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SHOULD YOU OPEN THE DOOR TO WINDOWS 95?

To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question.

With the release of Windows 95, we all have a decision to make. Shell out $89.95 and be on the cutting edge, or wait a while and see what happens?Here's my take after using the beta release for months and the shipping version for the last week.

You are a candidate to upgrade now if you:

- have a 486 or faster processor.

- have at least 8 megs of RAM installed.

- have at least 70 megs of space free on your boot drive without compression.

- have made a backup of Drive C or are willing to risk losing everything and starting over.

- are willing to put up with a few bugs for more stability.

- don't expect your applications to run any faster. (They won't. They just won't crash as often.)

- have read Microsoft's hardware and software compatibility lists and don't have any conflicts.

If you're OK with the above, upgrade now. For the price, Windows 95 is a solid improvement in stability and ease of use. The interface is pretty, intuitive and easy to learn. You shouldn't have to pay more than $90 for the upgrade judging from the ads I have seen. If you have a CD-ROM drive, buy the CD version to save a lot of time and get a neat helicopter game called "Hover" and lots of other goodies. Otherwise you're looking at installing via 13 compressed floppies.

If you plan to use a direct connection to the Internet, buy the "Plus Pack" for Windows 95 (less than $45) to get the dial-up networking components you need. It tosses in some other features, including a system sentry that defrags your hard disks and does other maintenance when your computer is idle. And a neat pinball game, too.

Before you install, read the installation manual. Changing operating systems is not something you can do by typing "setup." Some commands in your AUTOEXEC.-BAT and CONFIG.SYS files might have to be removed; do that by typing REM in the front of those lines. In my case I had to remove all mentions of my memory manager and REM-out my PATH statement. You might have to change to the regular VGA video driver BEFORE installing Windows 95. Read the book.

In order to buy the "upgrade" version of Windows 95, you need to already have Windows installed. If you are upgrading from DOS, OS/2 or something else, you need the full version, which costs about $180.

And don't run out and buy 32-bit versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and all that right away. Get used to the new operating system for a while, try out your old applications (many of which will get an automatic facelift from Win95) and get comfortable. Too many upgrades at once can be troubling. Plus, Word won't run any faster in the 32-bit version; the benefit is true "multitasking" and use of resources. So wait a bit.

For businesses, the decision to upgrade is more complicated. There are training costs involved, support fees and the huge cost of upgrading to 32-bit applications. I expect most should wait until early next year; some will want to move to Windows NT, a more robust operating system that is getting the Windows 95 interface now.

I hope you all have fun and write me with your thoughts.

- CALL OF THE WEEK: Helix Software Co. is now shipping "Hurricane," a RAM doubler for Windows that also includes a replacement disk cache, print spooler and RAM drive. I'm even more impressed with it than I was with SoftRam or RAM Doubler. Using the Winstone benchmarks, my system even ran faster than it did before installation. You should have at least 4 megs of RAM and a 386 or better processor. It lists for $79 but is widely discounted. Call 718-392-3100 for information. (A Windows 95 version is free to registered users when available.)

- NEWSGROUP PICK: "comp.os.ms-windows.setup" for help installing Windows 95.