SAN MATEO (05/23/2000) - A programmer renowned for showing how Internet Explorer (IE) could be removed from Microsoft Corp. Windows 98 has topped himself. Shane Brooks' new product, 98Lite III, lets you remove almost any part of Windows you don't want.
Windows 98 can consume as much as 180MB of disk space on preinstalled systems.
By contrast, 98Lite III can install Windows or cut an existing installation down to 90MB (in "sleek" mode) or 60MB (in "micro" mode).
Using an advanced flavor of the utility, Brooks even lets you install a stripped-down, "embedded" Windows. This paper-thin Windows, basically a user interface plus networking, consumes only 16MB of disk space.
The software even works on Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Windows Millennium Edition. I shall call it Mini-Me. Groovy, baby.
At a high point of Microsoft's antitrust trial, in March 1999, David Streitfeld, a reporter from The Washington Post, and I wrote extensive articles about Brooks' previous version of 98Lite. That product successfully removed the visible portions of Microsoft's browser -- something the company said was impossible. (I've lovingly framed the personal note signed by Bill Gates thanking me for my commitment to uncovering the truth.)Once deleting IE using the old 98Lite, however, the browser is hard to bring back. 98Lite III has a big, big difference: The new utility's removal of Windows components is almost completely reversible.
After running 98Lite III, each supposedly permanent component of Win98 becomes just another check box in the Add/ Remove Programs control panel. For example, IE 5.0 shows up as a 36MB item that you can install or uninstall in Windows Setup.
Besides IE, some of the more than 30 features 98Lite III lets you remove are Media Player, Task Scheduler, ISDN, "Legacy Windows 3.1 Files," Imaging Support, DirectX, Stationery, and System Information.
Removing Web integration features can have substantial performance and stability benefits for users. I asked readers last year to perform benchmark tests on systems after using 98Lite 2.0. They reported results of 15 to 35 percent faster after removing IE.
If you delete a particular component then later decide you want it back, just select the correct box in Add/Remove Programs. The app reinstalls itself from your original CD or Windows .cab files. (Deleting IE does remove Favorites and other personal tweaks. These are easy to back up if you want to save them. The "micro" install of 98Lite also disables HTML Help, as explained in the instructions, which are a must-read.)Obviously, slicing major portions out of Windows is not something you should do lightly, so to speak.
The 98Lite III installation process includes the warning: "Note: You nullify all support contracts with Microsoft Corporation should you proceed with this installation."
What Brooks has done will be of great interest to companies that need a smaller, faster, hardier build of the operating system we love to hate.
Sometimes you want a Windows machine to run only a single task quickly and efficiently. Tuning your own "sleek" installation of Windows might just fit this bill for you.
The 16MB installation of Windows, in particular, could have vast implications for Internet appliances and other devices that need to be small and simple.
Instead of using Pocket PC (nee Windows CE), which can't run most Windows apps, you might use a tiny but genuine Windows kernel, which can.
You create the 16MB build of Windows using a separate product, to be released in a few weeks: 98EOS, which stands for "Embedded Operating System."
Brooks is releasing 98Lite III on his Web site in several flavors with different licenses. The single-user version has a registration price of $25; the enterprise version, for multiple PCs, costs $21 per seat or less in volume; 98EOS is expected to cost under $150.
For details, go to www.98lite.net (not www.98lite.com -- a copycat site). Send me your findings, with "98Lite" as the subject.
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Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 2000 Secrets (IDG Books). Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. He regrets he cannot answer individual questions.