Win95 sports the cool new Explorer Desktop, in an attempt to be more Mac-like. Try to forget what you know about Program Manager, File Manager, Print Manager, etc because very little of it applies!
Win 3.1 programs will run like they used to; the window might look a bit different, and there might be some extra buttons on the border, but they will work otherwise.
Get used to using your right mouse button. On OS/2, it brings up menus for each object you click on. On Win95, it acts like the OS/2 right-click except it pretty much works on anything; window title bars, the Start Menu, any kind of icon, properties sheets, whatever.
Win 3.1 programs run in a single process under Win95, cooperatively multitasking as they always did since Windows/386. This means one Win 3.1 app can suspend the entire Win 3.1 session. In fact, one Win 3.1 app can suspend all of Win95! This is purely for compatibility.
Microsoft kept DOS for compatibility and nothing else. Win95 includes MS-DOS 7.0, which under Win95, is a multitasking DOS. DOS programs run in protected sessions like Win95 programs do, and the system pre-emptively task-switches between Win32 sessions, DOS sessions, and the single Win 3.1 session.
COMMAND.COM is now a multitasking command prompt. Win95 can unload it on command, unless a DOS program is running from it. Some Win32 character-based programs can run from COMMAND.COM, if they don't depend on Windows NT features. Outside of Win95 though, COMMAND.COM, and the rest of DOS, is just DOS.
The biggest difference between old DOS and DOS 7.0, is it does not allow direct disk writes, to prevent filename corruption and virus infection. Effectively, if a program tries to write to the disk directly while outside of Win95, you will get an evil message telling you to restart your computer. Normally this is good, but some "good" programs (like Windows 3.1 running 32-bit disk access, which DOES work in DOS 7.0 by the way) need to access the disk directly. If you can trust such programs, type:
LOCK C: (or whatever drive letter)
before running the program. Notice, however, that LOCK C: only works outside of Win95 (like when you "Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode" for example), and within Win95, no direct writes are allowed under any circumstance.
Some DOS TSRs no longer supported under Explorer are PRINT and SUBST (though SUBST seems to work in 32-bit mode once you finish installing Win95). As a general rule, don't run any DOS TSRs that fiddle with the disk handler (such as Norton SMARTCAN or CASMGR) or require direct access to hardware (like PRINT).
4.00.950B users will notice their DOS apps will report their DOS version as MS-DOS 7.10. This version of DOS supports FAT32 file systems (The "32" refers to the number of bits the File Allocation Table supports, and as such it can support smaller cluster sizes on larger (> 1 GB) drives. FAT32 file systems will not work with DOS utilities designed for older versions of DOS, so don't waste your time.
Like I wrote above, it's Win95's new default shell. Explorer actually has two big parts and several little ones. The two biggest parts you will see right away are the Desktop and the Taskbar. I won't go into details, because Microsoft has lots of basic stuff about these two devices.
I will go into details on the little pieces, however. Microsoft combined the functionality of many utilities (including File Manager, Control Panel, Print Manager, Remote Access, Windows Setup, PIF editor) into it. Control Panel is pretty obvious and works much the way it did back in Win 3.1. The others were completely renamed and re-worked, and it'll just take some "Exploring" (pun intended) to learn them.
Running "EXPLORER.EXE" with Explorer running will merely open a File Manager style window, with directory trees and split displays. "Exploring" directories like this is great for power users who need to find something fast. Right-click on any folder or drive and select "Explore" to begin "Exploring" from that point. You aren't running multiple processes of Explorer; you're merely opening another Explorer window separate from the Desktop.
Print Manager got replaced by the Printers folder in "My Computer". You create and maintain printers here, though there is a shortcut to it from Control Panel, for compatibility. When you create printers here you may use Win 3.1 printer drivers (though I don't recommend this) or Win95 drivers. Microsoft claims NT drivers will install here as well, but I couldn't get any of the NT drivers working.
Remote Access gets replaced by Dial-up Networking, which is now a general network connection through modems. Dial-up Networking covers regular RAS connections, Internet connections, and connections to NetWare Connect servers for remote NetWare log ins.
Windows Setup is kinda scattered all over the place, but you'll find the main components in the Control Panel's Add New Hardware, Add/Remove Programs, and System programs.
PIF files are now "Shortcuts to MS-DOS Programs", and you bring up a DOS program's properties to edit its PIF file. Check out How to run DOS programs in Win95 for details.
Win95 Setup copied all your group files (.GRP) from Program Manager into a directory called (what else), "Start Menu". It copied the icon groups into little directories which you can view by pressing the Start button, and selecting "Programs".
One notable exception to this, is Setup eliminated the "Main" program group entirely. It'll relocate Main items into the root of the Start Menu, and remove icons that no longer apply (like File Manager).
If a program installer just copied a .GRP file to the hard disk, rather than add the icons through the Windows APIs like it's supposed to, you can add that group to the Start Menu by finding the .GRP file itself, and opening it (double-clicking it). If programs also try to change PROGMAN.INI, which contains the group listings, Win95 will move them to the Start Menu the next time you restart.
Explorer lets you browse your hard drive and click on documents, as well as programs. This works exactly like clicking on documents in File Manager; simply double-click on the document to launch its associated app.
If you click on a file with an extension it doesn't recognize, Explorer offers up a list of programs and lets you choose which one you want. You can also give a descriptive name to the file type (such as "Doom data file" for .WAD files). You may further edit the file type with the View/Options... menu in any Explorer window and selecting the "File Types" tab.
To edit file types, select the View menu and Options in any Explorer window. Hit the "File types" tab and you can edit, add, or delete known file types. Some file types are hidden from this display (such as "System File") to keep you from hurting them. I'll tell you how to find them later.
You can do much more than Open a document. Some document types have more options than Open if you right-click on them. For example, .BAT files have an "Edit" command which brings up Notepad. To add this functionality to your own documents, go back to the "File types" tab and find the file type you want to add this to, and hit Edit. You can then Add an action, such as "Edit", which launches a separate program and opens that file. This worked great for me; I have an "Edit" option added to all my HTML documents which launches MS-Word, an extra "Edit as Text" option to use Notepad instead, so I can remove the extra crap that Internet Assistant put in, and "Open" launches Mosaic to view the document.
You can also use the File Types tab to disable CD Audio auto-play (by turning off "play" as its default action), hide or show extensions for particular file types, enable or disable QuickView (provided you installed QuickView in Add/Remove Programs / Windows Setup), and remove file types completely.
If there's an icon in the Start Menu, you can run it from there. When you install apps in Win95 that create icons the "proper" way, Explorer will build up entries in the Start Menu. You can also find the executable itself by browsing the hard drive, then opening it. Self-installing archives, such as Win95 Service Pack 1, are one kind of Windows program you'll need to run by browsing and opening.
If you don't see your old program group on the Start Menu, or if a program just copied a group file (.GRP) to the hard disk, just find the .GRP file it installed and Open it. This runs a converter that builds Shortcuts for the Start menu.
Windows programs will even run from a DOS session under Win95. Type the name of the executable like you would for any DOS program. You can open documents from the DOS session with the START command (just like the Start Menu "Run" command). "START MyDocument.doc" will run Microsoft Word, and load MyDocument.doc into memory.
A handful of Win 3.1 and Win 3.0 programs won't recognize that you have a newer version of Windows, and report an error like, "This program requires Windows 3.1 or better". Well, you have a "Setver" kind of workaround for such programs in Win95; the [Compatibility] section of WIN.INI. For example, to install Outpost 1.0 on Win95, you can edit WIN.INI so "INSTALL=00020000" instead of 00040000; that number is a Windows version reporting number. This will make INSTALL.EXE think it's running in Win 3.1. Later on, if the main program acts the same way, you can add entries to WIN.INI with that version ID that matches Win 3.1. A handful of entries exist already, for known programs.
NOTE: Win95 will restore any changes you make to programs called INSTALL or SETUP in the [compatibility] section of WIN.INI. When you make your changes, do them from SYSEDIT, and not from any other file editor, then run your installer. Win95 instantly changes the entry back to 00040000 after the program finishes installing.
There's a cute utility for real dumb Win 3.1 programs; MKCOMPAT.EXE, in your Win95 directory. Run this program to turn on compatibility switches to make dumb programs work. This is a last resort, and I'd rather you insist the program's publisher fix it.
If you installed Win95 in a separate directory (You smart person you), you can do a very cute trick: Hit Start/Shut Down... and "Restart computer in MS-DOS Mode". This will take you straight to a DOS prompt. From here, change to your Win 3.1 directory and just type WIN.
This little trick works because Win95 DOS (DOS 7.0) already loaded the necessary HIMEM.SYS XMS driver, which is all Win 3.1 really needs to load. Performance will be poor, because there's no disk caching active at this time, and no fancy network stuff will probably work either, because you aren't using Win 3.1's version of IFSHLP. To get these working, check out the tricks used to run MS-DOS games and prepare special PIF files for, what MS calls, "Single mode MS-DOS". Be sure to include the Win 3.1 versions of IFSHLP.SYS, MSCDEX, and NET START, and Win95 versions of other base drivers such as EMM386. Also include LOCK C: to let 32-bit disk and file access work.
First, Shut Down, and Re-start the computer in MS-DOS mode. If you have a CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file (Which you don't need really), copy these to a safe place.
Next, insert your Win 3.1 setup disk 1 and run SETUP.EXE from it. This performs a normal Win 3.1 or WFWG 3.11 install. When prompted for your Windows directory location, be EXTRA CAREFUL to use a different directory name than your Win95 installation!!!!!!
Next, let Win 3.1 Setup proceed as normally. When it finishes, copy any changed CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT it made up and save them with different file names, and restore the previous versions of these files.
Next, return to Win95 by typing EXIT. Look for WIN.COM in the Win 3.1 directory you installed it in, and right-click on it. Select "Properties". Then use the same techniques I mentioned above for setting up a special PIF file for Single Mode DOS. This way, you can specify a proper Win 3.1 startup sequence and avoid polluting your Win95 configuration. You can also use Win 3.1 versions of IFSHLP, NET, and MSCDEX as required. Now, when you launch this version of WIN.COM from Win95, it will re-start your computer using that special configuration. When you exit Win 3.1, Win95 re-starts.
You can either run a DOS session by hitting Start/Programs/MS-DOS Prompt and run the DOS program from there, or open it from Explorer. If it's a DOS program, Win95 will start a DOS session and load the program into it.
NOTE: If you launch a DOS program from Explorer, it will create a PIF file for it (Also called a "Shortcut to MS-DOS Program"). If it can't write to the directory where the program resides, it will write the PIF file to %WINDIR%\PIF.
If you want to avoid making four hundred PIF files, run the MS-DOS Prompt first, then run the program within that session. It will use the program properties built into the default PIF (DOSPRMPT.PIF) instead of making one.
Like any other MS-DOS program, but avoid utilities that do direct disk writes, like DOS versions of SpeedDisk, Norton Disk Doctor, DiskEdit, etc as these won't work in DOS sessions, because Win95 won't let you perform direct disk writes in a DOS session.
If you have to run utilities that access the disk directly (like sector editors), you must exit to DOS (Restart computer in MS-DOS mode) and LOCK the hard drive you will edit (LOCK C:). This will allow the direct disk access to work.
Utilities to avoid include DOS versions of ScanDisk, Defrag, and all their cousins. Win95 comes with Windows version of these utilities that work with long filenames etc, and Peter Norton has Win95 versions of his utilities, too.
4.00.950B users should be extra careful not to use any utilities designed for previous DOS versions. Period. I don't know enough about FAT32 file systems to know what works and what doesn't, so I can't make any suggestions here.
I go into a whole whack of detail on this subject, but to make life real simple, run your games in DOS sessions under Win95, like you would any DOS application. A handful of useful Properties settings to turn on include, "Protected" (Memory tab), "Prevent DOS programs from detecting Windows" (Program tab/Advanced), "Full Screen" (Display), and "Always Suspend" (Misc).
DOS games can work with protected mode CD-ROM, sound, and network drivers easily. All the real mode hooks are there. Basically, you don't need to load any DOS drivers for anything to make a game run. This includes CD-ROM games as these are looking for MSCDEX hooks to play CD Audio, and these exist in DOS sessions. One user reported that some DOS based Audio CD players won't work, but this is because they're trying to directly access a real mode CD-ROM driver rather than MSCDEX.
For more details, jump to the Running MS-DOS Games section.
Right-click on the floppy drive in "My Computer" and select "Format". To copy disks, right-click on the drive and select "Copy..."
Don't forget that right mouse button.
NOTE: Win95's smart enough to stop you from copying the new DMF disks (1.8 MB or whatever) and keep you from copying the commercial software that comes on it. So don't ask me how to pirate these disks.
Explorer has a nifty file find tool built in. Right-click on where you want to start searching and select "Find ". You could also hit Start Menu/Find.
You can search your entire computer (including floppy drives and net drives), or a single drive for a file. Type in the filename (or part of the filename) and hit Find. Wildcards (*, ?) are permitted but not required. Don't forget you're dealing with long filenames now, so keep spaces and other non-standard characters in mind.
You can search text within files, search for files with certain dates, certain sizes, even search for computers on a network. To do this, hit the Advanced tab and enter the text you're searching for. You can combine the properties of all three tabs to narrow your search and reduce searching time.
The Start Menu's just filled with shortcut files. The easiest way to add an item is to drag an icon on top of the Start button. This creates a shortcut in the root of the Start Menu.
If you're a bit more selective on where you want to put the shortcut, right-click on any open Taskbar space and hit Properties. Select "Start Menu Programs" and you can add or remove items. The Shortcut Wizard helps you find the item you want to make a shortcut to. For the ultimate control over the Start Menu, right-click on the Start button and hit Open or Explore, and the drag shortcuts and folders around at will.
The Desktop and Start Menu are just directories on your hard drive, filled with .LNK files, or Shortcuts. They may also have regular files in them, but Start Menu items have to be .LNK or .PIF files.
If you right-click on the Start button, you can Open the Start Menu like any other disk directory and move stuff around.
NOTE on .LNK, .PIF, and .URL files: Win95 hides these extensions always, regardless of your "Hide all extensions" settings. If you want to change such an extension you'll need to do so from a DOS prompt.
Right-click on any empty Desktop space and select "Properties". You can change the wallpaper, screen saver, appearance of windows, and display mode. If you change display resolution without changing the colour depth, Win95 will re-size the desktop and ask you if it's OK to use it. If you change the display's colour depth (like 8-bit to 16-bit for example) Win95 will restart.
Many advanced display drivers (such as ATI's DirectX Drivers) will add extra tabs to this properties sheet. Take advantage of them. Still others (like Diamond's S3 drivers) will let you change display depth (number of colours) without rebooting. Unlike Win 3.1 drivers however, these utilities use hooks in Win95 set aside by Microsoft for this purpose. Get a proper Win95 display driver to take advantage without damaging your system.
In Display Properties, select the settings tab. Hit the "Change Display Type" button. This will let you change the video driver and monitor driver.
Microsoft Plus' "Display Enhancements" are a bit of a processor hog. You can turn off the Full Window Drag by hitting the "Plus" tab in Display Properties, and just turning it off.
3.5. Some MS-DOS utilities are missing. Where can I get them?
If you installed Win95 on top of old DOS, your DOS directory will still be in your path, and you can run the old DOS utilities without having to install them from the CD-ROM. Setup will conveniently add them to the SETVER table.
If you used Norton Desktop you'll instantly miss FileAssist and those cool toys. I suppose it's OK, but a system running Navigator requires more RAM than Win95's Explorer does by itself. Expect additional disk swapping after installing this.
New users should just try Explorer for a while first. There's no real point to buying a shell extension when you don't know how to use the default shell. After all, why would Microsoft spend so much time developing this interface, only to have you buy enhancements for it? Such shell extenders are really for power users only.
A must-have, if you run many old Win 3.1 programs. Make sure you obtain a Designed for Windows 95 version; Win 3.1 uninstallers don't recognize the Registry, where Win95 stores most of its configuration info.
Be very careful of installing Win95 programs with such an uninstaller active. Designed for Win95 apps include their own uninstaller, and if you use the utility's uninstaller instead of the program's own, the uninstaller can remove more than it's supposed to. It could also remove less. CleanSweep 95 (TM), for example, warns you to this effect. Heed that warning!
The publishers of uninstallers are preying on the fear of new Win95 users that they HAVE to use a "professional uninstaller" for even Designed for 95 apps. Get serious. If a program can't uninstall itself it doesn't deserve the logo. Complain to them, or to Microsoft, who awarded the logo rights to them.
Again, Designed for Windows 95 is the key. Otherwise, run the anti-virus software outside of Win95.
Also a must-have, if you have a fast machine. System Agent makes up most of the purchase price by itself, running maintenance programs like ScanDisk and Defrag unattended.
The other cool stuff that comes with it are for power users only, though its web browser will get you started on The Internet with minimal fuss. Later on you can install Netscape Navigator or MS Internet Explorer 4.0, or even NCSA Mosaic like me, to replace this cheap web browser.
4.00.950B users should turn off the DriveSpace 3 and Internet Tools from MS Plus's setup, because the 950B versions are newer (MSIE 3.0 and DriveSpace 3 for FAT32).
Yeah right. Build Washboard Abs in three weeks. "I was a 98 pound weakling until I installed SoftRAM 95." RAM compression only works when there's a defined API for accessing data RAM, as there is a defined API for accessing disks, and there is no such thing in Win95. At least, there's no way to regulate how the program accesses any RAM it allocates.
Save yourself the hundreds of dollars of invested time and buy more RAM instead. These programs were great for Win 3.1, where they fixed inadequacies in the operating system. Win95 has considerably more horsepower by itself, but it thrives on a 16 MB system for running the big mainstream apps. MS Works 4.0, however, will run on an 8 MB system effortlessly. Try the techniques in Swap file & caching theory to speed up the system and run more programs.
If you really need the power to run 100 programs at once, buy a big computer and install Windows NT, which will run all the Win95 apps anyway. Then you'll have no resource limitations, no swap file limitations, in fact, no DOS limitations.
Fear mongering fuels the sales of utilities that promise to keep your system crash-proof. Here's my own analysys of some of their claims:
I can also refute a lot of these claims with two words: "Broken Computer." If your computer is in such a state that it's constantly crashing, your HD's failing, and you can't add new cards or software, it's probably broken. A visit to your service centre with warranty slip in hand will probably cost a lot less than one of these packages.
10. Installing a Win 3.1 uninstaller
9. Installing a Win 3.1 communications program (replacing Win95 COMM.DRV)
8. Installing a Win 3.1 utility pack
7. USING a Win 3.1 utility pack
6. Installing a Win 3.1 app that replaces core system files
5. Installing a Win 3.1 backup program, especially since Win95 backup programs are here for FREE
4. Installing Norton Desktop for Win 3.1 and expecting it to work
3. Installing a RAM compression program for Win95
2. Installing a RAM compression program for Win 3.1
1. USING a RAM compression program for Win 3.1
10. Loading CTMM16.SYS (SB16 driver) in Win95 because a game manual said to do it
9. Loading MSCDEX.EXE in Win95 because a game manual said to do it
8. Making a boot disk before realizing how .PIF files work, because a game manual said to do it
(I think you get it by now)
7. Installing QEMM 8.0 (or any version) just because you can't get one game to work
6. Adding EMM386.EXE to CONFIG.SYS before learning how PIF files work
5. Letting a "techie" friend add EMM386.EXE (or any other real mode driver)
4. Letting a "techie" friend make your game work before he reads this FAQ
3. Running Norton SpeedDisk 6.0 and forgetting you have long filenames now!
2. Making a boot disk for a game before seeing the "Prevent DOS programs from detecting Windows" switch, or before specifying a special DOS config for that program
1. Running Win95 with a host of DOS drivers and memory managers.
(Get Win95 drivers for your stuff and make Win95 perform like Win95!)