There are several schools of thought on the subject of Windows 95 and 98 installations. There's a good argument for periodically wiping or 'reformatting' a PCs hard disc and starting afresh every year or so. It's one way of avoiding the inevitable build up of file clutter glitches and the gradual slow down that occurs on any well used PC. For a few weeks or months afterwards it's like having a new machine all over again. The counter argument is that if 'ain't broke, don't fix it, removing and re-installing Windows plus all of your applications and data files can be a long and tedious job.

Unfortunately leaving well alone is only an option for as long as the PC behaves itself… Sooner or later most Windows users will experience a catastrophic crash or if they're really unlucky, a fatal virus infection where the only solution is to start over. Wiping a PCs hard disc drive is a fairly drastic procedure. Needless to say you will loose all of the files and data stored on it so make sure you have explored all other possibilities. For example, if the problem began following the installation of a new piece of hardware or software try uninstalling it. If Windows has become corrupted you could try re-installing it by running the set-up program from the CD-ROM. There's a slim chance it might overwrite the damaged files. It's always worth trying the Scandisk utility to repair faults in the disc filing system and a lot of Windows problems, particularly those involving drivers, can be tracked down by starting in Safe Mode (press F8 after boot up).

If you have been lucky so far and your PC is working normally now would be a very good time to prepare for the day when you may have to rebuild your system. You should routinely make backups of irreplaceable data files (documents, emails, images and graphics etc,) if you're not regularly backing up you are just asking for trouble! Don't forget to make a backup of any programs and files downloaded from the Internet. It's a good idea to gather together in one place all of the installation and driver discs for the applications you use – including Windows -- and make a note (on paper rather than on the PC…) of the registration and serial numbers.

If you installed Windows 98 from the upgrade CD-ROM you may be asked to provide details of your previous Windows 95 installation so have the disc or serial number to hand. Windows 95 users must also have the driver disc for their CD-ROM drive. It shouldn't be necessary if you are using Windows 98, but it's a good idea to have it handy, just in case. Finally, and most important of all, you must have a start-up disc for your PC. If you haven't got one make one now by double clicking on the Add/Remove Programs icon in Control Panel, select the Start-up disc tab and follow the instructions.

You are now ready to do the deed and format your C: drive, so go over the checklist once again and make sure you have everything ready. Insert your start up disc in the floppy drive and switch the PC on.

After a few moments a Windows 95 machine will display a flashing A:\> prompt. Windows 98 PCs behave in a slightly different way. Instead it will display a menu with three options. It's worth perusing the Help file (option 3) as this explains how the disc works, otherwise choose option 2, (Start PC without CD-ROM support) which will take you to the A:/> prompt. The next step is to format the disc and copy across essential system files to the C: drive by typing the following command: 'format c: /s'. Press return and warning message should appear, telling you that you are about to erase all data from drive C. This is the point of no return so if you are ready type 'Y' to proceed. Follow the prompts when asked to do so remove the start up floppy and restart the computer. The PC should now boot up from the hard disc drive and display a flashing C:/> prompt.

At this point the C: drive is empty apart from the system files transferred from the start up floppy disc. Windows 95 users will need to re-load the CD-ROM driver from the original installation disc. At the C: prompt type 'A:', then 'dir' for directory to display the contents of the floppy, there should be a 'Readme.txt' file that will explain the procedure or type in  'setup.exe' or 'install.exe', as appropriate to start the installation process.

The Windows 98 boot up disc contains a number of generic CD-ROM drivers covering most common makes and types of drive, however if your newly formatted PC doesn't recognise the CD-ROM drive you will have to use the installation disc that came with it.     

If everything has gone according to plan you should now be in a position to re-load Windows. Insert the CD-ROM into the drive, type D: and when the prompt changes to D:/> type 'setup' the loading sequence will begin and you're well on the way to restoring your PC to its original condition.

Next week – designing and printing Christmas cards




A small program or data file that tells Windows how to communicate with a particular piece of hardware such as a mouse, disc drive joystick or printer etc.


Process that prepares a disc for use by effectively deleting all of the data on it by creating a new filing structure


Windows utility that checks the integrity of data stored on a hard disc drive, identifies problems, and where possible, puts them right



Here's a way to squeeze a little extra speed out of most printers. By default Windows is set to spool print jobs. That basically means the data to be printed is first written to a temporary file, which allows you and the PC to get on with other jobs, whilst the printer is working. If you turn off the Print Spooler you should find print jobs take less time to complete. The option can be found by right-clicking your printer icon from the Printers Folder in My Computer or Start > Settings. Select Properties, then the Details tab and click on the Spool Settings button. Click 'Print Directly To Printer' then OK. The only disadvantage is that on long print jobs you may see the busy icon in your application more often than usual. Be warned that it doesn't work on all systems and all printers so try it on a test document first – time a print job before and after switching off the spooler – if you encounter problems click the Restore Defaults button in the print spooler dialogue window.

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