Michael Maardt: PC since 1984 • on the net since 1990.

Get the most out of your PCWindows for Workgroups 3.11

This section is placed here because the program is more recent than DOS 6.2.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 is a minor update to Windows 3.1. It can be used on any PC. The main improvement is faster communication with the hard disk by the use of a 32-bit file-access system (a disk cache), though in addition the program is reputed to be generally more stable. A small fax program and a new faster print manager are also included.

On installation, a line is added to CONFIG.SYS


which you should change to devicehigh. Win 3.11 includes the same versions of these files as DOS 6.2: SMARTDRV.EXE, HIMEM.SYS, EMM386.EXE, but the installation changes your startup files to load them from the Windows directory, which typically is C:\WINDOWS. All very well ' but be careful if you run MEMMAKER any time afterwards as this changes the path to C:\DOS. Why does it do that?

My guess is that when DOS 6 was released, Microsoft wanted to "help" Windows 3.1 users who installed the new DOS to make the "correct" decision, which is to use the newer and better version of the files from C:\DOS. If you do not plan to alter your DOS setup, you can copy the files from C:\WINDOWS to C:\DOS. Otherwise you will have to change your startup files after running MEMMAKER.

The new 32-bit file-access system is in fact a cache that replaces SMARTDRV when Windows is loaded. In the dialog box where you specify your swap file (Control Panel, Enhanced, Virtual Memory, Change), you will see the drive that uses the new cache after you mark the 32-bit file-access check box. The size of the cache is also displayed. The program selects a value depending on how much free extended memory you have (same as SMARTDRV does). The installation process alters the Windows cache-size parameter for SMARTDRV (the second figure given after the SMARTDRV command). With 8 MB RAM, it is changed to:

..\smartdrv 2048 128 /X

One of the differences between SMARTDRV and the new 32-bit file-access program (VCACHE.386) is that SMARTDRV reads some additional data from the sector after the most recently read in the hope that the next data required will be in the next (physical) sector on the disk.

The new cache reads its extra data from the next part of the file that has just been read, i.e. in the hope that the next data required will be from the same file. As this is highly likely, it gives an improved "hit" rate (and fewer misses) than the old arrangement.

(I have not checked 32-bit disk access, as my disk controller runs this automatically.) The new cache will be most effective when the user rarely ' if ever ' runs a disk-optimization program! If you regularly defragment your hard disk with SPEEDISK, DEFRAG or something similar, there is little or nothing to be gained from using the new method.

Another difference is that the new cache switches some processes from real mode to protected mode, which makes everything work faster. If you always run DOS programs from Windows, you can delete the SHARE line from AUTOEXEC.BAT.

To sum up: in my experience, Win 3.11 speeds up hard-disk access but not much. On the other hand, other functions, such as opening/closing windows and scrolling in dialog boxes, are faster.

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You are on michaelmaardt.com • © Michael Maardt 21. Jul. 2018