Winformation at your fingertips

Tip Before Windows 98, finding information about your PC's resources and configuration was quite a chore. In Win 95, that means digging into the Device Manager (open System in the Control Panel), which is awkward at best. In Win 98, there's Microsoft System Information (MSInfo). This handy tool should be your first stop in any troubleshooting investigation. It contains a wealth of configuration and troubleshooting data in three categories: hardware, components and software.

Hardware Resources. Here you'll find standard lists of IRQ, DMA and I/O assignments. There's also a section listing Forced Hardware - non-Plug and Play components with user-assigned resources - and a Conflicts/Sharing section, which lists devices that share resources and identifies those that have resource conflicts. The latter two sections should be your first stops if you suspect that there may be a hardware conflict.

Components. This category lists device-driver and other component information by group. The Problem Devices group shows troubled components - devices flagged with a yellow circle in Device Manager - together with their status info. History, which lists all the drivers used by the system since installation or during the last seven days, is useful for tracking down recent configuration changes that may have led to conflicts.

Software Environment. This category compiles data aimed primarily at support technicians. But check out Running Tasks to see what files are currently running. And Startup Programs is great for identifying all programs that load at startup - particularly those that start from the Registry without any visible indication that they're running.

MSInfo is also a handy starting point for launching most of Windows 98's troubleshooting and maintenance utilities. The Tools menu lists lots of new utility programs that make troubleshooting much easier. Make a copy of all the MSInfo data each time you install new hardware or software. Simply click File-Save on the MSInfo menu to save to either a standard text file or an NFO (MSInfo) file. You can also print a copy if you wish, but expect the printout to exceed 80 pages.

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