Windows Me and You

With the recent release of Windows Me, we once again ask the question, "should I upgrade?" This time, however, the answer is slightly different.

With Windows 98 and 98 Second Edition, we advised clients not to upgrade unless they needed specific features found in those versions. Windows 98 added support for larger hard drives, for example, and Second Edition included Internet sharing software.

Businesses may not even use many of Windows Me's new features. Microsoft targets Windows Me (which stands for Millennium Edition but is pronounced "me") squarely at home users. In contrast, Microsoft has repeatedly tried to steer businesses towards Windows NT, now known as Windows 2000 Professional.

What's New

New features include a System Restore feature designed to restore your system to a known working configuration if problems occur, as well as multimedia enhancements such as Media Player 7 and Movie Maker. New versions of other software such as Internet Explorer and NetMeeting are included too, but Windows 95 and 98 users can download those programs for free.

Windows Me also updates the Windows 98 desktop to look more like Windows 2000.

The Down Side

According to several reports, Windows Me frequently has stability issues if installed as an upgrade. New PCs that come with (and are presumably designed for) Windows Me reportedly fare better.

Microsoft has removed the ability to boot to DOS mode. This means users with older DOS games may be out of luck unless they run under Windows. It also means that users cannot boot to DOS mode to fix problems or run some utilities. Users do have the ability to make a bootable Startup floppy, however.

Windows Me will likely be slower than Windows 98 on your PC, too. PC Magazine has noted that users with 500 MHz or higher CPUs "shouldn't" notice a slowdown from the System Restore utility, for example. Not only does the utility take a minimum of 200 MB of disk space, but it also runs a backup every 10 hours. For all this, many users may think that it backs up their whole PC, but will discover to their horror that it does not back up any data files! Further, if you disable the utility it erases all previous backups.

Another confusing point is Windows Me's use of the Apply button. Microsoft has changed the standard so that users must now click Apply before clicking OK if they want their changes saved in dialogs, after telling users for the last 5 years this was optional. Even worse, some dialog boxes still work the old way.

Our Advice

Our rule of thumb for operating system upgrades is to not upgrade unless you have a good reason. Users should remember an operating system is the heart of a PC, and there are many things to worry about when performing a heart transplant. Microsoft likes to pack additional software into Windows to induce users to upgrade, but this time many enhancements can be downloaded for free. For this reason we feel users should not upgrade to Windows Me until its stability problems are fixed.

October 2000

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