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[ The PC Guide | Procedure Guide | Software Procedures ]

Windows 95 Installation Procedure

This procedure is my attempt to provide instructions for installing Windows 95 on a new PC. I approached this procedure with some hesitation, because installing Windows 95 is not a simple thing to do sometimes, and what needs to be done depends a great deal on what the hardware is in the machine and how the system is to be used. However, I think it is worth outlining at least generally the steps involved in performing the installation. Just bear in mind while you read this, that it is not feasible to cover every possibility in setting up this operating system.

This procedure is designed for those installing Windows 95 on a new system. It is based on the latest version of Windows, which is alternatively called Windows 95 OEM SR2, Windows 95 OSR2, or Windows 95B (along with many other names, not all of them pleasant. :^) ). The steps of the procedure for installing an older version of Windows 95 would be fairly similar, although not exactly the same.

This procedure does not specifically address upgrading to Windows 95 on a system that already has Windows 3.x on it. Again here, the procedure would not be that different. I do not recommend installing Windows 95 on top of Windows 3.x for compatibility and performance reasons.

Note that this procedure covers not just the basic installation of Windows (which would leave you with a usable but highly non-optimal system), it also addresses the fundamental issues of double-checking and fine-tuning the install. However, you will still most likely want to make additional changes based on what is in your PC and how you plan to use it. The System Optimization and Enhancement Guide may help with this.

Procedure Overview:

  • Difficulty Level: 2-4 (Low to High). The installation itself is not that difficult, but problems are not uncommon and you may in some cases have to "think on your feet". Some of the optimizations require some thought also.
  • Risk Factor: 1 (Very low). This assumes that the disk is new and there is nothing on it.
  • Hardware Required: None, unless you have to open the box to fix any hardware problems that are discovered as a result of the installation.
  • Software Required:
    • Windows 95 OSR2 CD, plus the Certificate of Authenticity that should come with it. If your CD did not come with a certificate, you should return it immediately as you cannot install Windows without the product code that is on the certificate.
    • A blank floppy disk for making a startup disk, if you want one.
    • Video card driver disk.
    • Sound card driver disk.
    • Other driver disks.
  • Time to Perform: This varies widely and depends on the speed of the PC to a great extent. I would generally allow 30 to 60 minutes for the full process.
  • Preparation / Warnings:
    • Windows 95 Setup is a very complex program, because of the large variety of hardware and software it was designed to deal with. Due to this variety, this procedure cannot anticipate exactly how the install will go on any system, so be prepared to adapt it to what you see on the screen. This procedure only covers what is typical in the install.
    • Make sure your hardware is all working properly before you start here, or you most likely won't get very far.
    • You should of course have your hard disk partitioned and formatted, and your CD-ROM drivers installed and working, in order to access the Windows CD. I assume the PC is booted and at the "C:" prompt.
    • I've never installed Windows from floppy disk, but I imagine that the steps would be similar (except for dozens of floppy disk swaps).
    • Windows 95 OSR2 will not install on top of an existing Windows 95 installation unless you first rename or delete every instance of the file "WIN.COM" on every hard disk in the system. I have not personally tried to upgrade to OSR2 from an existing Windows 95 install, and I don't generally recommend doing this.

Procedure Steps:

  1. Start Setup: At the DOS prompt, enter the command "X:setup" where "X" is replaced by the drive letter of your CD-ROM. Setup will begin.
  2. File System Scan: The first thing Windows will do is to invoke the SCANDISK program to check your hard disk for problems before it begins the installation. This should proceed without trouble on a system that has DOS installed on it, but on a new PC, SCANDISK will typically fail immediately because it will say that you do not have an extended memory manager installed. Don't worry about this--on a new system there's nothing on the disk anyway and no real reason to actually have the disk checked. Ignore the error and press {Esc} to continue.
  3. Welcome Dialog: The graphical interface for Windows and a "Welcome" box will appear. Check your mouse and make sure that it is working; the setup will be much harder to do without it. Select the "Continue" button. Windows will prepare the "Windows 95 Setup Wizard".
  4. License Agreement: The license agreement for Windows will be displayed. Read it, then select "Yes" to continue.
  5. Setup Wizard Start: The Setup Wizard box will display, showing you the three phases of the installation. Click "Next".
  6. Choose Install Directory: Setup will ask you which directory you want to use for Windows. I strongly recommend that you accept the default, "C:\WINDOWS", for the simple reason that this is the standard. Most Windows reference material is written with instructions that assume this as the location for the Windows files. After you tell Setup to proceed, it will perform some routine checks on your system.
  7. Setup Options: You will now be given the choice of whether you want a "Typical", "Portable", "Compact" or "Custom" install. The first three items are pre-set "option packages" that you can use if you are in a hurry, but you won't really even know what you are getting and what you are leaving out. I recommend selecting "Custom", as this will let you choose what components you install and which you do not.
  8. Certificate of Authenticity: Enter the product code from your certificate of authenticity to continue the installation.
  9. Analyzing Your Computer: The Setup Program will now search your PC to determine what hardware is in it. It is generally best to just let it "do its thing". If you have a network card or a sound, midi or video capture card, check the appropriate boxes. Then press "Next" to continue. The search will take several minutes, and your hard disk will be very active, in fact, it will seem like the hard disk is going crazy. This is normal. :^) Be patient.
  10. Select Components: Now you will select which components of Windows to install. Choose as you wish; you can select/deselect entire groups or only specific items within groups. I recommend (and always include myself) the following: Accessibility Options, Accessories, Communications, Multimedia, Disk Tools. Choose "Next".
  11. Network Configuration: This will pop up even if you don't have a network card, because Windows will by default add a dial-up network adapter. I recommend you just accept the defaults for now and press "Next", as you'll have to adjust the network settings later on anyway.
  12. Identification: This is for the network setup; enter your computer name, workgroup and computer description for networking purposes; bear in mind that you can change all of this later on.
  13. Computer Settings: Double-check these settings and change any that are incorrect. Note that you can select different brands of the various components here, but only from whatever Windows has in its driver database. You can't install custom or updated drivers here; you'll do this later on. Select "Next".
  14. Startup Disk: Setup will ask you if you want a startup disk. You can make one now if you wish; I usually don't bother until I am finished installing and setting up Windows.
  15. Start Copying Files: Setup is now done pestering you for a while and will start actually copying the files to your hard disk. This will take a few minutes.
  16. Finishing Setup: Select "Finish". Setup will reboot the system.
  17. First Windows 95 Boot: The system will reboot and you will see the distinctive deep-blue screen that Windows shows when "Getting ready to run Windows 95 for the first time...". This may take some time.
  18. Password: If you allowed Setup to install a network adapter you will be asked for a password. Just hit "Cancel" for now.
  19. Setting Up Hardware: Windows will now set up your hardware, look for Plug and Play devices and set them up, and then configure other system settings.
  20. Time Zone: Select your region's time zone and then select "Close". Note that the world map cannot be clicked on; it used to work (and was quite cool), but they took it out of OSR2 for political reasons (various countries quabbling over boundary lines as I understand it).
  21. Add Printer Wizard: You can add your printer now, but I recommend that you just hit "Cancel" for now and do this later on.
  22. Setup Finished: A dialog box appears saying that setup has finished. Click "OK". The system will reboot.
  23. First "Real" Windows Boot: Windows will boot up. You may see a box saying "Finalizing settings for your computer". Note that the first time you boot Windows it will take longer than it will every time after that. When the boot is done you should see the
  24. Open System Properties: Open up the system properties dialog box so you can check out the system. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the "My Computer" icon in the upper left-hand corner, and then select "Properties". The system properties box will show up.
  25. Check General Settings: Under the "General" tab of the System Properties box, check to make sure the correct CPU has been detected and that Windows thinks you have the correct amount of system memory. Also check the other settings.
  26. Check Devices: Select the "Device Manager" tab of the System Properties box. You will see a hierarchical display of the hardware and logical devices in your system. The main thing you are looking for here are any devices with which Windows is registering a hardware conflict. These are usually highlighted in the list by the infamous yellow circle with an exclamation mark in it. Usually these mean a driver is incorrect for the device, or it is malfunctioning; you need to resolve all of these. To check the status of a device, follow these instructions:
    • Select the device from the Device Manager list.
    • Select the "Properties" button.
    • A dialog box will pop up, containing one or more tabs, depending on the device. You generally want to look at the "Driver" and "Resources" tabs for information on the device.
  27. Check Performance Status: Select the "Performance" tab of the System Properties box. You should see "Your system is configured for optimal performance" in the middle of the box. If you don't see this, you will probably see a list of some device conflicts in the system, which you need to resolve. This usually does not happen however. You may also want to double-check the advanced settings at the bottom of the dialog box.
  28. Optimize Virtual Memory Swap File Settings: The swap file is what Windows uses to temporarily store memory contents when you are running multiple programs. The default settings that Windows chooses for the swap file are not optimal for most systems because by default, the swap file is mixed in with your regular files, and Windows will resize the swap file often, hurting performance. How you optimize the swap file depends on your hardware and what you want to do with the machine; please refer to this section that discusses swap file optimization in detail, and make the appropriate changes. You may be asked to reboot the system when you make these changes; for now, don't until you complete your other modifications.
  29. Optimize Disk Cache Settings: Similar to how the default swap file settings are not optimal, Windows by default does really stupid things with its internal disk cache, which have a serious negative impact on performance. You will want to make changes to these settings; refer to this section for more details and instructions on how to do this. Again, do not reboot yet as you have other changes to make.
  30. Optimize Conventional Memory: If you are going to use DOS programs under Windows, you need to be concerned about conventional memory totals. By default Windows 95 does not set up key parts of the system to load into upper memory, so conventional memory for use by DOS programs is reduced. If conventional memory is an issue for you, I recommend optimizing it by following the suggestions in this optimization section.
  31. Install Peripheral Drivers: Using the disks that came with your video card, sound card and other devices, install the drivers for your system. Follow the directions that come with the disks. You will probably have to reboot the system for the new drivers to take effect.
  32. Reboot System: If you didn't reboot the system in the previous step, do so now.
  33. Make Other Changes: You will probably want to make other changes such as setting a background image, screen saver, etc.

Next: Technical Resource Guide

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