Win3.1x is really much simpler to deal with than Win9x. There are many settings you can change quite easily, often without even restarting Windows, let alone rebooting the computer. Very often, you can get big programs like web browsers to work just by changing the settings for the time slices and activating Windows' software FIFO (First In/First Out) buffers.
To do this, open up Control Panel (in Program Group Main) and then the 386Enhanced Panel. The default settings are, Window in Foreground, 100, Window in Background, 50 and Minimum Timeslice 20. This is not, in general, very efficient. Better is to change the first two to 350/150, respectively. (You can use typeover for this.) This changes the relative proportions of the two settings. What we're doing here is giving the foreground program (the browser) a larger share of time to do its CPU-intensive job.
Next, we change the Minimum Timeslice. If the modem is a 28.8 or greater, set it to 6; for a 14.4, 12. If you have a slower modem, don't change it. The reasoning here is that the dialer, being the background program, only needs enough time to check if there's anything from the modem to deal with. If so, it uses as much of the timeslice as it needs; if not, it goes back to sleep sooner.
Last, you go to the top part of the window, Device Contention. This setting tells Windows how and when to check to see if two programs need the same device. We know that the dialer is the only program using whatever com port the modem is on. We don't need Windows checking. Click on the com port for the modem and set it to Never Warn. Click OK. The settings take effect.
The next part requires editing SYSTEM.INI. After closing Control Panel, click on File and Run in Program Manager. The program to run is SYSEDIT. This opens a number of windows, containing the text of various system config files. The one we want is SYSTEM.INI.
After bringing it to the front, take a look at it. The first line looks like this:
This is the beginning of a section. All sections start with one or more words between square brackets, on a line of their own. (You'll need this later.) Click on Search, Find. Type in:
and click on Next. This will find the section we need by a partial match. Move the cursor down to the next line. Click on Search, Find again. Remove the 3 and click on Next. This finds the start of the next section, whatever it is. There may be a blank line above it; if so, put the cursor on that line. If not, put it at the end of the line above the new section and press Enter to create one. In what follows, ? stands for the number of the Com Port the modem uses. Type the following, noting that it's on two separate lines:
Put one blank line after it. Windows will ignore it, and it makes things easier to read. Click on File, Save, File Exit. Exit Windows to a DOSprompt and restart Windows. This change will take effect. What we've done is tell Windows to use its own FIFO buffers for the port, in addition to the hardware ones in the modem or Com Port and to give them a whole 1024 bytes, rather than the default of 128 bytes. In many cases, big programs that wouldn't work, or worked too slowly to be usable come to life.