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Warnings on Windows 98 snags

Dell, Compaq, and other PC makers are posting workarounds, fixes, and warnings about Windows 98 upgrades.

Dell Computer, Compaq Computer, and others are posting workarounds, fixes, and warnings on their Web sites about upgrading to the Windows 98 operating system that Microsoft released just last week.

The upgrade glitches aren't specific to Dell and Compaq but affect all vendors in some way. But top-tier makers such as these have been proactively putting users on notice about potential snags. Toshiba and others also are posting similar notices.

As an example, Dell is advising users that the new features in Windows 98 will require, for some models, a new set of "drivers"--critical software that allows hardware devices to "talk" to Windows.

"Please be advised that the new features in Windows 98 will require a new set of system drivers in order for the operating system to function properly," Dell's site says.

"In some cases, an update to your system BIOS may also be required," it continues. The BIOS is software that configures your computer in the starting, or "boot-up," sequence immediately after the PC is turned on.

This is not out of the ordinary, according to Rob Bennett, group product manager for Windows 98 at Microsoft. "This is nothing new. There were the same [kind of] issues with Windows 95 when it came out," he said.

Like other vendors, Dell also is issuing some rather dire warnings, including the following: "According to the Microsoft hardware specification requirements, your system, configured as it originally shipped to you, cannot be upgraded to Windows 98."

This implies that software fixes are needed in order for Windows 98 to work.

"There are a small set of machines that require [software] updates," Bennett added.

Dell said systems affected include notebook models such as the Latitude CP/CPi, Latitude XPiCD, Latitude XPi, and Latitude LM systems. "If you have purchased a retail upgrade, Dell recommends that you wait to complete this upgrade until those files are available from our Web site...Please check this site after July 5, 1998 for an update on your specific system."

Dell certainly isn?t alone. Compaq is issuing warnings for a number of models.

For example, there is no support for CD-ROM drives when using DOS, according to one notice. "After Windows 98 setup has finished upgrading, the system will report that there is no support in DOS mode. At this point, the CD-ROM drive will not operate. This is a known Windows 98 issue at Microsoft," the Compaq site says.

For its part, Toshiba said that Windows 98 problems are only occurring on corporate laptops and not on any retail laptops. Essentially, some power management functions are curtailed when users try to install Windows 98 on top of Windows 95.

The problem exists in the BIOS, a spokeswoman said. A software fix will be issued in August.

IBM alludes to similar issues on its site.