Windows 95 – it just won’t go away !

I had quite a challenge today…. a friend who lives a thousand kilometres away had a problem with their laptop. It’s a fairly reliable, although a very aged, ThinkPad…. and it always chooses to go wrong either when there is a deadline or overseas trip due. Today was no different.

Windows started fine … but no icons, Start button or other desktop accoutrements that are pretty critical to getting anything done !

As the problems had started during an email session the first panic was viral or spyware – not only is the ThinkPad a little long in the tooth so is the IBM AV installation (last updated I suspect when we last had a problem – over a year ago !) but luckily files seemed intact (how many people remember that Win95 included a copy of ProgMan – that hangover from Win3.x !) so it was a case of finding out where the trouble was and making it go away.

To cut a long story short (and avoid a long rambling tale of finding install CDs, coping with a missing back-slash key on the keyboard configuration and dictating instructions to a smart, but not command-line computer nerd, person on the end of a phone line) the issue was a corrupt version of explorer.exe … pretty significant in it’s own way…. luckily an extract from win95_02.cab to the root of the C drive and fixing the path to point there before c:\windows and we where good to go.

But.. it got me thinking… just how many people out there are still using Windows 95, IE4 and correspondingly archaic versions of MS Office ? They work well enough for day-to-day and as a way of avoiding costly and time consuming upgrades to WinXP and Office 2004 (often on hardware that just wouldn’t cope) or a hard to cope with migration to Linux (which may not have drivers for the hardware). I know a recent survey of Mac users showed something like 40% of the user base are still on version9 or earlier – either because OSX doesn’t support their hardware or they’ve not found a compelling reason to upgrade.

While I’ve never used ‘Classic’ OS 9 and before and can’t see any situation where I’ll be supporting people using it the fact I’ve had a couple of Win95 requests recently makes me wonder if it’s worth digging out an old licence and adding another VirtualPC instance so I’ve got an interface in front of me, rather than relying on memories of almost a decade ago…

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