This week I pulled out an old PC to see if I could use it for a project. It was an HP 800 mHz Celeron with Windows 98 on it. I turned it on and went through the screens and played with the old Operating system.
Then it occurred to me: There are probably people out there that still use this Operating System on a day to day basis. It made me wonder why anyone would continue to use this antiquated OS. It’s slow and it doesn’t have the bells and whistles like newer OS’s such as Vista, XP and Ubuntu. Most importantly it can be a security hazard to use nowadays. So what can you do without having to dole out lots of cash for a new computer?
Windows 98 came out in August of 1998 as the next generation to Windows 95. When Windows 97 “Nashville” was scraped, Windows 98 took on the focus. 98 was to usher in a “Web experience” in your operating system. It included a feature where you could make your Desktop Active with web content.
98 also fixed and improved a lot of issues in 95. FAT32 first comes to mind. Since FAT16 had limitations on hard disk size and how it used it, FAT32 was introduced to handle drives in Gigabyte format. After 2 Gig, files on a FAT16 partition would start to take up more space then they needed to. Ultimately, you could only have a 4 Gig drive setup. You could counter larger hard drives by making multiple partitions, but who wants 50 – 4 Gig partitions?
98 also implemented DMA – Direct Memory Access for hard drives. This would pass information without bothering the processor. It still was dependant on the speed of the memory and hard drive, which wasn’t as fast, either.
There are a ton of other reasons why the switch to 98 was detramental – USB support, Application loading and Spider Solitaire. I played a lot of that when I started out. The Pinball game was also cool, but I missed the Weezer video.
Really quick; which is about as much time as Microsoft gave it – in retrospect, Windows ME came out September of 2000 and was suppose to replace 98. It had more web functions and was to coincide with Windows 2000. It was to move away from the 95, 98 core and usher in a bunch of cool new ideas. The OS was great “In theory”, but Microsoft realized that merging into XP should be the focus, therefore the Operating system was scrapped.
OK. Enough about those days of yore. The real question is “Why should you get rid of 98” (or ME if you still have it)?
Let’s start with the most important reason. It’s a big ole security hole. In its defense, Windows 98/ME support finally ended in July of 2006. Yes, 2006. XP has been out since October 2001.
So support ended 2 years ago. Any bugs after that wouldn’t get fixed. I wasn’t able to find any documentation on major issues, but I did see some web issues out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big gaping security hole.Believe me – Winders ain’t perfect.
Of course then there is the fact that no one writes software for Windows 98/ME anymore. If you are running any type of financial system and it’s not your own, then you are most likely running outdated code. If your program breaks in the middle of an important time, good luck trying to get someone to fix it. Unless you have lots of money, you most likely will be out in the cold, or at least very frigid.
Getting a new computer for Windows 98 might not be an option, either. Newer machines mean newer technology. Windows 98 has no idea what “Dual Core” is, let alone Dual Quad. It will recognize a Pentium 4 chip, but might not recognize all its instructions. It should run the com ports and the parallel port fine, but don’t expect it to run sound, some USB or any other peripheral you have attached. There might be a driver out there for it, but then again, nobody’s really putting in time to develop or test.
So what if you don’t want to upgrade that computer and still get off of Windows 98? What do you do then?
One idea would be to move to Linux. Ubuntu has modest system requirements. 300 MHz; x86 processor; 64 MB of RAM; 4 GB of disk space and VGA Graphics.
I have installed XP SP2 on a Pentium II 266 mHz laptop with 128 Megs of RAM. It took a long time to do. I pretty much did the Ronco thing – set it and forgetaboutit! It ran slow – no, REALLY slow. You could do that, but then again, XP support is about to go away, too.
Prices on computers have dropped considerably. I can get a simple laptop for $400 and a desktop for even less. Even a UMPC could do more than that jalopy in the corner. And it’s more energy efficient, too.
I liked Windows 98 a lot. It was a great advantage to 95 and with the Symantec software I could control the crashes a lot better. If I had it setup today, I would never take it online and especially use it to hold personal or financial data. Not only has the OS become a risk to my data, it might not understand the processor instructions of newer computers. All in all a fun project to putz around with though. So if you have 98 or ME, you should think about changing up. You don’t need the latest and greatest, but at prices nowadays, you will be plenty impressed on the improvements.