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:
Estimated lesson time: 30 minutes
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
The Advanced dialog box will present the following options:
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:
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:
If the printer takes a long time to print:
If the printouts contain random characters:
If the Print command on the File menu is dimmed:
If you cannot print from a MS-DOS program:
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:
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:
The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson: