The horror, the horror

Want to check the date on one of your device drivers? Right-click the My Computer icon (or a blank space in My Computer's window), select Properties, and then select the Device Manager tab. Double-click the device's icon, and click on the Driver tab. The information's in there. If the date listed is earlier than that of a driver you've found online, it makes sense to upgrade.
What's that sound? It's...silence! My sound's gone! I must go online and download new drivers. No...noooo! My modem...Windows 98 can't seem to detect it either. Maybe my installation CD-ROM will have the drivers...but...the CD-ROM drive's not listed in My Computer anymore...aaaaaahhh! My's melting!

It's not just Windows 98. The Vanishing Hardware nightmare goes hand in hand with almost every OS upgrade, just as the Appearing in Public with No Pants nightmare goes hand in hand with eating pizza at bedtime. But because a lot people upgraded to Windows 98--and didn't closely check the hardware compatibility list Microsoft provides--hardware has been virtually disappearing all over the world.

The most common reason Windows 98 can't find hardware that's actually attached to your PC is because the hardware drivers don't work with the new Windows. (A driver is software that enables communication between your OS and your hardware.) Before you install Windows 98, check that you have the most current drivers by visiting your hardware manufacturer's Web site. Major PC makers usually provide update packs for their most common model. But if you created a custom system, added hardware, or bought your PC from a smaller vendor, you may need to visit the specific hardware manufacturer's Web site to find new drivers. You can also try searching for the hardware maker from the download link in the left margin.

There's a trick to making hardware reappear after Windows 98 has lost track of it--actually, several tricks. First, find out exactly what hardware is causing the problem. (A missing CD-ROM drive, for instance, might be traced to incompatible drivers for the PC's drive controller card or for the drive itself--and you can't tell which at first glance).

To find the problem hardware, right-click the My Computer icon, select Properties, and then select the Device Manager tab. The offending device will be labeled with yellow circle and exclamation mark over it, or struck with a red X. Double-click on the icon and read the Device status window for more information.

Warning! Warning! Exclamation marks in Device Manager mean something's not working right.
If the problem hardware is Plug and Play compatible, the first step in restoring it is to delete all references to it in the Device Manager. Once it's officially removed, restart Windows, and Windows 98 should redetect the hardware. If it doesn't, the hardware probably isn't really Plug and Play, in which case you have two options: install the hardware manually (using Add New Hardware, a program under Start/Settings/Control Panel), or reinstall the operating system. Trust us--you don't want to reinstall Windows 98 unless you've exhausted all other options.

None of these fixes works, however, for DOS games that won't play sound. The problem is that DOS programs don't recognize Windows drivers. To fix it, go to Start/Run. Type msconfig in the box and click OK. This is a quick way to call up the System Configuration Utility. Select the Autoexec.bat tab, and uncheck the box next to the line that begins BLASTER=. Click OK, then Yes, and crank up those speakers for a sonic gaming experience.

 For SoundBlaster PCI64 and Live cards, visit the Creative Labs Knowledge Base.