Windows 3.1 Setup Information

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The Windows 3.1 Setup program has been changed substantially from the Windows 3.0 Setup program. Setup was changed in order to improve its ease of use and to give you more control over the setup process.

When upgrading your machine from Windows 3.0 to Windows 3.1, the setup process will maintain your group files, system drivers and settings, desktop settings, applications, type managers, and CONFIG.SYS file settings, including the order in which your device drivers are loaded. Windows 3.1 Setup will update existing Windows device drivers (if 3.1 has updated versions), add any new entries to your .INI files, and install TrueType fonts.

The Setup program also has a tutorial that will familiarize you with the Microsoft Windows operating system version 3.1 and show you how to use the mouse.

When you select the Setup Existing Applications option, Setup will prompt you to identify applications with identical filenames. This new feature allows Setup to create program information files (PIFs) for MS- DOS applications that use the same .EXE filename.


When Setup is first invoked, it searches your system for memory- resident programs, such as device drivers or terminate-and-stay- resident (TSR) programs, which are known to cause problems with Setup or Windows 3.1. If Setup does detect a memory-resident program, it will advise you to remove that device driver or TSR program from your CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file, restart your system, and then start Setup again.

Setup will also check the available space on your hard drive. If Setup detects a lack of space for a full installation, it will provide an option for a partial installation of Windows. If the setup process does not complete for some reason (such as a power failure), you can start Setup again, and it will detect that the setup process has not been completed. At this point, Setup will offer suggestions on how to correct the condition that caused the previous setup to fail.


The Windows 3.1 Setup program has new command-line switches in addition to those of the Windows 3.0 Setup program. The following is a list of the command-line switches that can be used with the Windows 3.1 Setup program:
setup /? -- Displays the Help dialog box and a list of available command-line switches.

setup /n -- Sets up a shared copy of Windows from a network server.

setup /i -- Disables the hardware detection that the Setup program normally performs. Using the setup /i option allows you to check the accuracy of the settings on the System Information screen and possibly make corrections.

setup /o:<filespec> -- Specifies the SETUP.INF file, where <filespec> is the name of the SETUP.INF file that will be used by Setup.

setup /s:<filepath> -- Specifies a path to the Setup disk, where <filepath> is the full path to the Setup disk.

setup /b -- Forces Setup to run in monochrome mode.

setup /t -- Causes Setup to search the drive for software that is incompatible and should not be run at the same time as Setup or Windows 3.1.

setup /c -- Turns off the search for memory-resident programs.

setup /a -- Starts an administrative Setup program that places Windows onto a network server. Setup expands and copies all the files on every disk to a given directory and then marks the files read-only.

setup /h:<filespec> -- Starts Batch Mode Setup, which requires little or no user interaction. <Filespec> is the name of the system settings file that contains your configuration settings. If <filespec> is not in the directory from which Windows is being set up, the path to it must also be included.


The Windows 3.1 Setup program has new setup modes, Express and Custom modes, as well as a new Batch Mode Setup feature that allows for automation of the setup procedure.

Express Setup

The Express Setup mode is new to Windows 3.1 and is the default installation mode. It automatically detects the system hardware and applies standard defaults to all other installation options. When upgrading from Windows 3.0 using Express Setup, the only entry requirement is your name. If using Express Setup for a new installation of Windows 3.1, you will be required to enter your name and select a printer, printer type, and printer port, if applicable.

Custom Setup

The Custom Setup mode is very similar to the Windows 3.0 Setup process, with some additional features. A custom installation allows you to have full control in selecting the Windows directory, system hardware, optional component installation, changes to the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files, printer installation, and setup of existing applications. If you are upgrading from an existing 3.0 installation, some options, such as the Printer Installation dialog box, will not be selected by default, in order to preserve the existing drivers.

Batch Mode Setup

The Batch Mode Setup process is designed to simplify and speed up the installation of Windows 3.1 onto multiple machines that will be using the same or very similar configuration information. Batch Mode Setup uses the /h:<filespec> switch, as described above. Setup uses the information provided in the specified file to determine the configuration during the setup process; minimal user input is required. If hardware or setup options are not specified in the file, Batch Mode Setup will use defaults for these options and will perform automatic detection of the system's hardware. The file containing the configuration information typically has an extension of .SHH. Windows 3.1 includes a sample file, with explanatory comments, called SETUP.SHH that can be modified to meet your needs. For more information about the Batch Mode Setup program for Windows 3.1, see the Microsoft Windows Resource Kit. For more information, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center (MSIC) at (800) 426-9400.

Maintaining Windows with Setup

Once you have successfully installed Windows 3.1, you can use the Windows Setup program to update your installation whenever your hardware or software configuration changes. To update your Windows 3.1 installation, start Setup either from inside Windows or from the WINDOWS directory command prompt.

When you start Setup from the command prompt, you can change the Windows device drivers for your system hardware, change code page and language options, and install third-party Windows device drivers.

When you start Setup from within Windows, you can change the video, mouse, keyboard, and network drivers. You can also have Setup search your hard disk for applications and set up icons for any applications it finds. You can also use Setup to add or remove, completely or partially, the optional components that come with Windows 3.1. The following are the components that can be added or removed through Setup:
README files
Windows accessories
Screen savers
Wallpaper and sounds


The MS-DOS Portion of Setup

The first part of the Windows 3.1 setup process runs with MS-DOS. If the Setup program stops during this part of the installation, it may be due to one of the following problems:
  1. Inability to correctly detect the system's hardware (which may result in your machine stopping).

    To correct this problem, run Setup again by typing setup /i. This command causes Setup to bypass its hardware detection and run the Custom Setup process. When the System Information screen comes up, choose the settings that match the hardware on your system.
  2. Incompatible hardware or software.

    Run Setup again, and it will display a failure detection message, prompting you to take the necessary steps to continue. Continue the setup process and specify the correct hardware when the System Information screen appears. If the System Information selections appear correct, a memory-resident program may be interfering with the setup process. In such an instance, exit Setup and restart the machine with minimal CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. Using a text editor such as Notepad, comment out any entries in these files that are not absolutely necessary for the operation of the machine. (To comment out an entry, type rem at the beginning of the line.)

    NOTE: If you do not know the purpose of a line in your CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file, leave that line as is. Also, if the system has RAM or ROM shadowing, this should be disabled, as it can interfere with both Setup and Windows 3.1.
  3. Hard disk problems.

    If your hard disk has a number of lost clusters (allocation units), is excessively fragmented, or has a number of bad sectors, Windows Setup may not be able to run. In such a case, the best course of action is to run the MS-DOS command CHKDSK. Note the amount of available disk space and whether CHKDSK reports any lost allocation units. If lost allocation units are reported, you can correct this problem by typing chkdsk /f.

    CAUTION: If the number of lost allocation units is excessive (anything more than 10-20 lost allocation units), there may be a problem elsewhere in the system. Running CHKDSK /F with an excessive number of lost allocation units may result in data corruption on your hard disk. It is best to speak with your support consultant in such an instance to determine the best course of action. Bad sectors and fragmented disks can be corrected by using third-party utility packages such as Norton Utilities from Symantec, or PC Tools from Central Point.

The Windows Portion of Setup

Partway through the installation, the setup process will switch from MS-DOS to Windows. Windows Setup will inform you that it is trying to start Windows. At the point where the Setup program switches from MS- DOS to Windows, the screen may go black and the machine may stop. The following are possible causes and their resolutions:

  1. Conflicts with memory-resident applications (TSR programs and/or device drivers).

    When you started Setup, your system had an program in memory that writes directly to your video screen, rather than going through the BIOS--for example, a TSR network messaging program that notifies you when a print job completes. Other memory-resident programs can also interfere with Windows Setup. Setup will detect and warn you about many incompatible memory-resident programs when it first starts. (The file SETUP.TXT, located on Disk 1, provides additional information about using these programs with Setup or Windows. The information about memory-resident programs is listed alphabetically by program name.) Make sure that any extraneous applications and device drivers have been closed or commented out of your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files before starting Windows 3.1 Setup. To comment out an entry, type rem at the beginning of the line.

    NOTE: If you do not know the purpose of a line in your CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file, leave that line as is.
  2. Inability to correctly detect hardware. Type setup /i at the command prompt. When the System Information screen comes up, make sure that the settings displayed match the hardware on the system. If the settings shown do not match, change them to the correct settings.
  3. Incompatible hardware or software.

    Run Setup again; Setup will display a message indicating which device is incompatible and prompt you to specify a different device. On the System Information screen, verify that all the settings are correct and modify them if they are not. If you are still unable to proceed through Setup, try installing Windows by typing setup /i, choosing the lowest resolution supported by your monitor, and selecting the No Mouse Or Other Pointing Device option. If the Setup program proceeds, you can run Setup again after Windows installs to correctly configure Windows for your machine. Install the proper configuration components one at a time. If you encounter problems with one or more of the components, contact the manufacturer of the component in question for more information.
  4. Incorrect version of MS-DOS.

    Windows 3.1 requires MS-DOS version 3.1 or later. To determine what version of MS-DOS is present on your system, type ver at the MS-DOS command prompt, and you will receive a message indicating your MS-DOS version. If necessary, install a newer version of MS-DOS and then run Setup again. When you attempt to install Windows 3.1 with a version of MS-DOS prior to 3.1, Setup will display an error message and terminate. It is also important that the version of MS-DOS on your machine is designed for that machine.

    CAUTION: Do not run an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) version of MS-DOS on a machine not manufactured by that OEM (for example, COMPAQ MS-DOS on an IBM machine).
If the Setup program does not detect that you have inserted the disk that you were prompted for, one of the following conditions may be true:

  1. A disk-caching utility may be caching the floppy disk drive.

    To remove the disk cache, use a text editor such as Notepad to open the CONFIG.SYS or the AUTOEXEC.BAT file and comment out the line pertaining to the disk-caching utility. To comment out a line, type rem at the beginning of the line. After saving the file and exiting your editor, restart your system and run Setup again.
  2. The system may not have received the message that the floppy disk has been changed.

    Under MS-DOS 3.2 and later, you can try to correct this problem by adding either DRIVPARM or DRIVER.SYS to your CONFIG.SYS file and then restarting your computer. For example, if you are setting up Windows 3.1 from drive A, and it is a high-density 5.25-inch drive, you would add ONE of the following lines to your CONFIG.SYS file:
    drivparm=/d:0 /f:1
    device=c:\dos\driver.sys /d:0 /f:1
    NOTE: If your MS-DOS files are located in a directory other than C:\DOS, make the appropriate change to the path in the above device= line. For more information on either of these commands, please refer to your MS-DOS user's guide.


If you are using a nonstandard display driver, such as Super VGA, with Windows 3.0, you may receive an error message or encounter difficulty while starting Windows 3.1. The following are error messages that can be caused by an incompatible display driver:
Error loading VGA.DRV
will appear if the driver cannot be loaded.

NOTE: "VGA.DRV" will change to match the name of the currently installed display driver.
Error loading USER.EXE
Error loading GDI.EXE
can be caused by other nonstandard Windows drivers or components.

If you encounter any of these messages, you may need to exit Setup and run Setup within Windows 3.0 to return Windows 3.0 to a standard configuration. Once Windows 3.0 is at a standard configuration, run Windows 3.1 Setup. Contact your hardware manufacturer to see if there are any special concerns.

If none of the above steps allows Setup to install Windows 3.1 on your system, you may need to contact your hardware manufacturer for more information.


Article ID: 83194 - Last Review: February 7, 2002 - Revision: 1.0
  • Microsoft Windows 3.1 Standard Edition
kbinfo kbsetup KB83194
Retired KB Content Disclaimer
This article was written about products for which Microsoft no longer offers support. Therefore, this article is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.

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