Windows ME...after a very brief acquaintanceship

 (1) I recently cleaned up an ME machine and put back a nice clean copy of Win98. Then the computer worked OK. When he got home he put back ME. Then the printer wouldn't work. He put back Win98 and still the printer won't work. Now I've got to sort it out again!

(2) A little time ago a customer brought me a computer on which the new Windows ME had been installed.

Not having had first hand experience with it I was interested. He'd just bought the computer and wished to change the previous owner's name to his own so he'd started to search all the files for the old name so he could revise it, putting his own. After a few changes the Registry was ruined and he couldn't boot up into Windows. He tried to re-install but it wouldn't let him. It said he needed more hard disk space than he'd got.

When I tried it I went into safe mode easily by holding down the Control key at bootup.

I then restarted, being given a choice (of one) old Registry, and was rewarded with a normal startup but with a previous, struggling, registry copy. It was probably close in age to when he'd started fiddling.

I had the usual battle trying to get the graphics driver up and running. This weakness hasn't changed. Strangely it started eventually but with only a much reduced set of resolution options. after a few reboots it suddenly got into gear and gave me the full repertoire.

As the hard disk was divided into three 2-gig partitions, I initially looked for ways to make more space on "C" as this was pretty well full.

As it was in FAT16 I thought I'd change to FAT32.


The drive convert utility wasn't there. A SETUP proved it wasn't on the CD, and after reading the various text files available, I eventually found a statement that you COULD convert either BEFORE or AFTER upgrading to ME.... How?

I loaded a useful facility which told me how much space I could look forward to after conversion but there was no sign of the CONVERT routine. I therefore loaded the program for the task from a Win98 machine and ran it. It said it needed a certain "DLL". I loaded that as well but was then rewarded with the message that the routine "could not run". HELP remained silent on the task so the drive is stuck in FAT16.

As the odd message about a corrupt file kept popping up, seemingly at random, I decided to run "SFC". I couldn't find it. I couldn't therefore check the system files. Maybe I could if I knew how but HELP wouldn't tell me how.

I had a brainwave. I thought I'd load Partition Magic and sort out the FAT32 problem that way. The program said it wouldn't run in Windows and I had to use DOS. I tried to exit and restart in DOS. ME wouldn't let me. I clicked on the DOS icon and after a warning message or two got into some sort of "pseudo" DOS. At least PQ Magic ran. I tried to convert to FAT32 but I got a warning message so ominous that it made me change my mind. The drive is therefore STILL in FAT16.

I had been asked if all went well to install a specific background of a space shuttle taking off. This I did but I found the computer then wouldn't shut down. All I got was a tiger striped screeen which seemed to hang for ever. This old Win98 chestnut STILL hasn't been sorted!

I did notice the odd minor improvement, mainly changing the places were some useful icons were hidden and one or two useful frills such as an easier way to associate files. However there seems to have been a major retrogressive step when it comes to diagnosing problems. Win98 was a major step forward from Win95 in this respect, although on that point, I did find that the most useful utilities can be copied via a floppy from Win98 to Win95 and used there eg. SCANREG, MSCONFIG and SFC.

At some point in the proceedings the PS2 mouse stopped working. Whenever it was moved the computer rebooted. I also found that in no less than 8 instances there were duplicates of hardware items in SYSTEM. Deleting the one with the asterisk didn't work! The one it thought was OK wasn't and the one it thought wasn't OK was. I had to delete both before the machine would reboot and find them properly. The 8 items included daft things such as PC Speaker, serious things like DMA and miscellaneous things like Floppy Drive. It also showed two different modems, one long since removed and the new one. The one that had been removed was of course the one it was trying to use! So much for "Plug and Play"!

All this most likely stemmed from the old copy of the registry that had been resurrected. WinME does not seem to have tried at all to fix the quandry.

So...I ran a proprietary Registry Cleaner and it found 979 incorrect items! Why can't Windows do this?? I reckon that if Windows 98 computers are used for long enough the whole of their C drives would be taken up by the Registry.

Only after this exhaustive clean up would the recycle bin let me peer into it. Prior to this it had been locked up by a deleted copy of Norton!

The machine HAD until a couple of days before been fitted with Norton Anti-Virus which had been updated on-line.

HOWEVER a simple proprietary diagnostic tool found two Viruses!

It said it would delete them but it didn't. I did it manually, capturing them on a floppy disk. I always do that..they may come in useful some day!

I ran the virus detector again. It found two more that it hadn't found previously. These were actually the same ones as it had already found but they were the copies held in two original ZIP files. It hadn't bothered to check these the first time round!

As the ZIPs were too big for preserving I just deleted them then emptied the recycle bin

In the envelope with the ME CD I found 18 pages of known problems. These were associated with most well known programs INCLUDING some of Microsoft's own. Most were accompanied with the glib statement. "Contact the vendor for a patch". I wonder if Microsoft set the price at a lowly £40 so that most people will just chuck it away and put it down to experience rather than ask for their money back or perservere, asking vendors for patches and upgrades. Most of us don't have the time or the inclination!

The customer is now going to buy a larger hard drive and on my advice is going to use a nice clean copy of Windows 98. What can you do in a monopoly situation?

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