Operating System (Continued)
- Windows Millennium Edition
In most respects Windows Millennium Edition (ME) is the same as Windows 98 Second Edition (SE). It does contain some additional features and some hidden updates (such as some modem tweaks) from Win98SE, but in most cases any tweak guide for Windows ME should apply to Windows 98SE and vice versa, and to a significant extent Window 98. Windows ME is much maligned because of the cosmetic nature of its "upgrade" from Windows 98SE. A lot of this is unfair however, because Windows ME can be just as fast as Windows 98SE given the right tweaking, and in my experience is just as good for gaming as the older OS.
Here are some Windows ME specific tweak guides, although all the Windows 98/98SE tweak guides further below can be used for Windows ME as well:
- TweakTown WinME System Tweaking Guide
- TweakTown WinME Modem Tweaking Guide
- Tweak3D WinME Tweak Guide
- Tweaker's Hideout WinME Tweak Guide
- WinGuide's WinME Tweaks
Remember to check the Windows 98/98SE guides below for more tweaking information, and again for Windows 98/98SE users, read through the above WinME guides as many tweaks will apply to you.
- Windows 98 / 98 Second Edition
Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) was released around a year after the original Windows 98 was released, and added a range of features and updates to the original Windows 98. Basically you can download Windows 98 SR1 (Service Pack 1) which will add all the important features and updates to the original Windows 98 - minus some of the additional user interface updates of Windows 98SE. If you're running Windows 98, make sure you download SR1 and all additional updates from the Microsoft Windows 98 Downloads Site otherwise you may have major compatibility and performance problems with the latest games and applications.
Even if you're running the newer Windows 98SE it's vital that you update your OS by using Windows Update, or by going here. Because these operating systems predate some of the newer technology, they have limitations in terms of recognising or correctly utilizing some new hardware or newer configurations. For example, the Windows 98/98SE/ME family all have issues with managing more than 512MB of RAM efficiently - see this Microsoft Knowledge Base Article for more information. Quite obviously some of these problems are inherent in the design of the OS and can only be "fixed" by upgrading your Windows. Many others require the updates or tweaks to overcome.
There is a vast range of Windows 95/98/98SE (commonly referred to as Win 9X) Tweak Guides available. Some are listed below:
- Tweak3D Win9X Tweak Guide
- Tweak3D Win9X Shell Tweak Guide
- WinGuide's Windows Tweaks
Remember that you can refer to the guides under the Windows ME section as well for more tweaking information.
In the end Windows 98, 98SE and ME will be phased out and you will find support for these OS harder and harder to come by. It is a sad fact of life that whether through deliberate obsolescence or simple technological progression or both, you will need to upgrade your operating system. This has already happened to Windows 95 to a major extent and that is why I don't cover it here. It is simply not a viable gaming platform anymore if you want the best performance, stability and compatibility on a modern PC - MS has dropped support for it altogether and so have most developers and manufacturers.
- General Windows Optimization
No matter which version of Windows you run, there are some simple tips which will give you the best performance:
1. As much as possible, start with a clean full install of your OS of choice. That is, I strongly recommend against "upgraded" installations. If you want to upgrade (say from Windows 98SE to Windows XP), do a full reformat of your hard drive and install the new OS. Believe me, it makes a difference.
2. If you have replaced any major system components such as motherboards, CPUs or even graphics cards, I recommend a reformat and reinstall. This is particularly true if you've changed the brand of the chipset (e.g. from Intel to VIA, or from ATi to nVidia). While your system should operate correctly because of the plug-and-play nature of new systems, your performance is not optimal unless you do a clean install of your OS with the new component(s).
3. If you've installed Windows XP, and you want to convert to NTFS from an existing FAT32 file system, I highly recommend reformatting in NTFS for optimal performance. You can convert from FAT32 to NTFS without a reinstall (see my WinXP Tweak Guide above), but the cluster sizes will not be optimal and hence your performance will not be at its best.
4. No matter which version of Windows you run, always run the Windows Update function (under Tools>Windows Update in Internet Explorer 6, or click the Windows Update Icon) as often as possible, as many critical updates are necessary to maintain a stable, secure PC environment. The older your version of Windows, the more vital it is that you run Windows Update regularly. If you cannot run Windows Update then either you have a pirated copy of Windows, in which case I cannot help you, or if you have a legitimate copy try this link to get to Windows Update. If you want to download updates and save them for later installation and archiving, try the Windows Update Corporate Site.
5. If there is a Service Pack available for your version of Windows, install the latest one. You may hear rumours about SP1 for Windows XP "ruining XP". If SP1 does cause you problems then it's highly likely your current install of Windows is not very sound. Ideally you should start with a clean install of your OS, then install the latest SP for best results. If you can't do that then back up all your important data first, then install the Service Pack just to be safe. I have upgraded my existing XP Pro with SP1 and found no problems in over 2 months of use. There are no tricks to installation, just run as intended. These Service Packs are essential if you want your machine to be up to date and function as intended.
6. If you have any problems with Windows and the answer is not in one of the above guides, your best bet is to search the Microsoft Knowledge Base. It is a rich and revealing source of information on a range of Windows problems, and if you spend a bit of time on the Knowledge Base it may save you hours of frustration.
Well that's the basics of Operating System optimization. Next up, we look at the drivers which are so essential to keeping your system performing well.