In July, Microsoft will no longer support Windows 98, 98SE, or Me.
In late 2002, Microsoft published a new Life-Cycle Policy, stating that Windows 98, 98SE and Me would reach End of Life in 2003 and 2004. Although these versions of Windows are no longer available, they have continued to receive certain updates, such as security patches, and many people with older computers continue to use them today. However, in July, the risk of continuing to operate computers with these old versions of Windows will increase.
This last January, Microsoft published an End of Support statement, saying that they will no longer be providing support or updates for these versions of Windows past July 11, 2006. Although they indicate that they will continue to provide access to already existing documentation and patches, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before these are also no longer available.
So, what are your options? Microsoft, of course, would have you purchase a new version of Windows, such as XP Home or Professional, to replace your no-longer-supported version. Unfortunately, many of the systems currently running Windows 98/98SE/Me simply don’t have the speed or memory resources required to support XP, or even Windows 2000. Depending on the age of your hardware, you might be able to get away with increasing your memory to 512Mb or greater — I know of a couple of 750MHz Pentium III systems w/512Mb or RAM that are running Windows XP Home, but they tend to run very, very slowly. To get adequate use out of XP, you will probably have to replace your computer.
Whether or not you decide to replace your system, this might be an opportunity to look at an alternative to Windows for your aging machine: NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, or one of the many Linux distributions — all of which perform rather well on these older computers as well as today’s hottest systems.