Top five reasons to leave Windows 9x behind

For those still clinging to a Windows 9x operating system, now is the time to move on. Check out the top five reasons for moving to Windows 2000 or XP, and find out what you need to do if you decide to make the change.

If you're still using the Windows 95 or Windows 98 operating system, it’s high time you consider moving on with your computer life. There are a lot better things that you can do with your computer than mess around with an ancient OS. Besides, Windows XP, on the market since Oct. 25, 2001, has proven itself far superior to all the Microsoft operating systems that came before it in just about every facet of computing. Still need convincing? Let’s take a look at the top five reasons you should leave Windows 9x behind.

Windows family history
For an interesting look at the origins of the Windows operating system, check out the Microsoft article "Windows Operating Systems Family History."

1. No more hardware support
If you ever need or want to buy a new peripheral device for your Windows 9x system, you’re on your own as far as hardware support goes. On July 1, 2002, Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Quality Labs officially stopped accepting submissions for all hardware devices for the Windows 98 SE operating system. (It stopped accepting submissions for the original Windows 98 in late 1999 and for Windows 95 way before that.) Essentially, this means that Microsoft has stopped requiring that hardware manufacturers create drivers that work with Windows 98. (Keep in mind that, in some cases, Windows ME drivers will work in Windows 98, but there’s no real guarantee.)

2. No more technical support
If you need technical support on any kind of Windows 9x operating system problem, your options are very limited if not nonexistent. To outline how it provides technical support for its operating system products, Microsoft has provided an official Product Support Lifecycle policy. (This most recent policy took effect Oct. 15, 2002.) In short, the policy states that the Mainstream Support Phase runs for five years. After that, the Extended Support Phase takes over and lasts for two years. At the eight-year marker, the Online Self-Help Support phase begins.

Microsoft stopped offering mainstream technical support for Windows 95 on Dec. 31, 2000. It then stopped offering extended technical support for Windows 95 on Dec. 31, 2001. (Keep in mind that Windows 95’s support lifecycle fell under an earlier policy guideline.) Windows 95 is now in the online self-help phase, meaning that your only means of official technical support for Windows 95 is existing content in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

As far as Windows 98 goes, Microsoft will stop offering mainstream technical support on June 20, 2003. This brings the operating system into the extended technical support phase, which basically means that you can still get official support for the operating system, but you’ll have to pay for it. Of course, you still have access to all the official Windows 98 content on the Microsoft Knowledge Base site.

3. Better stability
If you’re still using Windows 9x, you’ve probably encountered your share of unexplainable lockups and crashes. The root cause for all this instability is the fact that the Windows 9x operating system kernel is basically a cobbled together version of the prehistoric DOS operating system kernel. While DOS was a whiz kid in its heyday, it really wasn’t designed to support a graphical-based user interface or the type of multitasking that Windows 9x aspires to achieve. Basically this means that Windows 9x is so busy with its juggling act that a tiny failure at any point can bring the whole operating system tumbling down.

Windows XP and its predecessor, Windows 2000, on the other hand, are built on the NT kernel, which provides a much more stable operating system core. From the beginning, the NT kernel was specifically designed to support a graphical-based user interface and multitasking. And with continual refinement over the years, the NT kernel has proved to be a better platform on which to build a modern operating system capable of supporting today’s complex computing tasks. The bottom line for stability is that Windows XP encounters far fewer problems than Windows 9x. And when it does encounter a crash situation, chances are very good that it can deal with the problem in an orderly fashion without bringing down the whole operating system and requiring a reboot.

4. Better hardware support
As the computing industry has evolved, there have been many advances in computer peripheral hardware. Many of these advances have come in the last couple of years and have coincided with continual improvements in the Windows operating system—particularly Windows XP. For example, CD and DVD burners, USB, FireWire, advanced graphics video cards, digital cameras, digital media players, and many other hardware devices were launched into the world of computing. If you really want to take advantage of some of these new hardware devices, you need to be running Windows XP.

5. Better software support
Just as the computer peripheral hardware has evolved, so too has the wonderful world of software. There are many more variations of software out on the market today than there was back in the Windows 9x era. While most of this new software will run on Windows 9x, some of it really requires Windows XP and modern hardware. For example, digital photo and movie editing software, desktop publishing, and games are just a few examples of the types of software that really excel when run in Windows XP.

Making the move
If you’re starting to come around to the idea that it’s time to move on to another operating system, you’re probably wondering what your next step should be. Should you purchase an operating system upgrade and install it on your existing computer? Or should you just buy a new computer with Windows XP preinstalled?

Well, the answer to that question will depend on how old your computers are, what version of Windows 9x you’re running, and how much money and time you have to invest in this project. Let’s take a closer look.

If you’re running Windows 95, chances are good that your computers don’t meet the Windows XP hardware requirements. Besides, the Windows XP upgrade path doesn’t support Windows 95. As such, your best bet would be to look at purchasing a new computer with Windows XP preinstalled.

If you’re running Windows 98, the first step will be to download the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor. When you run it, the Upgrade Advisor will scan your current system and let you know if it finds any incompatible hardware or software. If everything checks out, then you’re good to go.

If the Upgrade Advisor finds incompatibilities, it will provide you with a detailed report on what hardware or software you need to upgrade to make your system Windows XP compatible. You can print out this report and use it to further investigate your upgrade options. A good place to start is at the manufacturer’s Web site. Also, be sure to check out the Windows Catalog Web site.

If your existing system doesn’t meet Windows XP’s system hardware requirements, and you’re just not ready to purchase a new computer, you might want to think about moving to the Windows 2000 Professional operating system. The system requirements for Windows 2000 Professional are about half of what the system requirements are for Windows XP Professional/Home.However, keep in mind that the Windows 2000 Professional upgrade carries a suggested retail price of $219, which in many cases is about half of what you would pay for a brand new entry-level computer with Windows XP preinstalled.

More information
Whatever route you take, making the move to Windows 2000 or Windows XP will definitely make your computing experience more enjoyable and much less stressful. If you want to learn more about these operating systems, be sure to investigate the Windows XP Home Page and the Windows 2000 Home Page.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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