by Steve Lopez

I've been manning the ChessBase USA tech support line for a week now and I've already discovered the single most pressing problem with ChessBase 7:

Windows 98.

Everytime Big Brother Bill decrees that the world will now use a new operating system, we wind up with a certain number of support problems. I was working for ChessBase USA full-time when Windows 95 was introduced and I'd rather eat a bag of broken glass than repeat the problems we had with CBWin and Windows 95 compatibility (or lack thereof).

Where do you want to go today? Where I want to go is on a trip to show you the steps to take if your ChessBase 7 (and, to a lesser extent, Fritz5) stops working after you install Windows 98. By "stops working" I mean that you suddenly can't even run the program, getting an error message everytime you try to get into it.

The first step is fairly easy. If you can use a word processor, you can do this. Open the Notepad program that comes with Windows. This is just a text editor that works exactly like a word processor. You should be able to find it by clicking the "Start" button, going to "Programs", then "Accessories". You should see it listed there. Start Notepad, then go the "File" menu and select "Open". You'll see the standard Windows file select box open. Change "File of type:" to "All files". Go to the folder where you've installed the ChessBase 7 files and look for the file CB.INI. Open this file.

This is the file where ChessBase stores its various configuration settings (the locations of your databases, the color of the chessboard, etc.). In the section under "[Parameters]", you'll see the following two entries:

Language= [this will be followed by a number]
InputLang= [this, too, will be followed by a number]

Change both of these numbers to 0 (that's a zero, friend, not a letter o). Go back to the "File" menu in Notepad and click "Save". Close Notepad. Now go back and try starting your ChessBase 7.

If ChessBase 7 still doesn't start, then we'll have to tweak your graphics accelerator. This is easy and fun (well, easy anyway).

Make sure that you've closed all the programs on your PC. Click on your "Start" button, then go to "Settings". Go to "Control Panel". You should see a window that looks remarkably like this:

Way down there near the bottom, you'll see an icon called "System". Please to double-click on it. You should see a window called "System Properties" appear. You will see several "file folder" tabs near the top. One of these is labeled "Performance." Click on it and you will see the following:

Note near the bottom that there is a button marked "Graphics". Please click on that and you'll see the last stop on our tour:

This is the place where we'll reset your graphics acceleration. Note the hilarious message in the window: "Use this setting if your computer has no problems". Guess what? Your computer has problems -- your ChessBase won't run. So we'll need to reset this.

See the slider next to "Hardware acceleration"? Yours is most likely set the whole way to the right (as mine is in the illustration). Slide it the whole way to the left. Now click "OK". You'll be kicked back to the previous window; click "OK" there, too.

Now you'll get a message telling you that your computer needs to be restarted. Click on the handy button they've provided for the purpose of restarting your computer. Once your computer has restarted, try starting ChessBase 7.

Nine times out of ten one of these two steps will solve your problem. No, make that "nineteen times out of twenty". If you're one of the lucky 5% that still can't get the program to run, head for ChessBase International's web site, go to the Downloads page, and download the latest ChessBase 7 patch. Unzip it, run it, and you should be OK.

If resetting your graphics accelerator solved the problem, you might try going back into the window with the slider and cranking it up one notch, restarting your computer, and seeing if ChessBase will run. If so, go back and crank the accelerator up another notch. Do this until you find the point at which ChessBase won't run, then turn the accelerator down a notch.

Problems getting into Fritz5 are much more rare. In these cases, use Notepad to edit the "Language" and "Input lang" settings in the file F5.INI, located in the folder with your Fritz5 files. Set both of these values to 0 (as described above for ChessBase 7). Should that not take care of the problem, download and install the latest Fritz5 patch from ChessBase International's web page. If that doesn't work, then try resetting your graphics accelerator as a last resort. (The reason for this slightly different series of steps is because of a known problem with early versions of Fritz5 and certain graphics settings. Installing the patch makes it unnecessary to tweak your graphics settings in the vast majority of cases).

That should nail down any problems you have starting these two programs in Windows 98. We do occasionally see the same problems happening to users of Windows 95; in these cases, the procedures are exactly the same as given here.

If you don't have Windows 98 and are planning on acquiring it (I'd use the word "upgrade" instead of "acquire" but the jury is still out on that particular rant -- err, case), please make a printout of this week's Electronic T-Notes and keep it with your manual. Referring to it in case of problems will save you time and a phone call.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. Stop by the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club and the Chess Kamikaze Home Page.