Microsoft faces up to Windows reinstallation rigours

A new driver for Microsoft Windows will alleviate many, although not all, of users' woes when migrating from Windows 95 to Windows NT Workstation.

Jonathan Roberts, director of product management for Windows 95 and NT Workstation, says users won't be able to fully automate the upgrade from Windows 95 to NT Workstation until Microsoft ships Cairo -- the next major release of NT Workstation -- next year.

Still, a new version of Microsoft Driver Model will automatically fix much of the problem.

Users currently must reinstall their desktop software manually when they upgrade from Windows 95 to NT Workstation. That's because of differences in the baseline code of the registries for the two operating systems -- a problem Microsoft first announced two years ago when it began beta-testing Windows 95.

But manual installations can take hours or even days longer than automatic software upgrades, according to Tom Kucharvy, president of Summit Strategies, a consulting firm in Boston.

Roberts acknowledges that the reinstallation issue is serious. But he claims it affects only a very small subset of the Windows installed base. "We know that having to reinstall applications from scratch is painful for users, but few businesses are likely to switch operating systems twice in one year," Roberts says. So, users who installed Windows 95 when it became available in August aren't likely to switch to NT Workstation anytime soon.

Analysts and several Windows users agrees the installation issue affects only a small portion of Microsoft's installed base.

Users who are experiencing the pain of migration should accept partial responsibility, Kucharvy says. "It's caveat emptor. Microsoft was up front about the incompatibilities in the Windows 95 and NT [Workstation] registries. And there's always a certain level of pain involved with OS upgrades anyway," he says.

Microsoft has provided a little relief for users who want to migrate to NT Workstation right away.

The company recently released a new Windows Driver Model, which contains a common 32-bit driver model designed to simplify driver development and improve quality. The new driver model works on Windows 95 and NT Workstation.

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