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87. End of the Road for Windows 98, Me

By Andrew D. Wright

If you are still using Windows 98 or Windows Millennium (or Me for short), then you probably already know that Microsoft is not planning to issue any more updates after July 11th, 2006. In fact, Microsoft has announced that a critical security flaw in Internet Explorer for these versions of Windows will not be patched.

What are your choices? If your computer has a 233 MHz processor or better, at least 64 MB of RAM or memory and 1,800 MB of free hard drive space, then you should think about upgrading to Windows XP, you meet Microsoft's minimum system requirements.

WIndows XP will be supported and updated for years to come. Already there are some new programs that have no Windows 98 or Me versions.

There are also other Operating System alternatives such as Linux, which comes in a number of different varieties.

Windows 98 and Me users can buy themselves some more time with some simple precautions.

First, stop using Internet Explorer as your primary web browser. Both Mozilla Firefox and Opera are free web browsers that continue to support Windows 98 and Me and are updated regularly with security patches. Opera even supports Windows 95 users. Internet Explorer for Windows 98 and Me is tightly integrated with the Windows Operating System, will not be patched further and is already vulnerable to attack.

Your web browser is always being exposed to the world at large and is a frequently exploited method of access to your computer. It needs to be secure.

Second, if you have not done this already, it is a good idea to get a firewall. If your computer is on a high speed connection using cable or DSL, then you should have a router, available for around $50 at any electronics store, between the cable or DSL modem and your computer.

This is to protect your computer against network-based attacks exploiting vulnerabilities already known and yet-to-be-discovered in Windows 98 and Me.

If you are a dial-up user, you may already be protected against attacks using the commonly exploited ports like 135, 137, 139, and 445. Either way it's a good idea to protect yourself with a software firewall. High speed users without routers can use software firewalls for protection too.

Commercial anti-virus providers frequently include software firewalls with their products and there are also no cost firewall software products available.

All Windows users should already be running a regularly updated anti-virus program anyway, but in the interest of thoroughness, anti-virus software is compatible with Windows 98 and Me and is strongly recommended.

When the final updates for Windows 98 and Me come out July 11th, Windows 98 and Me will be complete. After downloading all the various Windows Updates, it would be the perfect time to make a full backup of your system.

There are free and commercially available programs that will let you take an image of your hard drive you can use to recover from some disaster like a total hard drive failure or messed-up software installation.

Mozilla Firefox (free):

Opera (free):

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email or click here. If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 2 July 2006


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