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Tech 101 | Do It

Windows ME: Smarter, More Stable, Easier to Use

March 01, 2001|JEFF LEVY | jefflevykfi@hotmail.com

Windows Millennium Edition has the same basic look and feel as Windows 98, but Microsoft's most recent home operating system offers helpful new features that make it more stable than previous versions.

ME comes installed on most new computers, and that's really the wisest way to buy it. Upgrading to ME from Windows 98 is fraught with problems and can make unstable an otherwise functional computer.

ME offers a variety of new convenient features.

For starters, it employs a personalized menu function that tracks and learns which programs and files get used most often. Once ME learns usage patterns, it modifies the Start menu so that it shows only the most commonly used programs.

ME does not offer the ability to restart the computer in MS-DOS mode. It's possible to get a DOS prompt by clicking Start, then Run and typing "command" (without the quotation marks) and pressing the Enter key. Microsoft wants to distance Windows from DOS and says that ME boots faster than previous versions because it doesn't have to load all of the DOS start-up routines.

Microsoft enhanced the accessibility features--tools designed to make Windows easier to use for people with physical disabilities. ME displays fonts in several sizes--almost like reading the eye chart at an optometrist's office. It then modifies fonts to fit user preferences.

Perhaps Microsoft is tired of having to provide tech support to people who delete important system files. Microsoft has included a function that essentially locks core information that Windows needs to function. With System File Protection, programs added to a computer cannot overwrite or delete core Windows files--and the system will not let users accidentally delete critical system files or information.

If ME detects an adverse effect on a system file, it deletes that file and replaces it with the original authorized version. The bottom line here is that System File Protection reduces Windows crashes and system instability. Windows ME is much more stable than previous versions, in part because of this function.

Finally, ME provides a function called System Restore, which, like the software program GoBack, lets users go back to a point when the system was working properly. For example, if a user installs a scanner that causes problems with a computer, System Restore takes the computer back to just before the new scanner came online.

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Jeff Levy hosts the "On Computers" radio talk show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on KFI-AM (640).

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