Windows 98 offers few clues on fixing hardware failures

Sometimes computers seem to live a bug’s life.

Having postponed an upgrade to Microsoft Windows 98 for quite a few months, I decided
to try it out on a sub-$1,000 GT200 system bought last year from TigerDirect Inc. of
Miami. Surprise: The 24X CD-ROM drive no longer would read any disks, although its drawer
kept popping out randomly against my knee.

I’m still getting perfectly good service out of a 12-year-old Amdek 1X CD-ROM
drive almost as big as a PC, an 8-year-old 2X NEC Technologies SCSI CD drive, and a
5-year-old Compaq internal CD drive. And not only did TigerDirect’s year-old CD drive
fail, so did its floppy drive. Downloading new drivers and even swapping a working floppy
drive from an old PC didn’t help.

Moving on, I installed Win98 easily on a different PC. Another surprise: My digital Web
camera stopped working.

Microsoft seems to have solved the problem of outdated device drivers by overwriting
all drivers Win98 doesn’t like. This is often a good approach, but not always, and
the operating system doesn’t warn you about it. Some kind of version control tool is
a must.

But search the Web site at,
and you will find no hits for version control manager. A search for VCM produces only
visual component manager. I did locate a version control manager buried deep inside Win98,
called the Version Conflict Manager. Its reference page subsequently disappeared from the
Web site, but VCM should pop up on your tool bar under Start, Programs, Accessories,
System Tools, System Information, Tools.

On the positive side, Microsoft’s VCM does indeed make a copy of your old drivers
so you can find and reinstall them to make your peripherals work again. On the negative
side, it fails to give you a clue about any of this.

The moral of the tale: If you experience hardware failures after installing Windows 98
on an existing PC, check out the possibility that some of the device drivers were
overwritten by generic drivers.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at [email protected].


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