Twenty years ago, the turn of the millennium saw some serious software flaws. No, we’m not talking about Y2K here: We’re talking about Windows Me. Windows Me is called “Windows Mistake Edition”; by PCWorld and does not remember many of them.
A strange pit stop on the way to Windows XP
Microsoft released Windows 2000 on February 17, 2000. Windows 2000 was a forgotten masterpiece and offers a solid 32-bit operating system designed for business use. It was based on Windows NT, technology that is still the core of Windows 10 today.
Seven months later, Microsoft released Windows Millennium Edition on September 14, 2000. This operating system is designed for home users. It was based on Windows 98 SE and still had DOS under the hood.
Windows Me had an extremely short lifespan: Microsoft replaced it with Windows XP on October 25, 2001, just over a year later.
With Windows XP, Microsoft took it all in and released a solid consumer operating system based on Windows NT. It was also an operating system for companies. Before that, home users had Windows Me.
Why Windows Me would be exciting
Windows Me was designed as an upgrade to the second edition of Windows 98. Microsoft’s original Windows Me website promises to turn your home computer into a “multimedia entertainment center” thanks to Windows Media Player 7 and Windows Movie Maker. It boasted that Windows would be easier to use with an “enhanced user experience” thanks to features such as “new guides”. The installation of home networks was also simplified.
Under the hood, Windows Me got some features from Windows 2000. This includes System Restore to restore operating system files to known states and System File Protection to protect important system files from being modified.
Windows Me also removed DOS support in the right mode, which made the operating system boot faster – but made it less compatible with older DOS software that consumers could use.
In the end, a lot of minor features and low-level improvements did not lead most home users, who were largely stuck with Windows 98 at home. If you did not buy a new computer that came with Windows Me, why spend $ 209 on the full retail version or $ 109 on the upgrade version? Windows 2000 seemed like a big upgrade – but who wanted Windows Me?
This is especially true because of how unstable Windows Me reportedly was.
The reality with Windows Me: A Buggy Windows 98 SE
Now, the Windows 9x series of operating systems – Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me – have been criticized for being unstable. They were all based on DOS under the hood, just like Windows 3.0 was.
Windows Me was even more unstable than Windows 98. That’s what I experienced when I used it twenty years ago, and that’s what many people remember. PCWorld’s Dan Tynan called it the “Mistake Edition” of Windows and said it was one of the 25 worst tech products of all time.
Why were there so many blue screens of death and other problems? Well, who knows. The Windows 9x series was always unstable. Windows Me had some new features: It introduced System Restore, such as a feature that reportedly caused problems on some people’s systems at the time. People reported hardware support issues in some system configurations. Windows Me may need more development time.
The bugs never affected companies that were encouraged to use Windows 2000 on their workstations. Windows 95 and Windows 98 were designed for both home and business use, but suddenly there were significantly different versions of Windows for the office and for home computers – and the version for home users was, surprisingly, less reliable.
Of course, many report that Windows Me was stable on their systems. And Windows Me is probably unfairly pointed out: Windows 98 was often unstable as well, based on DOS. Maybe it was not a big change from Windows 98.
But now Windows users may be looking at Windows 2000 and wondering: Why is Windows Me not so stable?
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Pining for Windows 2000
The release of Windows 2000 showed a way forward for Microsoft, but Microsoft did not bring Windows NT to home users until Windows XP.
Meanwhile, some people with crashing Windows Me installations – or people who had just heard bad things about Windows Me – did not wait. Some home users made every effort to purchase Windows 2000, which was intended for business use only. Windows 2000 Professional costs $ 319 for a full version or $ 219 for an upgrade from Windows 98 or 95. That was $ 110 more than Windows Me.
And yes, some people started passing pirated Windows 2000 disks – often copied from their workstations – and rationalized that operating system piracy was acceptable because they had already paid Microsoft for Windows Me. Was it legal? No. Was it understandable that people wanted a stable version of Windows that did not crash that much? Of course.
Personally, my crashing Windows Me system was the reason I first started exploring Linux on my desktop. Desktop Linux was much more complicated to use in the year 2000 than it is today, but it was really stable.
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Windows XP saved the day
Eventually, Windows XP stopped messing with Windows 2000 and Windows Me. Microsoft did not need to deploy a service pack for Windows Me and spend time fixing it, as Microsoft did with Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows 8.1.
Instead, Microsoft released Windows XP and gave the more stable Windows NT foundation to home users. The friendlier interface and multimedia features of Windows Me ended up in Windows XP in a more stable form. Windows XP was more compatible with consumer applications that may have had some issues running Windows 2000.
With the launch of Windows XP, both business and home users now used the same desktop version of Windows. Sure, there were home and professional editions with a few different features – but both were the same basic operating system.
Windows XP had its problems – security issues that were only properly resolved by Windows XP Service Pack 2 and a desktop theme that became ridiculously “Fisher-Price” and unprofessional. But now Windows XP is lovingly looking back, and many people are stuck with it long after the launch of Windows 7.
But people did not agree with Windows Me in the same way. Even if you wanted a DOS-based version of Windows to run older software, you were better off with Windows 98. It was more compatible with the older software.