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Still using Windows 98?

Resources for the stubborn few who refuse to upgrade.

With everything new and cool in the PC industry focused on Windows XP, what do you do if you’ve decided to stick with Windows 98? Not a bad choice. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is the attitude of more users than the computer press will admit to. If that’s your attitude, what’s available on the Web for you to take advantage of? The answer, in a nutshell, is plenty. Though Microsoft no longer wants customers using it, the operating system is still very much alive. There are tons of shareware programs and Web sites devoted to the operating system. In this edition of Windows Advisor, we’ll take a look at several of the best.

Microsoft Windows 98 support

Aside from the fact that the site does its best to convince you to upgrade to Windows XP, Microsoft’s Windows 98 support page actually offers a fair amount of support for Windows 98. You can download upgrades for the OS, search the help files for technical support, and get the latest information about Windows 98. The best part of the site, however, if you can get past the implied recrimination, is the “Still Using Windows 98?” section. Click through to this section and you’ll find hints for getting work done under the OS, communicating with others, exploring the Internet, maintaining your Windows 98 PC, and having fun with the OS.

The “Getting Your Work Done” section provides a plethora of articles on Windows 98, including mobile computing, home networking, password features, and how to get the most out of your recycle bin. The home networking section is particularly well done, and provides all sorts of tips for setting up various network and Internet connections. The password section is also useful and manages to explain the concept of User Profiles in an easy, free-flowing manner.

Although there are very few bells and whistles to be found, there’s a lot of good, solid information for the Windows 98 user available on the Microsoft site. Everything is easy to navigate and, in general, easier to use than most of the rest of Microsoft’s Web sites. If you’re sticking with Windows 98 and want to get the most out of your operating system, this is definitely a site to add to your bookmarks.

Windows 98 Tips and Tricks

Despite the name, Windows 98 Tips and Tricks isn’t devoted exclusively to Windows 98, but it does offer many valuable resources and links dedicated to the older OS. The Tips and Tricks section is the true heart of the site, and is packed with an incredible amount of useful information. The Tips are divided into seven sections: Communication Tips, Fine Tune Windows 98, Getting Started with Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4, Internet Explorer 5, Outlook Express, and Troubleshooting. Each section offers dozens of different topics and is constantly being appended and updated.

For my money (which doesn’t mean much, since the site is free) the Troubleshooting section is far and away the best. This section includes detailed instructions for fixing such infamous Windows 98 snafus as Windows 98 SE locking up during suspension, the dial-up networking module’s inability to remember your password, USB device errors, and a whole slew of DLL bugs. The instructions are clear, concise, easy-to-follow, and a godsend for anyone who’s ever struggled to get Microsoft’s customer support to actually help you fix any of these problems.

ZDNet’s Windows 98 Product Guide

Though parts of it are a bit outdated, ZDNet’s Web site offers a lot of good, solid information on Windows 98. The site boasts links to must-have Windows 98 shareware downloads, tips for making the OS work for you, a help file section, and a troubleshooting forum where power users and novices alike can find solutions to their most harrying Windows 98 problems.

The troubleshooting forum, which seems to get a lot of traffic, is an excellent resource for die-hard Windows 98 users. If you have a problem and can’t find the solution on Microsoft’s site or in this site’s help files, post it to the forum. More than likely, several different forum members will have already answered your question by the next time you log on. And be sure to search the archives–there’s a good chance that whatever problem you’re having has already been asked (and answered) by the Windows 98 users who were there before you.

Axcel216′s Max Speed Original Windows Tricks and Secrets

Though the Web site is hard to look at and more than a bit clunky, the wisdom contained therein is priceless. If you want to get the skinny on the nitty-gritty aspects of Windows 98, this is definitely a site to add to your bookmarks. Did you know, for example, that you can prevent visitors from dropping to MS-DOS, or from accessing certain hard drives on your system? Neither did I. This Web site is filled with information like that, complete with detailed instructions for how to make it happen.

Axcel216′s site has been collecting Windows 98 tricks and secrets since the OS first came on the market, and offers dozens upon dozens of tips on all sorts of different subjects. Once you get past the hard-to-read fonts and the lack of organization in the tips themselves, you’ll enjoy sifting through this treasure trove of secrets. Before long, you’ll know more about the secrets of Windows 98 than Bill Gates.

Tweaking Toolbox

Developed by the folks behind the Windows 98 Tips and Tricks Web site, Tweaking Toolbox allows you to alter just about anything in your Windows registry without having to edit the registry itself. The program lets you customize or change your system Desktop, Start menu, Explorer, Control Panel, or several other settings to optimize your Windows 98 system.

Of course, most of what Tweaking Toolbox (which costs $24.95) does you can do yourself by opening and manually editing your Windows 98 registry. Unless you’re extremely proficient with the registry, however, it’s far and away easier to let this program do it for you. (Scores of system crashes have been caused by users attempting to alter registry files, so if you’re not 100 percent sure you know what you’re doing, don’t do it!) Altering the settings through Tweaking Toolbox is also faster than searching through the registry yourself, freeing up your time for actually getting something important done.

Though it’s fun to play around with the program and see the many different aspects of the registry you can alter, the most immediately useful features for me were the ability to disable the running of RegEdit (The program Microsoft included with Windows 98 to edit your registry) and change where the Windows installation files were stored. There’s all sorts of settings you can change once you get the hang of the program. You can even change the look of Tweaking Toolbox itself.

98 Lite

Do you want to stick with Windows 98 but prefer to ditch some of the superfluous programs that came with the OS? 98 Lite allows you to make several supposedly permanent features of Windows 98 (such as Internet Explorer, Media Player, and DirectX) vanish from your system. And once the program is installed on your computer, you can install and uninstall the features on the fly, giving you complete control over what you have on your Windows 98 PC.

So if you’re not using something, why bother removing it? By uninstalling the surplus of unused components, there is less Windows code lying around to “break.” According to the 98 Lite Web site, more than 50 percent of Windows’ “Typical” installation can be removed without harming the core system. And once you’ve unloaded the deadweight, your system will move faster and you’ll have more room on your hard drive for programs that you actually use.

You can also configure your desktop shell in one of four different ways: Sleek, Chubby, Overweight, and 98Micro. Overweight keeps things more or less as they are, while 98Micro is essentially a hybrid of the faster Windows 95 Explorer and the best features of Windows 98, and it patches up the security holes inherent in Internet Explorer. If you want total control over how much of Windows 98 is on your system, this easy-to-use program (which costs $25) more than fits the bill.