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What You Should Know About Installing Screensavers

Do you remember that frustrating feeling when you find an interesting screensaver and can't install it on your computer? This article will help you to never have it again.

Back to when Windows 95 started to find its home on many computers there was just half a dozen of screensavers preinstalled with the system. All you could do was selecting one of these. It was as simple as boring.

Luckily those times are left behind. Now we have hundreds of screensavers developed throughout the years and available for download. Finding a nice screensaver matching your taste and style can be a hard task. How much disappointing is it when you are unable to install the discovery on your computer then? I bet you know.

Often you come across a screensaver with an intriguing description and no screenshots. You are curios to see it in action. But: SLAP! You can't figure out the way to make it work on your system and you will never know what you have missed. What a pity! I know.

Well... Enough! Enough of this! There should be a way to make us, screensaver hunters, luckier. Keep reading. There's something that can open a whole new world of screensavers to you.

First, in order to fight this evil, we should find its roots. Why is it so that we have the problem? Mainly it's because there are several ways to distribute screensavers:

  1. As self-extracting installation packages
  2. As ZIPped installation packages
  3. As individual .SCR files

The self-extracting packages are the easiest to install. You just download the screensaver and double click it. Then the installation program starts and performs all the steps necessary to install the screensaver. That is, you have it ready for use just with a few mouse clicks.

You can recognize the ZIPped installation packages by their names. They have ".zip" at the end. Double clicking such files will probably get you nowhere unless you are well prepared.

The third category is represented by files with names ending with ".scr". Activating such file usually launches the screensaver. That's not bad. At least you can see what it's all about. But this way it won't appear in the list of available screensavers that the operating system starts if your computer goes to rest. That is, you have to use a little trick if you like the screensaver.

Now that the reason of our problems is a bit more obvious, I almost hear your question. Once the self-extracting packages are the easiest to install, why just not to stick with them? Okay, you are right. It makes a perfect sense. But you forget one important thing. Screensavers are created by programmers.

And programmers differ from other computer users in that they see everything from their very specific and technical point of view. It's not a problem for them to extract files from ZIPped packages as they work with them very often. It is rather natural for them to copy files into secret system folders that 80% of users didn't hear about and don't have to.

That's why they create screensavers and put them on download sites in the form that is hard to install for you. But don't hurry to blame them. They mostly do it unintentionally, not because they hate people who can't handle ZIP archives or bare screensaver files.

I know it because I am one of them. In fact (my face goes red here) my Rainy Screensaver was distributed as a ZIPped package until version 1.7. Thanks to the people who provided me with their feedback. I really don't see any reason to hurt those who use their computers as tools or source of entertainment. These people don't have to know all technical aspects.

I hope more and more screensaver writers will understand this and will make their screensavers easier for you to install. Meanwhile you yourself can get the knowledge needed to handle not so friendly installations without a problem. So let's get back to installing ZIPped packages and bare screensaver files.

ZIPped installation packages

These ".zip" files are known as archives. It is very popular way to spread software and information over the net. They let you to "pack" many files into one that is much easier to download. They also use special methods known as compression to reduce the final size of the packed files and thus save your time and money spent downloading them.

In order to unpack (extract) files from a ZIPped package you should use a special program. Probably the most popular and easy to use is WinZip. You can download it from http://www.winzip.com. Windows XP has a built-in support for ".zip" files so, if you use Windows XP, there's no need for additional software.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a ".zip" package usually contains a collection of files that should be extracted somewhere before you can use them. It doesn't matter what program you use to extract the files. Just follow its instructions to do it and put extracted files in the place of your choice. It's better to create a special folder for such cases. Alternatively you can use temporary folder provided by Windows.

Once the files are extracted you should examine them. If you see one named "Install.exe" or "Setup.exe" among them then you can double click it to complete the installation process. Even though archives are very convenient when used on a bunch of files, they can be used to pack a single file to reduce its size. So if you have extracted a single file with its name ending with ".scr" then you should keep reading.

Bare screensaver files

As I have said before, these files have their name ending with ".scr". They are screensavers themselves. That is, they are the programs that create all these amazing effects when started. You can find some details about them in my article Windows Screensavers Explained.

The easiest known way to install ".scr" files is to right click on them and then choose "Install" from available menu options. Once you do this, Windows will set the screensaver as default and open Display Properties dialog where you can adjust screensaver's settings if you wish.

This way has some disadvantages though. First, you should be careful with where you keep the screensaver file. If you have put it in the temporary folder and it is likely to be deleted or moved somewhere else later, then the system won't find the screensaver anymore. So you'd better create a special folder for screensavers that you choose to install this way. Second, if you select another screensaver from the list in Display Properties dialog then Windows will forget any screensaver installed using the described method. That is, you will have to right click it and choose "Install" once and again.

Nevertheless, this way is very convenient if you just want to take a look at the screensaver, play with its settings and delete it. If you really like the screensaver and want it to brighten boring cloudy days then you'd better find a cozier place to keep it.

How do you find such place? It's easy. What you need is to drag the screensaver into your Windows folder. If you use Windows 95/98 or Windows Me then chances are this folder is on your drive C: and has a name of "Windows". If you use Windows NT/2000 or Windows XP then it's probably on your drive C: and is called "WINNT". Once you put the screensaver in this folder it will be available in the list of installed screensavers in Display Properties dialog. Now you can select it whenever you wish. Furthermore, you should worry no more about reinstalling it every time you change your mind and select another screensaver.

Tip: Sometimes you download a ZIPped installation package for screensaver, extract its contents to some folder and find there both "Setup.exe" (or "Install.exe") and ".scr" files. In this case double clicking "Install" or "Setup" is the preferred way. That's because the installation program will perform all the steps needed to install the screensaver like copying necessary files, updating system registry, providing uninstaller and so on. Simply copying the ".scr" file to Windows folder apparently won't do it.

Now that you have a few more useful tricks under your belt, you can install much more screensavers. Add to this acquired confidence that those screensavers you like are ready to please you whenever you wish and there's a good reason to become a bit happier.


About the author. Roman Kramar is a software developer who enjoys writing screensavers as his time permits. Visit his site at www.elasticsystems.com to find out more about screensavers and his work.
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