Software problems

 1 Unable to load Windows onto a new hard disk.

Problem: Sometimes a setup will detect a new hard drive and organize its partitioning and formatting for you. Sometimes Windows starts setting up and gives an error message early in the proceedings because sometimes you need to partition the drive and format it manually. FDISK is usually available on the CDROM but FORMAT is sometimes awkward to find. You can setup Windows on two identical machines. One will partition and format the hard drive automatically, the other will bash on and either give you a meaningless error message or just stop doing anything, showing a black screen with or without a flashing cursor.


 2 Windows wants to set the hard drive into a single large partition.

Problem: If you would like to have a couple or more partitions you may have to run FDISK before setting up Windows. Be prepared to search out the format command though. You have to format a partition before you can use it.


 3 System hangs...CDROM

Problem: There are lots of reasons why a system will hang. Look for clues. A CDROM will cause a hang if the device is wearing out or if a disk is incompatible. If you tried to use a CDROM just prior to the hang, then carry out some tests with commercial disks and home-made disks. If "My Computer" takes ages to come on and complete it could be a CDROM problem or a duff CD.


 4 System bugs

Problem: All software has bugs. These are little errors (or major clangers) in the coding, or the logic of the programmer when he wrote the code. If an error causes a violation of the integrity of the system, one of three things can happen. First nothing happens immediately but a problem is stored away for a future hang. Second the system may hang immediately. Thirdly Windows detects the error and gives you a message, often on a blue screen. Message details sometimes give a clue to the problem or may completely wrong.

Solutions: As hangs are usually the result of an interaction between two programs you could stop using one of the programs. Sometimes you don't know you're actually using a particular program however and therefore you'll be in the dark. With a normal working system press CTRL ALT DEL and see what's going on. You may see loads of program names or maybe just a few. I just did it and saw 10. Each may be running concurrently or at an interval determined by its creator, or you when you loaded it, and any may be responsible for crashing into the open application on the desktop.

Try deleting one or more of the background programs. This can be done temporarily via CTRL ALT DEL "End Task". Wait for a response though because a specific program may not immediately respond to being turned off. It can be done more permanently by using the command MSCONFIG via START RUN. Untick the little box seen in the STARTUP option and exit, following any instructions which appear. You may find the hang situation goes away. If something nasty happens put the tick back. You may have to use SAFE MODE to do this. Typically, unticking Norton E-Mail Virus Checker will kill E-Mails!

If you deliberately open more than one application concurrently on the desktop the system may hang due to an interaction between these. If this is the case you won't be able to run the two programs in multi-programming mode. You'll have to switch one on when you run it and off before the second is turned on. Cut and paste may then be awkward. I know of two Adobe applications that can't get on together.


 5 System hangs....corrupted file

Problem: A software bug which makes a problem in the future may have damaged a file. A hardware mishap may also damage a file. If a file is damaged it's outcome when it's used will be indeterminate. The effect could be a blip with an odd error message, a blue screen warning or a system hang. Corrupted files are sometimes very difficult to detect.

Solution 1

The first thing to try is SCANDISK. This will pick up major errors in the way files are stored. SCANDISK says it can fix problems but don't you believe it. Nothing short of reloading a file or piece of data can put it right. SCANDISK fixes things so the operating system doesn't see the problem but a "damaged file" code is missing code or wrong code. This will stop a program running successfully although the actual fault may only materialize when a number of obscure events occur together. Analysis of SCANDISK dumped data (called FILE000.CHK or similar) may help reveal which file is corrupted. I just looked and found 12 dumped SCANDISK files in C root directory. This computer isn't all that happy and gives the odd hang when coming out of a screensaver into a particular application.

Solution 2

Run SFC via START RUN to check Windows System files. This may find something worthwhile. If in doubt what to do during an SFC dialogue use the ignore feature. If you update willy nilly, potential clues will be lost. Look especially for out-of-date files, corrupted files and missing files. Use a Windows disk for sourcing new files.

Solution 3

Run DEFRAG. This reads and writes back everything on the hard drive and in the process can sometimes pick up, but not fix, problems

Solution 4

Reload Windows to refresh the Windows System. To do this you will need the Windows disk. A reload doesn't necessarily put everything right and be prepared to start afresh if problems still exist.

Solution 5

Save your irreplaceable data, reformat your hard drive then reload Windows completely from fresh. Be warned however that this requires a number of things to be arranged in advance. You will need an OEM Windows disk rather than an Upgrade disk (or a means of setting up the system with the required UPGRADE conditions met, i.e. with the upgrade option you may first have to load Windows 3.11 and before this MSDOS and you cannot use FAT32 with this approach). You will also need all the software you need to re-install and copies of any hardware drivers not included in the limited set that Windows provides.


 6 System hangs....poorly truncated or poorly written application

Problem: You loaded lots of interesting things and now the system is unstable. When you load a program from a magazine it is often only a demo program. It's possible that when the demo was compiled a vital chunk of code wasn't included and this has left Windows in an unstable state. It's also possible that the program used a file with the same name as something you already had but is older or even completely different to the original. I am a little baffled by the way programmers can think up new names for their routines and I'm convinced that there are lots out there with the same name, totally different and which are destined for the C:\WINDOWS folder. If they end up in WINDOWS or WINDOWS SYSTEM then, whenever the original version is called, something will go wrong, either immediately or held in abeyance until later. SFC will usually pick up a wrong date and offer to re-install the original version. If things are very bad you may have to start afresh and rebuild your system from scratch (leaving out the freebees from the magazines). Direct X is a potential problem. Some applications need a specific older issue of this whilst others don't care unless a later one has something which is incompatible with the programmers twists and turns. One version of CakeWalk needed a very old version of Direct X and stopped working when a newer version was installed. This necessitated either not using the later application, which wouldn't work with the old Direct X, or buying a new version of CakeWalk, which was compatible with the new version, for a lot of money!


 7 System hangs.....virus

Problem: If you access the internet or use a lot of floppy disks (or even if you only loaded one floppy disk from a friend!) AND you haven't got a decent, recent anti-virus program resident in your system you WILL pick up a virus sooner or later. Some viruses are pretty innocuous but some will cause untold mayhem. Some are triggered on a particular day or when a particular event occurs. Some can write off a hard drive and some can lie in wait on a floppy disk ready to emerge and cause the system to fail to boot up. Often, on first loading a new anti-virus program, more than a dozen viruses will be identified. Some will be cleaned off and made safe and others quarantined. Sometimes the hard drive boot sector needs to be fixed. This is fraught with danger as a wrong move will effectively kill your computer. Sometimes an upgrade from Windows 95 to 98 will activate something nasty and a simple upgrade turns into a complete rebuild.


 8 System is unstable generally but usually associated with an application

Problem: In the BIOS one can set various options. Some options are OK as long as programmers follow rules. There are, for example, a number of areas of memory traditionally reserved for certain hardware applications. If these are set in the BIOS for that purpose, and are also used by a wayward program, you will get problems. Look at any setting in the BIOS relating to the use of memory and try unsetting these and see if things improve eg. UNcaching BIOS ROM and UNcaching VIDEO ROM.


 9 Known insurmountable annoying things

Problem: Like shutting down the computer doesn't shut down the computer. There are reams of words written about this problem and one or two published solutions MAY help but usually none will.


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