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[ The PC Guide | System Optimization and Enhancement Guide | System Optimizations and Enhancements | Operating System Performance Optimization ]

Resolve Compatibility Mode and Performance-Limiting Drivers

Windows 95 is intended to use specially-designed, 32-bit drivers to interface to all of its hardware, for maximum performance. However, Windows will also use older 16-bit DOS drivers if they are loaded before Windows starts, or if they are needed because an appropriate 32-bit driver cannot be found. Microsoft made the system work this way to maximize compatibility and minimize problems with older hardware and software.

An older driver is sometimes called a "compatibility mode" driver for this reason. You want to minimize these as much as possible, because they are less efficient. Usually, if the system is using one of these it points to one of two causes: either an older driver is being loaded in the CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file, or there is a driver conflict or hardware problem with one of the devices in the system. The PC will probably still work with compatibility mode drivers in place, but performance will be reduced.

Checking for compatibility mode drivers is relatively simple: right-click the "My Computer" icon on your desktop and select "Properties", or double-click the "System" icon in the Control Panel. Then select the "Performance" tab. What you want the system to say in the middle of the box is "Your system is configured for optimal performance". If it doesn't say that, a list of compatibility mode drivers or other causes of optimization problems will be shown in a white box.

Here are a few ideas for resolving these compatibilities. These are just guidelines; you'll need to address the specific cause of the problem in most cases, and there are so many that I couldn't begin listing them here. However, I can give you the general idea of what you are looking for and where to find the source of the problems:

  • DOS Drivers Loaded From the System Files: The number one cause of compatibility mode or performance-degrading drivers is accidentally loading DOS-mode drivers in your CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file. You want, to whatever extent possible, not to load drivers from these files, but instead to let Windows use its. Check these files and try removing drivers that are being loaded there if there are Windows 95 equivalents. (Be careful what you change, however, and be ready to switch back if a problem occurs).

Note: One common cause of loading DOS drivers in a Windows 95 installation is upgrading Windows 95 over Windows 3.x, which will leave the old DOS drivers in place. I do not recommend installing Windows 95 this way.

  • Resource Conflicts: Two devices fighting over a resource can cause drivers to not be loaded properly, or can cause Windows 95 to default to compatibility mode drivers. Check the Device Manager for conflicts, and read this troubleshooting section for details on resolving resource conflicts.
  • Incorrect Windows 95 Drivers: If you set up a device with the wrong driver (one that doesn't match the hardware) then Windows 95 may instead substitute its own compatibility-mode driver. Selecting the right driver will fix the problem.

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