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Need more hard drive space? Consider Windows 98


One of the biggest reasons to upgrade to Windows 98 after its official release (in my opinion) will be the ability to regain hard drive space by moving from the FAT16 to FAT32 file system.

This technobabble really isn't as indecipherable as it may look, and it has nothing to do with weight. It simply means that Windows 98 will offer a more efficient disk filing system that promises you the ability to store more stuff on your drive.

In fact, converting to FAT32 means that users with hard drives larger than 512 Megabytes can recover up to 28 percent of wasted disk space -- not a bad return on your investment.

The disk operating system breaks data into segments called clusters. And in the FAT16 file system, the minimum cluster size is 32 kilobytes -- regardless of how large the file stored there is. In theory, a small text file -- lets a word processor file that's 6k in size -- takes up 32k of drive space, leaving 26k of empty space that can't be used.

The FAT32 system reduces wasted space by using smaller clusters - the minimum is 4k, compared to the FAT16's 32k. The FAT16 file system becomes inefficient in hard drives larger than about 512 Megabytes, so the FAT32 won't convert drives smaller than 512k.

Microsoft has a utility program now available at its Web site that will estimate how much disk space you can recover by upgrading to Windows 98 and FAT32.

How much hard drive space can you expect to recover? Quite a bit, f my own tests are any indication of what you'll get back.

My 2 Gigabyte hard drive will gain an extra 416 Megabytes of space -- which comes in at about 21 percent of space recovered.

My DriveSpace 3-compressed 850-Megabyte hard drive couldn't be converted, according to the utility program I downloaded from Microsoft. I'll have to uncompress it before I can convert it.

To download the FAT 32 utility to see how much space you could recover, point your browser to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/contents/AdminTools/Win98Fat32/.

For more information about the new operating system, visit Microsoft's Windows 98 Web site at www.microsoft.com/windows98.

PROCESSOR UPDATE. If you've been putting off that buying that new PC for a while, then you might want to keep an eye on computers featuring the Pentium MMX processor.

Computer maker Dell announced last week it would discontinue selling computers equipped with the Pentium MMX processor. The company will shift its emphasis on the newer Intel Pentium II processors -- which (thanks to steady price cuts by Intel) have been quickly coming down in price.

Dell's transition will be complete in a month, the company said, but it has already streamlined its offerings in Japan and Europe.

Market analysts say the move is expected, given Intel's steady price cuts since the Pentium II was released. According to marketing analysts at International Data Corp., the Pentium II will be the processor of choice in more than 75 percent of all new desktop and laptop computers by the end of this year.

Direct-seller Gateway and Micron appear to be following suit; both companies' online stores list the Pentium MMX processor only in their low-end corporate and home PCs.

MORE FREE E-MAIL. Netscape will join the free e-mail crowd soon with its own Netscape WebMail by Usa.net by the end of July.

Netscape's free e-mail system will operate similar to the popular HotMail's free e-mail setup, and will be accessible to any Internet user on any computer that can access the World Wide Web.

Netscape has recently shifted its focus toward consumer services at its Netscape Netcenter Web site, and the free e-mail system will be a bonus offering for its regular visitors.

As the provider of Netscape's new service, Usa.net's free e-mail service will offer spell checking, virus scanning, foreign language translation, message forwarding and more.

For more information, visit Netscape's Web site at www.home.netscape.com.

MODEM MADNESS. Nobody said the road to the future would be easy -- and for some owners of certain 3Com modems, it's difficult indeed.

Owners of 3Com Megahertz 56k modem cards for laptops have been faced with ruined modems when trying to "flash" upgrade their software to the new 56k modem standard.

The problem surfaced because laptop owners were trying to upgrade their modems while their laptops had their power-saving settings turned on -- which effectively shut down the computer after a period of time when it isn't being used and in turn, interrupted the "flash" upgrade process.

If the computer is shut down while the "flash" 56k modem upgrade software was being performed, the modem was ruined.

3Com has posted warnings on its Web site, and has promised to replace modems that were ruined during the "flash" upgrade process.

For more information, visit 3Com's Web site at www.3com.com.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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