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Laptop Tips for Windows ME

Updated 10-18-2000

Windows ME on your Laptop?


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If your laptop didn't come with Win ME, is the "upgrade" worth the extra bucks
& possibly the extra aggravation? To answer this question, you'll want to know
what Win ME has to offer & how it is going to "take to" your system. As many
laptop users know, internal hardware is not easily changed/upgraded, new
drivers for existing hardware is not on anyone's high priority list, and
available space is often a critical consideration.

01. Protect What You Have: If you have a solid install of Windows, back it up
before letting Win ME loose; better yet, if you are going to try WIN ME,
install it to a partition of its own so it can't touch your existing
configuration. A separate partition insures that you will have uninterrupted
access to your files, hardware & the Internet while still being able to:

a. "persuade" Win ME to work with most if not all of your software & hardware

b. limit its tendency to gobble up your hard drive clusters

c. give it the flexibility/customization found in prior Windows versions

02. D�j� Vu Errors: Win ME has brought back all the standard problems:

a. No Shutdown

b. No Restart

c. BSODs [Blue Screen of Death]

d. WPEs [Windows Protection Error]

and added one of its own [rarely seen in prior Windows Versions]:

e. System Halted

Solving these errors/problems can be time consuming, but a plan of attack can
pay off. When Windows ME installs, it determines what devices you have & what
drivers match up to these devices. You may well find that many of these
determinations are not viable or correct. The drivers that worked with a
previous version of Windows may or may not work for any particular device,
but before installing old drivers [or new drivers if you can find them from
the vendor/OEM], try disabling various devices, in turn, to isolate the
offender[s]. Popular practice [for desktops anyway] is to blame the display
adapter/driver for errors. To test this "theory" on a laptop, from
start>run>msconfig, choose selective startup button, startup tab, advanced
button. Check the "VGA 640x480x16" box and try both a restart and a shutdown.
But, of course, you don't want to end up with a working version of Win ME that
is stuck with 16 colours using half your screen which is often the default
resolution that Win ME selects on initial install on a laptop. Now go back via
msconfig to clear [uncheck] the "VGA 640x480x16" box & reboot [or, if normal
reboot is causing hangs, try "Ctrl+Alt+Del" a few times instead].

03. Device Manager Tells the Tale: From Control Panel, open Device Manager and
select the "System" icon. [For convenience, you may want to put a shortcut to
"system" on your desktop; it may well become a "permanent" fixture with Win

a. For shutdown problems, try disabling any Infrared devices especially the
IrDA Fast Infrared Port under Network Adapters and any real or "virtual"
infrared ports.

b. For restart problems, if you use a PCMCIA drive, look under "Hard Disk
Controllers", particularly for a "Standard IDE/ESDI Hard Disk Controller"
which Win Me may have installed to run the PCMCIA drive. Allied with this
controller will be one or more "Generic IDE Disk Type" devices, such as Type
48 &/or Type 80 under the "Disk Drives" category. [The Settings tab will
reveal which Drive letter is associated with which Disk Type.] When the
Standard IDE/ESDI Hard Disk Controller is disabled, the allied Generic IDE
Disk Types should also disable. When this device is enabled, the standard
PCMCIA mounting "beep" should result as long as PCMCIA sounds haven't been
disabled. To see if the the PCMCIA drive was properly enabled, open My
Computer for the presence of a new drive icon.

c. Other problem devices/conflicts may also be present. Examine all device

types for ones that have been installed that don't describe your system's
devices accurately [such as the wrong modem] or which are not generally
present such as "virtual" COM or printer ports. Remove these devices.

NOTE: If installing the manufacturer's or orignal driver is unsuccessful for

those devices which were disabled to solve restart/shutdown problems, the
devices may still be useable but should be manually enabled after bootup &
disabled before restart/shutdown in Device Manager.

04. Match 'Em Up: Serial port modems may present a particular problem as Win
ME may create port numbers which are not viable & lose the modem or find the
wrong one. Often getting the right COM port installed with the right modem is
a succession of removing ports and modems until Win ME finally gets the match
right. If you are an AOL user, install the AOL version found on the WIN ME CD.
AOL seems to have a better knack at finding the right modem on the right port
than Windows does.

05. Turn It Off: By default, Win ME has set several services and features to
run automatically such as items in Task Scheduler, Automatic Update and
Msconfig. Many of these items can be disabled to increase your startup
resources & retain manual control of your system. Items auto-started can be
pared down drastically via "System Configuration Utility's [msconfig]
Selective Startup tab where just Scan Registry is sufficient in some cases.
While using this utility, select the Advanced Button to enable Win ME's
Startup Menu. In addition, from Control Panel, open Add/Remove
Programs>Windows Setup tab. Remove Windows components that are not needed. Win
ME also installs Windows Media Player version #7 even if you didn't want it;
attempting to uninstall WMP7 from the Control Panel often doesn't work. If you
are not fond of screaming multimedia gobbling up resources, this newer version
can be uninstalled and the more sedate 6.4 version used instead:

a. Delete wmpscheme.xml, wmploc.dll, wmplene.dll, wmpui.dll, wmpcore.dll,

wmp.ocx & wmpcd.dll in Windows/System

b. Delete wmp.inf in Windows/Inf

c. Delete wmplayer.chm in Windows/Help

d. Delete wmplayer.exe in Program Files/Windows Media Player

e. From start>run, type "mplayer2.exe" [no quotes] to open WMP6.4

f. From View>Options>Formats tab>Select All button, choose OK to associate

multimedia extensions with WMP6.4

06. Move that Cab: By default, when Win ME installs, it copies "cab" files to
the hard drive. This practice had been advocated by many users previously, &
now Windows has formalized it. Evidently, laptoppers were left out of that
poll as many of us, especially with older machines, are in a continual byte
fight with bloated apps/files that squeeze our hard drives. Defensively, the
portable drive is a good repository of such bloat. The "cab" files which are
copied represent the contents of the Win9x folder on the Win ME CD excluding
the "ols" folder; they are now parked on the hard drive in:
C:\Windows\Options\Install taking up about 153MB of space. If you have a
portable drive [such as the ZIP250, Shark or ORB], create a folder on a
portable disk named "Windows", then cut/paste the Options folder from the hard
drive to the portable drive into the newly created Windows folder. Now, so
Windows will find these files, repath the "Drive Letter" in the Registry as

a. From Start>Run, type "regedit" [no quotes]

b. In the left pane, browse to the key:


c. In the right pane, highlight the String "SourcePath" & click to open

d. Change only the Drive Letter, e.g. C to F, if F is the letter of your

portable drive

e. The new SourcePath value [in this example] will be:


07. Too Much Backup: Win ME has a new feature called "System Restore" which
saves your system's configurations at various points in time, so if trouble
comes, a previous configuration can be restored. But there is a price to pay
for this feature, & for a laptop which often has a smaller hard drive than a
desktop, the price can be too high. To limit the size to which System Restore
can grow:
a. Right click on "My Computer", select Properties

b. Select the Perfomance tab, then the File System button

c. Move the slider "System Restore disk space uses" to the Minimum [200MB]

d. If 200MB is too much, open the Troubleshooting tab, select Disable System

08. Help Me Not: Win ME has migrated the Help function into a new feature
named "PC Health" which overlays the compiled help files [CHMs] that converted
the utilitarian HELP [hlp] files to a web page look. This new feature takes
resources, fills the cache [TIF] with files and assimilates your system into
an automatically updated & protected OS based on the Microsoft vision of what
it should be. If you would rather save those resources & maintain your own
system, run "msconfig" to disable PC Health. For additional information on how
to rid your system of built in features, see MDGx Win ME Optimizing Tips at

09. Power Matters: If your system had trouble with initiating hibernate &/or
standby or resuming from those states before Win ME, similar problems after it
is installed are not unexpected. Do you really trust these Windows managed
functions to work flawlessly when your critical data may be at stake? If the
answer is no, open Power Option Properties in Control Panel, select "Never"
for both items. In addition, Advanced Power Management support under Device
Manager's System Devices can be disabled.

10. Recrown the BOSS: Win ME has demoted DOS to servant status only able to
run after Windows rules the realm; happily those who are loyal to real DOS
[MS-DOS mode] & who appreciate its powerful utility can, with a few fixes,
return true MS-DOS to its former "reigning" status. There are several sources
on the web where the MS-DOS patch can be found; here's one at
that works well.

So, what will it be -- Win ME or Win ME NOT? With a little luck & some
judicious paring, tweaking and work-arounds as outlined in the above 10 tips,
your laptop might run almost as well as it did before installation.

11. Run Your Old Stuff: If you have some favourite old software of the 16Bit
persuasion especially if it has a critical data set behind it such as
financial & personal records, it is rather imperative that it will work with
Win Me. Many of these old programs will not install successfully on Win ME,
but they will run on Win ME from an installation that was made on a prior OS,
such as Win3.1, Win95 or Win98 because they are "self-contained" in their own
folder with little or no dependence on Windows System files. If you run
multiple Windows OSes, these programs once installed to or moved to a portable
drive from the hard drive can be run by the various OSes with only the "ini"
file copied to the associated Windows folder. After copying the "ini" file,
open it to make sure it is pathed to the proper drive letter. If, when
attempting to run an old program on Win ME for the first time, Windows sends a
message about a missing "dll" file, copy that "dll" file from the prior OS's
System folder or restore it from a backup. If any of these old programs have
"reg" [Registry] files, merge them into the Win ME Registry; when opening the
program in Win ME, an error message may occur about "improper" registration,
but these errors can be ignored.

12. Scan in 16Bits: Often newer scanners have no current drivers available
when Win Me was first issued, but an older scanner that runs from 16Bit
software can be installed successfully though it won't appear in the Control
Panel under "Scanners & Cameras". Be careful not to over-write existing
Windows System files if File Protection is turned off; as with older software,
the scanner software can be installed or moved to a portable drive.