it to where you want it to be.

All of the software installed on your computer can be found in Programs on the Start menu, you will also find another very handy utility called Windows Explorer. Like My Computer it’s a useful way of moving around inside directories, folders and files on your machine.

The Control Panel in the Settings option is an important feature of Windows 95, it is crammed full of icons that determine how the PC behaves. A good way of getting to know your machine is to customise a few settings. Start with Display, and play around with colour schemes and screen savers; avoid changing anything on the Settings tab though, until you’re a little more experienced. Help on the Start menu is an invaluable resource, get to know it, and how it works, it’s a veritable fount of wisdom. You will find most of the answers to your questions there, and it is a whole lot cheaper than manufacturers help-lines.


When you switched on your shiny new PC for the first time, or as Windows 95 was being installed, you were invited to make an emergency start-up disc. Did you? Probably not. It’s one of those little jobs you think you’ll get around to later, but inevitably never will. Do it now! Click on Start, then Settings, followed by Control Panel and Add/Remove Programs. You’ll find the tab for the Start-up Disc there, just follow the instructions. That disc could get you out of big trouble when  --  as may happen one day -- Windows 95 refuses to run from the hard disc. The disc contains the necessary files and diagnostic programs, that can get you up and running once again. 


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