Windows 98

The release of Windows 98 wasn’t that big a shock when it came to revolutionary changes, but it did have some useful new features and updates; new technologies such as USB, AGP and MMX were properly supported now and the PnP principle was improved. Besides, Windows 98 came with the ability to convert FAT16 drives into the new FAT32.

In order to run, 98 needs at least a 486DX running at 66 mhz and 16 Mb of ram. However, a Pentium class processor and at least 32 mb of ram is desired to run it at a usable speed. In comparison to Windows 95, it needs a lot more space on the hard disk, starting from 200 mb, not counting extra applications and swapfile space.

Because it also has a bigger driver library, 98 will encounter fewer problems with software. I find it to be a more reliable OS than any other produced by Microsoft in the past. But there are certain things to Windows 98 that force me to put the overall improvement in perspective: the Internet Explorer browser is integrated and the system is able to crash for really no reason. Fortunately the integration of the Internet Explorer can be removed, although Microsoft had stated in the past that it would not be possible.

Windows 98 SE

With the release of Windows 98 SE (second edition) quite a few problems were resolved and more support was added; support for USB was almost perfected and support for the Pentium III was added. Additionally, Windows was now ready for the euro (EU currency). After the upgrade to SE, I noticed the system crashed less, and I encountered fewer problems.

In conclusion, I’d like to state that in my opinion Windows 98 SE is the best modern OS based on the DOS kernel, its gaming support, USB support, FAT32 support, and stability makes it an obvious choice over Windows 95 or ME. One other matter to mention is that Microsoft still supports Windows 98 through Windows Update, but stopped making fixes for 95. Windows 98 played most of today’s fave games from EA Games, Microsoft, and more. Many apps worked with Windows 98 SE long into the future as well.

Windows Millennium Edition (ME)

Windows Me is the last in the line of Windows versions that is based on the 9.x kernel. After Windows ME, Microsoft decided to abandon it and continue with the more stable NT kernel.

Windows Me requires a Pentium class CPU with at least 150 mHz and 32 Mb of ram. However, my experience is that these requirements are not enough to run this os properly. A processor of 300 mHz with twice as much memory as stated above would be desired and when using the more demanding applications of Me, such as the Media player, I would consider it necessary. I am running Me on a Pentium III 800 mHz with 320 Mb of ram.

In the Microsoft campaign to promote Me, the term System Restore was heard often. This application would have the ability to roll back the system configuration to a previous state, when software or other matters made Me unstable. You could consider this feature as an indication that the os would not be really reliable. System Restore can’t always restore a previous state due to the fact that the application itself is not stable and when Me is rather seriously crippled, it can’t save you either. On top of that, it needs much space on the hard drive, eventually occupying an unacceptable amount. Do remember that the OS requires about 200 Mb to run more or less like it should. Besides System Restore, there were a few new applications included in Me, such as the Windows Movie Maker. This program allowed you to edit the material you shot with your camera. I personally never used this program, because there are much better movie editors around. Of course Me also came with the newest Media player and the latest DirectX.

Then there’s, as I already mentioned, the kernel used in Windows Me. Unlike the NT kernel, it does not reserve memory addresses for core applications. In other words, the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) is a principle unknown to Me. This causes the system to freeze and crash quite much, due to the fact that multiple applications try to store data in the same place. On my own system I need to reinstall Windows entirely every 6 months, because it has crashed completely.

But that’s not all; the option to reboot in DOS mode is hidden. It is impossible to boot into the command line environment without modifying some system files. This has bugged me a lot, because I used to boot Windows 95 and 98 in DOS mode by default. Then I could get some routine jobs done, before starting the GUI by typing “win”. I can’t think of a sane reason why Microsoft disallowed usage of DOS to its customers. However, hacks are available online to allow DOS mode support in Me.

There are however good things to mention about Windows Me: It has great game support, technologies such as USB work perfectly and the networking skills are quite good. You may give Me some credit for that, because not all versions of Windows support gaming as well as one would want it to.

Having mentioned the worse and the better sides to this product, I will most likely not surprise you when I say that I can’t recommend using this operating system. A good alternative would be Windows 98 SE for the somewhat older computers and Windows XP for newer systems.