Problem:Fixing Windows without
A visitor wrote, "This has to be the oldest problem
in the book, but it's making my 486 laugh at my pentium... Windows takes
5 excrutiating minutes to boot and 5 more to shutdown. There's hard
drive strain like crazy, all the time, even long after Windows has finally
appeared. And when I shutdown, it just hangs there on the blue sky screen.
5 painful minutes. Once in Windows, the performance is ordinary, although
obviously sub-par for a 400 mhz.
So I performed the basics:
-Uninstalled ALL my games (freed 2 gig!)
-Uninstalled programs running in the taskbar
-Modified the booting sequence ("startup" in msconfig.exe) so only the
essentials are loaded. >
-Removed all shortcuts from the desktop. >
-Several registry checks for problems, removing all bogus entries.
"Nothing! It fixed nothing! I've been told that this
is 'normal', that Windows simply deteriorates over time and that the
only solution is a reformat. That is unfortunately *not* an option here.
I know I only have 64 megs of ram but that can't be why Windows takes
forever to boot? Do you have any idea what the problem is and how can
I fix it?"
InfoHQ Answer. First you should review your computer's
BIOS settings to make sure the settings are optimized for your computer. If
they have never been changed, this may be a low priority.
If your BIOS settings (especially hard drive settings) are configured correctly,
the next thing to suspect is registry or Windows system file conflicts.
I suggest you either buy Norton Utilities 2000 or download a 30 day trial
version from their site at www.symantec.com.
Use the WinDoctor utility to clean up your Windows installation. Use
the registry optimizer to make your registry load faster and to optimize
your swap file. Do not use the registry editor unless you know what
you are doing.
While I have not made any kind of study, from personal experience I think
Norton works at least 50-60% of the time and I have not had it cause additional
problems -- like every other disk utility program out there.
If you load an Internet browser like IE 5 when your computer starts, you need
to periodically clean up the cache and temp files saved by your browser. Use
a good disk cleaning program like CleanSweep.
** Never let any utility program clean up your registry unless you have backed
up the previous registry to a floppy disk. I have experienced instances when
my computer would no longer boot Windows after such cleaning experiences.**
If after following the above suggestions, your system is still thrashing the
hard drive, I think it would be time for you to upgrade your RAM to 128 MB.
I have a 550 MHz Pentium III with 128 MB of RAM running Windows 98 and when
I have several large memory hog programs running at the same time, I get very
tempted to install more RAM. Additional RAM would certainly speed your system
up, regardless of its other problems.
InfoHQ Tip: Reloading
Windows; The "easy way" and the "hard way".
There are two ways to address an unstable Windows installation: the
easy way and the hard way.
The easy way is to reinstall Windows into the same directory it
is currently installed in and hope it overwrites the corrupt files.
You will lose none of your settings or software installations and it
should only take about 30 minutes. One of the drawbacks of the easy
way is that it causes Internet Explorer 5 to be uninstallable. This
could prevent you from upgrading to new versions of Internet Explorer
(note that there are cures for this, but we'll leave that for another
time). It is also possible that your version of Windows is such a mess
that it will not let you overwrite your previos version of Windows.
The hard way is to format your hard drive and reinstall
Windows from scratch (or you could just install Windows to a new directory
without formatting the hard drive). You will have to reinstall all your
software, drivers, Internet settings etc. (so write down any information
you need to remember, like Internet access numbers, before you format
your drive). This method could take many hours to complete, however
you would not have any "garbage" remaining in your Windows
directory. Many "purists" believe in the hard way as the only
way to deal with an unstable Windows installation as it cleans up all
the old drivers and files that could have caused the original problems.
(The hard way is further discussed in the sloution
following this one.)
I recommend you try the easy way. It only takes about
30 minutes and you're up and running again. I have reloaded Windows
98 over itself on the same machine at least 5 times and have cured similar
corrupted/missing driver problems. Now as you might suspect, my machine
probably crashes more than it should, but I load and unload so many
programs on my systems that it is hardly worthwhile to do it the hard
Solution: Step-by-step on how to do
a fresh re-install of Windows. I got my computer a year ago. It seems
slower today. I would just like to start over. The only file I would like
to save is my IE favortes folder. How do I proceed to erase my hd and reinstall
windows 98. I use my computer for internet access and games. My plan was to
download the lastest bios and video drivers once I reinstalled windows 98.
InfoHQ Answer.Over time, all Windows computers slow down.
As you load and delete more programs, Windows begins to chug along. While
reloading Windows to the same directory is often a cure for missing or corrupted
files, a reload does not cure a damaged or bloated Windows Registry file.
There are many programs that claim to clean the registry, my experience is
that they either do not clean enough or they clean so much that they create
<I also have the same opinion about file uninstallers. If the Uninstaller
asks if you want to delete any system files, the best answer is to just say
So having made the decision that you want to reformat, the question is, "What
do you need to Save?".
My list of things you should save or do before you reformat your hard
1. All dial-up Internet phone numbers and modem settings (write these
2. Email that is stored on your hard drive (see our article on backing
up Email in the
Computer Problem Help Index
3. All Internet favorites. (This is accomplished in IE 5 by choosing
"File/Import and Export" from the IE menu bar).
4. All work files e.g. word processor files, graphics files, MP3 files,
spreadsheet files, hardware drivers, and any other files you don't want
to lose. (If you want to save your programs, you should use one of the
aforementioned "uninstallers" to move your applications to backup media.)
5. Make a Windows Startup Disk if you have not done so already. (Instructions
for this are in our Adding
a Second Hard Drive article.)
Where to save your information. If you have a backup hard drive,
removable disk, or tape drive, these are the best places to save large amounts
of information. Floppy drives are good for small amounts of information. Other
good resources are the Internet file drives like Idrive.
Once you have all your information backed up, put your Windows Satrtup
disk into the A: drive and reboot your computer (the Cntrl-Alt-Del keys pressed
at the same time twice works nicely). If your computer is not setup to boot
from the A: drive, then press Del during the DOS memory check and go into
your BIOS and change this.
Otherwise, let the computer boot from the A: drive. The Startup Disk should
load DOS and your CD-ROM driver. Type "A:" (don't type the quotes) at the
DOS prompt to change directories to the A: drive. Then type "format C:". Your
computer should then format your hard drive. Repeat the format process for
any partitions you might have.
Once your drive is formatted, it is not bootable as there is nothing on it.
You need to add the DOS file system to the drive which is done by using the
"fdisk" command. Type fdisk (from the A: prompt) to call the DOS
hard drive partitioning program. Choose the 2nd option "Set Active Partition"
to install the command.com and other hidden files which will make your C:
drive bootable. Now is a good time to create new or to delete old drive partitions
by using the 1st "fdisk" option, Create DOS Partition or Logical
After you have formatted and set an active partition you are now ready
to reinstall Windows. Put your Windows CD in the drive and call the
Windows setup routine with E:\setup (your CD drive device letter may
be different e.g. E:, F:, etc.). Hopefully everything will go smoothly
from this point, depending on how much software you want to load, you
could easily be facing several hours of software loading after Windows
Trouble installing Windows Me? Microsoft
has included a setup.txt file on the Windows Me CD-ROM which you should
read if the automated setup routine fails to run on your computer. This
file is also available online.
This file describes system requirements for upgrading to Windows Me
from the various Windows versions. The main recommendation for install
problems is to make sure all Windows programs are not running, including
virus checkers and screen savers, and then install Me from your current
version of Windows.
If you still can't install Me, Microsoft recommends you do a clean boot
into DOS and then install Me.
Note: To install Windows Me (or
any other version) from DOS, your CD-ROM needs to have a DOS driver
in order to work correctly. The easiest way to load a DOS CD-ROM driver
is to make a Windows Startup disk from Windows 98 (procedures to do
this are outlined in the above file).
(Unfortunately, a DOS CD-ROM driver is not added to the Windows 95 Startup
disk, so you will have to use one of the following methods.)
Another method is to boot from the CD-ROM drive when your system starts.
This is done by changing the boot device sequence in your BIOS. Instead
of the typical C: A: device boot sequence, change it to CD-ROM, C: and
save the changes. If your BIOS supports this function your computer
will boot the Windows Me disk.
The Microsoft file also describes a third way to load Me from DOS, copy
the entire Windows Me CD-ROM to your hard drive. Then you can call setup
from the hard drive and a CD-ROM driver will not be needed.
The text file also has some specific suggestions for incompatible hardware
and software. We highly recommend that all Windows Me users read this
to the Computer Problem Help Index