Lesson 2: Troubleshooting Windows 95

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No application or program is perfect. The evolution from MS-DOS to Windows 3.x to Windows 95 was neither short nor simple. Windows 95 is a major improvement in the way computers operate and the way we interface with them. But to expect this operating system to solve all problems and achieve full compatibility with all hardware is not realistic—there are simply too many different hardware and software manufacturers, each with its unique approach, for one operating system to manage. As computer technicians, we must understand both the strengths and weaknesses of computer systems (hardware and software) in order to achieve the best possible performance for our clients. Fortunately, Microsoft has incorporated many tools to help us fine-tune our systems and achieve the best performance. This lesson focuses on some of the methods and tools we can use to identify problems and manage our systems.

After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify some of the common problems encountered while using Windows 95.
  • Use System Monitor and the Resource Meter to optimize performance.
  • Troubleshoot problems with MS-DOS applications.
  • Troubleshoot common printer problems.
Estimated lesson time: 30 minutes

Limitations of Windows 95

You must understand how efficiently a system is operating before you can troubleshoot and tune that system. Windows 95 provides two tools for that purpose: System Monitor and Resource Meter. If they are not installed, use the Control Panel Add/Remove Programs (Windows tab) to add them to your system. After they have been installed, you can find both by selecting Programs from the Start menu, then selecting Accessories, and, finally, selecting System Tools.

The System Monitor

The System Monitor provides real-time reports about how various system processes are performing. It displays various functions in either a line graph, a bar graph, or a numeric graph. To run System Monitor, go to the Start menu, select Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and System Monitor. By default, the System Monitor shows only the Kernel Process Usage setting (the percentage of time the processor is busy).

Items can be added to or removed from the System Monitor by selecting Add Item from the System Monitor Edit menu, or using the Add button in the toolbar. Figure 17.6. shows the Add Item dialog box.

click to view at full size.

Figure 17.6 System Monitor—Add Item dialog box

Two useful items are the Kernel (which tracks CPU usage) and the Memory Manager (which tracks allocated memory, cache size, and swap file size), shown in Figure 17.7.

click to view at full size.

Figure 17.7 System Monitor

Both tools can help you determine whether it's time to upgrade a computer. For example, start the computer and open all the files and applications that are normally used at the same time. Turn on the System Monitor and run the system for a while. If the processor is constantly running at more than 75 percent, it might be time to upgrade. Also, if the total allocated memory (RAM, swap file, and cache) exceeds the amount of RAM in the system, it might be time to get more RAM.

Resource Meter

The Resource Meter is used to monitor (in real time) the use of system resources. When activated, it adds a small bar graph to the taskbar in the notification area indicating the percentage of free resources, based on the computer's total resources. As the bar gets smaller (fewer resources available), it will change color indicating a potential problem. If the color changes to yellow, this means that resources have dropped to 30 percent. If the color changes to red, the resources have dropped to 15 percent. If the resources drop to 10 percent, Windows warns you that the computer is in imminent danger of hanging (unable to respond to user input), so you must start closing applications to avoid losing data. Figure 17.8 shows the Resource Meter in the notification box of the taskbar.

Figure 17.8 Resource Meter

For more details, hold the mouse over the Resource Meter icon for a second or two. This will cause a banner to display that shows the individual resource percentages. You can also double-click the icon to display the Resource Meter dialog box. (See Figure 17.9.)

Figure 17.9 Resource Meter dialog box

You might use these tools if a customer complains of getting out-of-memory errors, or that the computer's disk drives seems to run all the time. By monitoring memory use, you can determine how much memory is required to run all the applications, and which applications are consuming the most memory. From that information, you should be able to determine the best course of action. If a client is trying to decide whether or not to upgrade a processor, you can also monitor the CPU kernel to determine just how busy it is. If it is working more than 80 percent of the time, a new processor might be warranted.

MS-DOS-Application Incompatibilities

In spite of attempts to make Windows 95 backwardly compatible, it can still experience problems running MS-DOS applications. Most MS-DOS applications run better in Windows 95 than in Windows 3.11, but very few users pushed the envelope by running MS-DOS applications with earlier versions of Windows. (Most users simply updated them and learned to use the new software.) Often, MS-DOS applications refuse to run under Windows 95 (and Windows 98) because they cannot find a version of MS-DOS they recognize.

"Wrong MS-DOS Version"

One of the most common causes for MS-DOS- and Windows-application crashes in Windows 95 is that many applications check the version number of MS-DOS before running. If the software reads the wrong version number or a version number that's in the wrong range, an error occurs and the program crashes. To get around this, Windows 95 "lies" to applications and passes the right version number.

To achieve this, Windows needs a bit of help tricking MS-DOS programs. Include the following line in the CONFIG.SYS file. Remember, lines in the CONFIG.SYS overwrite IO.SYS and SYSTEM.DAT commands:


With SETVER.EXE loaded, Windows 95 will report an appropriate version number to your MS-DOS application.

Tricking an old Windows 3.x application is a two-step process.

First, find the module name for the application that is crashing. To find an application's module name, start Windows Explorer and then right-click the application's executable (.EXE) file. Using Quick View, find the module name. For example, the module name for Word 6.0 is winword.

QuickView is not included in a typical Windows 95 installation. To load QuickView, go to the Control Panel and select the Add/Remove Programs applet. In the Add/Remove Programs dialog box, select the Windows Setup tab, then select Accessories. Click the Details button, check QuickView on the Components list, and click the OK button.

Next, add a section to your Windows 95 WIN.INI file. Open WIN.INI using a text editor and add the following lines:

 [Compatibility] compiled_module_name = 0x00200000 

For example, you would add:

 winword = 0x00200000 

Other MS-DOS Workarounds

Often, MS-DOS applications fail to execute because of missing drivers or the presence of Windows itself. By using the Properties tab of a program's .EXE file, you can modify many of the settings that cause your program to fail. To do this:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and find the troublesome MS-DOS .EXE file.
  2. Right-click with your mouse and select Properties.
  3. Click the Program tab.
  4. Click the Advanced button.

The Advanced dialog box will present the following options:

  • Prevent MS-DOS-based Programs From Detecting Windows: This hides Windows in memory so MS-DOS programs can't detect it.
  • Suggest MS-DOS Mode As Necessary: This is an on-the-fly MS-DOS-mode diagnostic. If Windows detects an application that's likely to run better in MS-DOS, it starts a wizard so that you can customize the application to run in MS-DOS.
  • MS-DOS Mode: If this option is selected, the application will run in MS-DOS mode. Within this setting are three additional options:
    • Warn Before Entering MS-DOS: When entering MS-DOS mode, you should close any open Windows applications and files. This warns you to save files and close any applications that are running.
    • Use Current MS-DOS configuration: This uses all the current system settings that have been passed along, including settings in CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, IO.SYS, and the Registry.
    • Specify A New MS-DOS Configuration: This allows you to modify CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT for MS-DOS mode.

This Properties tab is the Windows 95 replacement for the .PIF files used in Windows 3.x. You will find five other tabs for configuring the properties of this MS-DOS application. These tabs are:

  • General: Provides the statistics of the file.
  • Font: Specifies the type of font you want to use.
  • Memory: Configures expanded and extended memory requirements.
  • Screen: Offers options for running inside a window or full screen.
  • Misc: Provides miscellaneous settings.

Printing Problems

It's frustrating when a printer prints random characters or only part of the data or—worst—won't print at all. To help resolve such problems, Windows 95 offers the Print Troubleshooter. This tool can be found by selecting Help from the Start menu and then choosing the Contents tab. Select Troubleshoot and display the topic: If You Have Trouble Printing. The troubleshooter will ask a series of questions that lead you through the problem and—hopefully—provide a solution.

If the Print troubleshooter doesn't solve the problem, you can try the Enhanced Print Troubleshooter (EPTS). This program is found on the Windows 95 CD. To use this program, copy the EPTS folder (and files) from the CD to the hard disk drive. Then start the program EPTS.EXE. This program operates in the same way as the standard version, but is much more detailed.

Here are some other troubleshooting tips. If the printer won't print:

  • Make sure the power is turned on and the printer is online.
  • Check the cable connections.
  • Verify that the printer has paper.
  • Clear any paper jams.
  • Clear the print buffer by turning the printer off and restarting it.
  • Make sure the driver and the printer are in the same mode.
  • Send a print job directly to the printer (not from an application). Go to an MS-DOS prompt and send a text file directly to the printer, thus bypassing any application.
  • Try printing from another application (a simple one, such as Notepad).
  • Delete, then reinstall the printer.
  • Try printing to a file and then copy the file to the printer port.

If the printer takes a long time to print:

  • Make sure spooling is enabled and that Windows 95 is spooling to EMF files (Enhanced Metafile Spooling).
  • Make sure the drive on which Windows is installed has enough disk space.
  • Defragment the hard disk.
  • Check the system resources—are they low?
  • Upgrade the printer driver if a newer one is available (check the Web site of the printer's manufacturer).
  • Make sure Windows 95 is sending TrueType fonts as outlines and not bitmaps. (Check the Fonts tab of the printer's properties sheet.)

If the printouts contain random characters:

  • Be sure the printer language and type is correctly identified for the job.
  • Verify that there is enough printer memory to carry out the job. It's not always easy to tell how much printer memory you need—the printer may just give you an out-of-memory error. It may be useful to either eliminate graphics from the document or select a lower print resolution (you can configure the printer from the application's Printer dialog box). This can both speed up printing and possibly eliminate errors due to limited printer memory.
  • Print directly to the printer. Go to an MS-DOS prompt and send a text file directly to the printer, thus bypassing any application.
  • Use raw spooling instead of EMF.
  • Print one job only at a time.
  • Make sure the printable region isn't larger than what is supported by the printer.

If the Print command on the File menu is dimmed:

  • Verify that a printer driver is installed.

If you cannot print from a MS-DOS program:

  • From the printer's Properties sheet, deactivate Spool MS-DOS Print Jobs.


Viruses are nasty little programs that can wreak havoc on a computer and its data. The sole purpose of a virus is to replicate itself and make life miserable for computer users. Many viruses are simple annoyances, but some of them can cause irreparable harm to files.

Viruses can be caught from various sources including shareware, files downloaded from the Internet, software from unknown origins, and bulletin boards.

There are four basic types of viruses:

  • File Infectors: These attach themselves to executable files and spread to other files when the program is run.
  • Boot Sector: These replace the master boot record (or boot sector on a floppy disk). They write themselves into memory any time the computer is booted.
  • Trojan Horses: These are disguised as legitimate programs, but when loaded, they begin to harm the system.
  • Macro Viruses: These common nuisances attach themselves as executable code to documents (such as Microsoft Word documents) and run when the document is opened. (They can also attach themselves to certain kinds of e-mail.) It used to be true that you couldn't get a virus from opening a document; running a program was required. Unfortunately, this has changed thanks to the widespread use of macros by computer users. While macros are very valuable, they mean that when you open a document you are running a program.

Viruses have become a way of life in the computer world. With this in mind, there are several measures you can take to prevent, or at least minimize, the damage:

  • Purchase a good antivirus program—there are several available. Make sure your choice is compatible with Windows 95. Old MS-DOS antivirus programs do not work well with Windows 95 and might do more damage than good.
  • If the computer has a BIOS setting that allows you to disable boot-sector writes (prevent applications from writing to the boot section of the hard disk), enable it! This setting must be disabled before installing Windows 95.
  • Viruses are often transmitted by floppy disks. Be careful when reading a floppy disk of unknown origin or using your disk on an unfamiliar machine.
  • Currently, many viruses and macroviruses are transmitted over the Internet. Use extreme caution when you download files, especially if they come from sources other than a manufacturer's Web site. The most secure protection against Internet-distributed viruses is to make sure you have an antivirus program running at all times (or at least when you're downloading and first running new files).
  • Trust no one when it comes to loading programs on your machine. Be aware that any program you load on your computer could contain a virus.
  • Keep your antivirus program updated. Hundreds of new viruses are written and transmitted each month.

Lesson Summary

The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson:

  • Windows 95 is not perfect. However, if you know its limits and use the tools provided by Microsoft, you can configure any system for optimum performance.
  • System Monitor and Resource Meter are two tools that help identify performance problems.
  • Not all MS-DOS applications will run with Windows 95; however, with proper configuration, most of them will.
  • Windows 95 has built-in troubleshooting guides for such difficulties as printer problems.
  • Be aware of viruses and take precautions.

Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Year: 2000
Pages: 127

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