California Bar Journal
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Speeding up Windows 98
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Dana ShultzHave you ever wondered why Windows 98 loads so slowly? Win 98, itself, is not solely responsible. Equally culpable are the dozens of other programs that automatically start at the same time, many of which you may not even recognize.

For an idea of the scope of the problem, click on Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Information. The System Information window provides detailed information about your PC’s hardware and software resources. It lists components in the left pane and the contents of the selected component in the right pane.

Tasks and modules

Under Software Environment | Drivers in the left pane, select Running Tasks. In the right pane, you will see a list of programs that currently are running. You probably will recognize many of those programs.

You may not know, however, that each of those programs can have dozens of active software modules. In the left pane, select 16-Bit Modules Loaded, and then 32-bit Modules Loaded. If your PC is anything like mine, you will see a list of hundreds of modules that are currently loaded.

With this much software competing for attention, it’s no wonder that user resources run low and Win 98 crashes so often! If we can reduce the number of modules loaded at startup, not only will our PCs start more quickly — we can probably make our systems a bit more stable, too.

System Information’s Tools menu includes several tools for identifying and fixing system problems. Among these is the little-known System Configuration Utility.

This utility exists primarily to diagnose operating system problems. It allows users to inspect, edit and selectively disable certain system resources. It also can give you tight control over which software is loaded at startup.

Startup options

The System Configuration Utility’s General tab controls high-level startup options. By clicking the Selective startup button, you can decide whether to run Config.sys, Autoexec.bat, Winstart.bat, System.ini, Win.ini and the Startup Group when Win 98 loads.

Each of these resources, in turn, has its own tab. Click on a tab, and every line in the resource is displayed.

By clicking on the check-box next to a line, you can choose whether Win 98 will run that line. The more lines you turn off, the faster Win 98 will load. In addition, the utility’s Edit button lets you edit any line in any resource.

The system configuration

Utility does have some limitation. First, if a program has an obscure file name, you may not be able to figure out what it does, so disabling a line can be risky.

Second, you may know that a software module is being loaded, but you may not be able to identify the resource that is invoking the module.  For example, I found that my PC was running a module related to an ISDN line that I had turned off years ago.

I was unable to find any startup resource that referred to the ISDN module. I even examined the Windows 98 Registry, but did not find anything there, either.

Ultimately, I just deleted the ISDN module from the hard disk. My PC continued running just fine.

Despite its limitations, the System Configuration Utility is useful. It may not turn Windows 98 into a speed demon, and it may not solve all of Win 98’s instability problems, but every little improvement helps.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based attorney and certified management consultant specializing in computer technology and the Internet. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at