Installing and Using Software with DOS

No one but a tech-head really likes to install software. A techie takes pride in trying to set the thing up without first reading the manuals. Installation means copying the program you've just bought from floppy disks to your computer's hard drive. It also means more, typically configuring or setting up the program to work with your particular PC, printer, and the rest of that stuff. That is why installation is best left up to your local computer guru. If not, you can follow the outline in this article. Because each computer program installs itself differently, this information is general It gives you a broad idea, though, of the task you're about to undertake.

Read me first!

Computer manuals and those national sweepstakes with you-know-who's picture on the envelope both have something in common: You get lots of little pieces of paper and instructions for the interesting things you must do. Computer manuals are easier to deal with. Seriously. You have no need to hunt through everything, fill out various forms, or paste Uncle Ed's picture inside the TV set. Just look for a sheet of paper somewhere that says "Read me first!" Read it, and you're on your way.

The installation program

You install a program by sticking Disk 1 into your PC's first floppy drive (drive A) and then running the installation program. If the disk doesn't fit in drive A, stick the disk into drive B and substitute B for A in the following instructions. The name of the installation program is usually Install, although Setup is also popular. Two steps are involved here. The first is logging to drive A. Basically, after sticking Disk 1 into floppy drive A (and closing the drive door latch for a 5-1/4-inch disk), you type

C> A:

Typing A and a colon logs you to drive A. Press Enter.

Next, you enter the name of the installation program. This name is probably listed in the manual, on the disk label, or on the "Read me first!" sheet of paper, or else that paper tells you where to find these instructions. Be wary! Even though installing the program is the first thing you ever do with it, it's rarely the first chapter in the manual.

For example, if the name of the installation program is INSTALL, you type

A> INSTALL

Press Enter.

Sometimes, the installation program is called SETUP. If so, you type

A> SETUP

Press Enter here, too.

Don't forget to read the information on the screen! It's important, especially for an installation program. In fact, many "experts" usually screw up software installation by not reading the information screens. Follow the instructions closely.

The location

The first thing the installation program asks you is "Where do you want to put me?" Dumb question. You want to put the program on your computer.

The application needs its own workspace on your hard drive. This space is referred to as a subdirectory. Only advanced users may have some special scheme or plan in this instance. You should accept whatever suggestion the installation program makes — it's probably a good one.

Configuring a computer application

Configuration is the stupidest part of setting up a computer application. This part is where the program asks you information about your own computer: "What kind of printer do you have? What kind of display or monitor is attached? How much memory do you have? Do you have a mouse?" These questions are ridiculous! After all, the computer program is asking you those questions, and it's already inside the computer, where it can look around more easily than you can.

Still, you may have to tell the computer what it has (which, again, is like asking other people how old you are at your next birthday party). These questions can be difficult. If you don't know the answers, grab someone who does. Otherwise, guess. The default or automatic selection options tell the program to guess on its own, so if they're available, select them.

An important item to select is a printer driver, which is a fancy way of telling the application which printer is manacled to your PC. Look for your printer's name and model number listed. If it's not there, select Dumb or Line printer (and then go to your dealer and beat up the guy who sold you the printer).

READ.ME file

Finally, last-minute instructions or information are offered in a special file on disk. It's given the name README, READ.ME, README.TXT, or README.DOC. Good installation programs ask you whether you want to view this file. Say yes. Look through the file for any information that applies to your situation.

A utility is usually offered with a program to provide automatic viewing of the READ.ME file. If not, you can view it by using this DOS command:

C> MORE < READ.ME

That's the MORE command, a space, a less-than sign (<), another space, and the name of the READ.ME file. If the file is named just README, type it without a period in the middle.

Using your new software

After you run the install or setup program, you get to use new software. As a suggestion, after installing any new software, reset your computer. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete or punch your computer's Reset button. (Some installation programs may do this part automatically.)

Do not reset your computer if you're using Windows! In that case, just close the DOS prompt window and start it up again to begin using your software.

To use the new program, type its name at the DOS prompt. The program's name should be in the manual or on a quick-reference card.

You're doing this step just to make sure that the program works as advertised. If something doesn't work, don't be too quick to blame yourself. Programs have bugs. Keep in mind that the features of a new program aren't immediately obvious.

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