Despite the Hype, Should You Upgrade To Windows 95?
ON Aug. 24, Microsoft Corporation begins selling the most ballyhooed software in the history of personal computers. The hype surrounding Windows 95 is so strong that millions of computer users will rush out to get it. Within weeks, technically savvy friends will ask if you have the program and express shock if you don't - as though you use an abacus to balance the checkbook or something. So the pressure to upgrade will be tremendous. But if you can, dear reader, resist it. Don't get me wrong. Windows 95 is a better and simpler operating system than its predecessor. In some ways, it outperforms the Macintosh. And because it will quickly outsell all its rivals, Windows 95 represents the future of desktop computing. This is not a bad thing. With the current Windows 3.1, I could run my Paradox database software and three other programs before something would crash. With Windows 95, I've run six programs including Paradox flawlessly. This performance is even better than the Power Macintosh, which only allows its microprocessor to work on one program at a time (even though several programs can be open simultaneously). The real significance of Windows 95 is that it will help the rest of your computer work faster and better. The computer industry needs a couple months to catch up with those advances. That's why it makes sense for most users to wait before they upgrade. For example, one great feature of Windows 95 is its ability to handle long document names. Instead of naming a file, say, ''robotvis.doc,'' you can finally call it what it is: ''Second article on robotic vision from Scientific American May 1992.'' (Never mind that Mac users have been able to do this for years. It's not a big deal, apparently, until Microsoft figures it out.) The problem is that this feature doesn't work with my current software. When I try to open a file with a long name, WordPerfect says it doesn't exist. The Windows 95 version of the program will fix that, of course. But it means that in addition to shelling out $90 for the Windows 95 upgrade, I may end up paying hundreds of dollars more to get my software up to snuff. I suggest holding off buying the new operating system at least until a Windows 95 version of your favorite software comes out. You may have to upgrade hardware too. Computer manufacturers recommend that Windows 95 users have at least a high-end 486-class machine with at least eight megabytes of random access memory (RAM), though 16 megabytes is recommended to achieve Windows 95's full potential. The operating system runs great on my Pentium computer, but owners of older, slower equipment may have to add more RAM or a new computer to get Windows 95 to work reasonably. Microsoft claims Windows 95 has the ability to recognize a computer's modem, printer, monitor, and so on. It's a feature called plug-and-play (which the Macintosh has had for years). But I still had to download a test version of special software, called a driver, to get the system to recognize my graphics board. My modem no longer faxes correctly. And my network card doesn't work either, although this appears to be a problem with software, not hardware. Eventually, when these bugs get fixed, I think most of us will travel the upgrade path that Microsoft has set out. It's just that on the way to Windows 95, many users can afford to put the future on hold, at least for a few months. * Send comments via Internet (firstname.lastname@example.org) or write me care of: The Christian Science Monitor; 1 Norway St., Boston, MA 02115