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I have recently gone through a pure "hell" week with my computer. I write
this hoping that it may help all of you to prevent crashes. No guarantees,
however. I just want to describe to you what has happened and some of the
steps I have taken to correct the problems.

Sometime last summer, my computer crashed. After it locked up and I
rebooted, I had only one simple error message" "missing operating system".
I had to fdisk, remove partitions, reformat, reload Win95 and restore my
data from tape. I had technicians diagnose my system and really couldn't
find anything wrong. We installed the Win95 "A" patch, checked for viruses,
etc. No one could tell me definitely what was wrong. Since then, the
computer crashed similarly a couple of times. I am fairly religous about
backing up, so my data was O.K.

Weekend before last, I decided to do what I've wanted to do for years.
Since my first PC (August, 1987), whenever I bought a new computer, I
restored my program data files via tape. The number of files on my computer
grew and grew. Before weekend before last, I have over 30,000 files on my
computer (and I archive most of my CAD drawings!!). Weekend before last, I
decided to clean up my hard disks. I purchased the full version of Win95 (I
had the upgrade before), backed up my hard drives (1.2 and 1.6g), fdisked,
reformatted and installed Win95. I installed only the applications that I
am using today.

Since then, I must have had eight to ten crashes. All "missing operating
system" type. I would fdisk, reformat, reinstall Win95 and go again. I
would try different combinations of software, different partition settings,
the works. The computer would lock up when in different applications.
Nothing was consistent so that I could say, "ahah! It's Norton Utilities!"
or some other app causing my problem. Night before last, it even crashed
while I wasn't in an application at all!!

With that, I decided that the problem might be with my hard disk. I recall
they are typically rated at 30,000 MTBF. I leave my computer on all the
time, so that would be about 3-1/2 years. The hard drive was almost three
years old. I had a technician swap my 1.2 and 1.6 so that the 1.6 was the
master (disk 0) and the 1.2 was the slave (disk 1). He also installed
Win95B without DOS.

I have reinstalled most of the software that I use today. However, I have
been very careful with the installs. I use Control-Alt-Del to close down
all applications in memory except for Explore. After the install, I did a
reboot and scandisk. Took me about eight hours. I have not installed my
Norton Navigator or my Norton Utilities (although both are designed for
Win95). I did install Norton AntiVirus. I won't go on the 'net without it.

I can report to you that I have gone 24 hours without a crash. This is
cause for celebration. I have a mere 17,000 files on my computer. Space is
fairly efficient since the Win95 uses 4kb clusters (I don't need to
partition my HDD). And, it's pretty fast. I have a 150Mhz Pentium and I did
a "quick draw" with a colleague of mine who has a 200Mhz Pentium (Win95A)
loading AutoCAD R13 with Softdesk. I beat him to the command: prompt.

Although I'm not 100% convinced it is a failed hard drive, I will continue
to operate without added utilities or anything else I don't need. I've
spent about 70 hours the past week and a half trying to get operational. I
will probably wait another 10 years before I do this again.

With this experience, I would like to make a few basic recommendations for
those of you who are in the Win95 environment. Most of you probably already
know this, but just in case, it's worthwhile mentioning.

When you install software, terminate all applications except Explorer using
CNTL-ALT-DEL. Reboot after installation even if the application doesn't
require it.

If you are going to re-install software, uninstall it, reboot and reinstall
and reboot.

Scandisk often. Once a day, minimum.

Defrag ofen. Once a week, minimum (even if Defrag tells you it isn't
necessary).

Watch your resources. Although this is the area MOST improved in Win95 over
Win 3.x, you still can get into trouble. You can see your resources by
loading the Control Panel, then clicking Help.

Check to see what apps are loaded at Startup. Some apps put things in there
that you don't need or want. Clean this up.

Archive the data files that you don't need on a regular basis. I use a Zip
drive for this purpose to keep the files in their native format. I don't
use Zip files on floppy disks.

Backup often. Use software to automate this if possible.

Backup critical files (checkbook, project database, etc.) somewhere else
(Zip, floppy, etc.) in addition to tape. Your tape can go bad or your tape
software can be corrupted (this happened to me in my hell week).

Don't put anything on your computer you won't use or need. Check names of
duplicate .dll files. Different apps can have the same dll name.

I hope this helps. I will report back to let you know how my system is
doing.

Regards,
Bill Allen


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From: "Bill Allen, S.E." <ballense(--nospam--at)concentric.net>
To: "SEAOC List Serve" <seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org>
Subject: Computer Crashes
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 17:41:32 -0800
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Richard Lewis, P.E.
Missionary TECH Team
rlewis(--nospam--at)techteam.org

The service mission like-minded Christian organizations
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