My policy now when I get asked to "just have a quick look" at a Windows computer is to decline, because I've just wasted far too much time trying to patch things up and remove all the junk. I've usually ended up reformatting the disk and reinstalling from scratch.
I'll go back to those I've dealt with in the past where I know exactly what's been installed, but for anything else it's just become far too much hassle.
One of my programming/maintenance jobs for a lcoal company is on a system which is running DOS 4. That's what I put on the system when it was installed about 4 years ago along with my custom software. It's more than adequate for the task, it doesn't eat up gigabytes of disk space, and above all it's reliable.
We ran a 12 million dollar parts room with a DOS/bBase system that would all fit on a diskette. We tracked every box that came in and went out with a barcode on each box. When I wrote it I had the fact that techs hate PCs in mind. I ran it side by side with the paper logging system and within a week they were all using the PC. One rule I had in the design is you never type in anything more than once. Every box was tracked by when we recieved it, everyone who handled it and when it was finally used and reordered. Most transactions were a couple keystrokes and a bar code swipe. "Lost" parts dropped to zero and the annual inventory went from a 2-3 day ordeal to a couple hours walking around with the bar code scanner. DOS is POWER.
We ran a 12 million dollar parts room with a DOS/bBase system that would all fit on a diskette.
That's one of the things I detest about Windows software. It's just seems to eat storage space and everything is so bloated.
The system I mentioned above is a database for the local taxi company. It allows them to make bookings, assign drivers, enter fares when done, retrieve notes attached to any job (e.g. directions to find a house), keep track of all the weekly accounting for receiving the company's portion of the fares from the drivers, as well as a whole range of other auxiliary reports and functions. I've just added a section to do monthly invoicing for account customers. The compiled EXE file is still a shade under 200KB (written with Borland's Turbo Pascal 5.5). Last time I checked the system the complete set of data files was averaging about 230KB for the entire database -- And I don't consider that I even wrote the code to be especially efficient in storage space.
It's pretty much the same for the parts database and invoicing system for the place next door (the auto parts store with the bad wiring that I posted in Violations). Full database system to track stock levels, provide ordering lists, lookup of cost/trade/retail prices, barcoding, with on-the-spot invoicing and monthly customer statements, etc. EXE code is less than 120KB, and with about 2500 stock items and an account turnover of several hundred invoices per month the data files are currently using up barely 300KB of disk space.
If quickly written programs which aren't particularly optimized for minimal storage space can do that under DOS, why on earth does it take 2 gazillion bytes just to make Windows execute a "Hello World" program?
Grrr, the Win98 box just crashed and burned, reformatted, reinstalled 98, now the motherboard drivers won't install! Curb here you come! And my mother wonders why I'm not helping her anymore with that computer.
Time for Linux, whether she likes it or not.
Is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?
I do a lot of W/98 installs on junk boards I get on Ebay or just find in the trash. (Sorry Bill, I am one of those "one disk" families) From my experience it is best to just skip all of the driver loads on the install and use the setup from the install disk to load the drivers after you see the desktop. In some cases I have to just assemble drivers from wherever I can find them, based on the chips on the board. It still seems to work best to do it after windoze loads. Once you do get everything working you can go back, remove all the hardware from the system page and do a "slip" install of windoze again. It will use the existing driver database and should just cruise on through. I only do that when I have loaded a lot of bad drivers to get to the sweet spot where I found the right one. It is also a good idea to do a backup of your C drive as soon as you get everything loaded and working so you have a good check point to return to if you want to start over. I try not to clutter up the C drive with my working directories, music, documents and other non-system files, so it stays pretty stable.