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PDB Helpdesk: Taming Windows 98
By Thiravudh Khoman

I'd like to offer a few comments/suggestions in reference to a letter by Dr. Frans Roos that appeared in the September 15, 1999 Helpdesk. I too use Windows 98 daily and often wonder why it acts the way it does. Ideally, I recommend a fresh install of Windows 95/98 on an annual basis in order to rid the system of cobwebs, but of course this is easier said than done. My day-in, day-out computer, for example, has been running Windows 98 for almost two years now and it's hard to deny that it runs worse than it did on day 1. This is not helped by the fact that I test all sorts of software on this machine which presumably leaves all sorts of junk lying around. But its drop in performance is still tolerable and frankly not worth the time it would require to reinstall all my software.

One improvement that I've made to the system though is to run something called 98lite (https://www.98lite.net) (figure 1). Actually, I heard about this from a Post Database feature article. 98lite allows you to remove the kludgy Internet Explorer integration from Windows 98. You can do this and still leave Internet Explorer present on the system for internet browsing. Having run this patch, my Windows 98 is definitely more stable. However, what you end up with is a Windows 98/95 hybrid. Aside from losing the browser-oriented file manager (good riddance), you also lose active desktop, the customizable toolbar at the bottom (including my oft used "show desktop" icon), and get a few other Windows 95 throwbacks in the process.

The only significant problem I have now occurs with Netscape Communicator, but I think this is due to memory management problems. During a typical online session, not only do I open multiple Netscape windows, I open and close them dozens of times a session. Plus, I load Eudora and sometimes Word or Excel. I suspect that at times, my available memory drops dangerously low and this causes Netscape to crash (even though my computer has a reasonable 48mb of RAM). One easy solution to this problem is to install a program that will recover memory when things get critical. I use a product called RamBooster (https://www.sci.fi/~borg/Rambooster) (figure 2) which is freeware (actually, "Postcardware") courtesy of a kind fellow in Finland.

Incidentally, RamBooster (and its ilk) don't just work with internet apps - they work with all programs, although I recommend a bit of finetuning. James Hein's complaint about "memory leakage" in his column of the same week might be aided to an extent by such a utility.

Two more off-the-cuff suggestions. First, if you use Microsoft Office, don't install FindFast - it's supposed to be a real performance drag. Second, try and keep only a minimum number of items in your system tray (bottom right corner, near the clock). I use a PC Magazine (https://www.pcmag.com) utility called "StartCop" (figure 3)to disable or remove undesirable stuff there (e.g. McAfee's Avconsole and Netscape's AOL Messenger, among others).

Copyright © 1998-2000, Thiravudh Khoman