The Windows 98 installation dilemma

Now that you've decided to upgrade, you need to consider the next tough question: How to do the upgrade. Most people currently running Windows 95 on a fairly new PC will do fine just to install Windows 98 over it. But for some users a 'clean' install may be worth the extra trouble. Even if you buy the so-called 'Upgrade' version of Win 98, you can still install it on an empty, formatted hard disk.

SNow that you've decided to upgrade, you need to consider the next tough question: How to do the upgrade. Most people currently running Windows 95 on a fairly new PC will do fine just to install Windows 98 over it. But for some users a "clean" install may be worth the extra trouble.

Even if you buy the so-called "Upgrade" version of Win 98, you can still install it on an empty, formatted hard disk. Just be sure to have your old Win 95 CD-ROM handy during the set-up so the new operating system can confirm it's an upgrade. And before you wipe your hard disk clean, make sure you have a boot disk with drivers for your CD-ROM drive.

Why bother with a clean install of Win 98? Even if all goes well, you'll still have to spend extra time re-installing your applications, which can be hassle, especially if you've misplaced CD-ROMs, license numbers, and updates.

But PC World senior associate editor and Win 98 guru Scott Spanbauer says he's a big fan of the clean install. Spanbauer says that a clean install will result in a performance boost to your system, which is the result of a more compact system Registry, a reduction in the number of conflicting DLL files, and increased hard disk space.

Another plus of the clean install is that you get more control up front over which Windows 98 components are added. Unlike with previous versions of Windows or an upgrade of Win 98, you don't get to pick from a menu of installation options when you install over a Win 95 installation.

Once you've got Win 98 purring along and all your devices and applications working properly, you're ready to contemplate another important decision: whether or not to convert your hard disk to the more efficient FAT32 file system, if you hadn't already. The gotcha here is that Win 98 has a one-way FAT32 installer. You can't revert back to FAT16, nor can you uninstall Win 98 once you've converted--unless you were previously running FAT32 under Win 95 OSR2.

Spanbauer strongly recommends that you convert at some point. Besides the extra hard disk space you'll gain from converting to FAT32's smaller disk clusters, you'll also be able to take advantage of the application launch accelerator that's built into Win 98's disk defragmenter. Our testing found, for example, that the Win 98 launch accelerator on a FAT32 system cut the load time for Netscape's Navigator 4 browser in half.

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