back to article Happy birthday, you lumbering MS-DOS-based mess: Windows 98 turns 20 today

Windows 98 turns 20 today. However, rose-tinted spectacles still don't make a hybrid 16 and 32 bit OS tottering on top of MS-DOS any more appealing. While Windows NT 4.0 pointed to a future free from MS-DOS, the majority of the Windows user base simply did not have the hardware to run much more than a jumped-up version of …


  1. earl grey Silver badge

    i can remember before windows

    Except it was all mainframe stuff. Yeah, i'm old.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: i can remember before windows

      Some of us are still working on mainframe stuff. It still does what it's supposed to do, when you ask it to.

  2. Not Enough Coffee

    Happy Birthday Reg.

    You should at least point to the site:

  3. Alister Silver badge

    While Windows NT 4.0 pointed to a future free from MS-DOS, the majority of the Windows user base simply did not have the hardware to run much more than a jumped-up version of Windows 95.

    To be fair, the original NT 4.0 was not really suitable for use as a home O/S, it took quite a few service packs before that was useful, and the price compared to 98 was prohibitive as well.

    Plus, it didn't have drivers for many common domestic peripherals. Even network cards were a bloody nightmare to set up under NT 4.0, I remember fighting with a 3Com Etherlink 3C509, fiddling with dip switches to set the IRQ and memory range for hours before NT would work with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "the original NT 4.0 was not really suitable for use as a home O/S"

      Depends. It wasn't good for games, and some application, notably WordPerfect, had issues. It is true SP added many missing pieces and improved existing ones.

      Non-PCI cards, i.e. old ISA ones on old motherboards could have been an issue. and you had to explicitly enable Plug&Play. I had really no issue running NT4 on "reputable" hardware (IBM hardware at work, and Asus/3Com/Matrox/Adaptec/Creative at home). Cheap hardware with cheap drivers could have been an issue, the driver model was more complex.

      Price was higher, but the stability, security and process isolation were well worth the price for serious work,even at home.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: "the original NT 4.0 was not really suitable for use as a home O/S"

        "the original NT 4.0 was not really suitable for use as a home O/S"


        NT4 had poor selection of terminal software for calling BBS's. Even OS/2 beat it at that. My ISDN card didn't have NT4 drivers. It had practically zero games since the DirectX support was noexisting and (working) OpenGL games could be counted with one hand. Quake. And that piss poor DirectX pinball game NT4 included. DOS software beyond scripts and some basic stuff was impossible to run and most home users either played games or used graphical DOS software - which never ran under NT4.

        Docking and hotplugging PCMCIA cards didn't really work and NT had poor power saving features for mobile users. Most business laptops around here ended up using with Win98 (and later on W2K).

        My worst gripe with NT4 was when you installed some built-in functions like IIS or extra network protocols. NT4 duly copied the files from CD but then you needed to apply the latest ServicePack once again. Which was a slooow process.

        "Cheap hardware with cheap drivers could have been an issue, the driver model was more complex."

        My rather expensive S3 968 PCI graphics card had those cheap drivers for NT4. Crashes aplenty. OS/2 didn't have drivers. Win9x support was great, however!

        Also, no matter what people testify here, NT4 needed more RAM than Win9x.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't know

    "While Windows NT 4.0 pointed to a future free from MS-DOS, the majority of the Windows user base simply did not have the hardware to run much more than a jumped-up version of Windows 95"

    At that time I was running Red Hat (it was a cool distro back then) on hardware that didn't have the grunt to run Windows 9X. The impression I got was that in terms of power and functionality it was way beyond NT at the time (could NT even run multiple users concurrently back then?) so I wonder why the Redmond offering would need all that extra hardware, if it wasn't either bloat or some deliberate ploy to get people to buy new hardware.

    (NB: there is bound to be someone who's going to start another childish "my OS" vs "your OS" rant, please don't. I don't give a shit what you run as long as you're happy with your choice, my point is that the hardware requirements did not seem justified by the features available.)

  5. cd

    Dad calls me up...

    "...and it says on the screen that the computer has committed an illegal act!"

    1. Excused Boots

      Re: Dad calls me up...

      But only illegal in some States, all your Dad had to do was move and problem solved!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My fondest memory of Windows 98 SE

    I went to my friend's place for after-school gaming sessions. That special Win98 loading splash screen. He had Microsoft Plus! installed so the sound scheme, wallpaper and cursor were different. The wallpaper was that of a cougar (mountain cat?), and the startup sound was some jungle/tribal sound.

    Marathon sessions of Warcraft 2, Diablo 1, HoMM 3 etc.

  7. heyrick Silver badge

    98(SE) worked well for me

    It was what 95 should have been, had Microsoft cared enough not to push the first rubbish out the door. I started with 95 and hated it, went to 98, then to 98SE which I kept until XPSP2 came around. Rarely a blue screen (unlike 95).

    But, then, if we recall Microsoft had only just moved away from 3.11 with 95, Linux was a total pain to do anything with (especially if you expected graphics to be involved and your video hardware was in any way unusual), it would be another SIX years before Ubuntu turned up, and it was the height of the browser wars (remember those days? when by the time people put "Best viewed with MSIE4.0" graphics on their sites, it was already out of date).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that, when it came to Windows, Microsoft didn't really need to try very hard. So they expended more effort into trying to rule the internet...

  8. Jude Bradley

    I worked for Gateway support back in the 1990's. It was fun installing the piix4 drivers on Windows 95, before Windows 98 made the job easier by having built-in drivers for it.

    It was fun when the customer started reading back every single message on the installation screen, including "yes" "no" "cancel".

    We used to have a lovely man call us self-titled "The codger from Cornwall". Lovely gent, just wanted a chat now and then.

  9. 89724102172714582892524I7751670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148583659264921

    ReactOS may finally be ready when Windows 7 is killed, NEVER 10!

  10. Oengus Silver badge

    I remember

    I remember spec'ing a brand new PC.

    • Dual PII Xeon 450,
    • SuperMicro motherboard,
    • as much RAM as I could stuff on the motherboard,
    • Dual SCSI controller on board,
    • 2 of the highest speed (and capacity) HDDs I could find,
    • top of the line Sound Blaster card,
    • the best AGP Graphics card I could find that was compatible with the mother board.

    Cost an absolute fortune back in the day. It came with Win 98 SE loaded. I was very happy with that PC for a lot of years (and still fire it up occasionally to run some classic games. It was extremely stable and very rare to have a BSOD.

    Ahhh. the memories.

    1. 89724102172714582892524I7751670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148583659264921

      Re: I remember

      I threw together a similar dual PIII866 and quite honestly, it was the most stable PC I had ever owned, Windows 2k and 98. I still have the dual Compaq SCSI striped drives, have to low level format them every so often, though I haven't for 8 years...

    2. James Turner

      Re: I remember

      That second CPU was completely wasted under Win98. Only the NT-based Windows did anything with more than one CPU.

  11. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Bad Memories

    Bad memories of marginally working OSes, many BSOD for no apparent reason. Weirdly, I had better behavior out of ME than 98. But OS reinstalls were a royal pain trying to run down all the data files and settings as they were scattered everywhere. Usually managed to miss a few.

  12. Walter Bishop Silver badge

    Failure to implement the Java standard?

    "Microsoft trumpeted its Java implementation as being the fastest for Windows. However, a failure to implement the Java 1.1 standard to the satisfaction of Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java, led to a sueball being lobbed in 1997." elReg

    It was never merely a failure to implement the standard, it was a blatent effort to (Mar 2007): wrest control of Java away from Sun?.

    May 1997: "This summer we're going to totally divorce Sun"

    Sep 1997: "Screw Sun, cross-platform will never work. Lets move on and steal the Java language. That said, have we ever taken a look at how long it would take Microsoft to build a cross-platform Java that did work? Naturally, we would never do it, but it would give us some idea of how much time we have to work with in killing Sun's Java."

  13. Mr Dogshit Silver badge

    Anyone else remember the IE 4 Channel Bar?

    No, I thought not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone else remember the IE 4 Channel Bar?

      Oh yes. at home I had it stripped of its pre set buttons and loaded with desktop shortcuts instead - thats all it was good for.

      One of my managers queried why my home machine (originally a win 95 osr2 box) needed a 3.2 gig HDD or 32 megs of ram, he considered it an excess. I think he was just jealous that I had a 233 mmx while he was still working with a p90

      Still love the soind of that (now long dead) AWE64.

      95 was replaced with a clean install of 98SE along with a scanner and a video blaster webcam and a 3com network card (still have the drivers in a zip somewhere) after that came 2k which along with 7 are about the only versions of windows I felt were any good.

      Now fully iMac and Linux here apart from a single laptop running 7 pro with some specialist car coding sotware on it. (VCDS) which wont run on a VM.

  14. Joe Werner

    This makes me remember two things:

    1) I am getting old (forget that: I am old!)

    2) the time when reinstalling Win98SE (you better did that more or less regularly, at least that was my experience at that time) and I got a BSOD proudly claiming that "a TrueType font has caused a General Protection Failure in the module SETUP.EXE".

    That was the last time I installed a Microsoft OS on my personal PC. Those were for me the dual-boot days, as LaTeX was a major PITA on windows (and MikTeX still sucks, at least the installation scripts for additional packages). Then one day I realised that I had more or less stopped gaming[1] and not booted the Windows partition for a long time...

    [1] a few years later I discovered Dwarf Fortress, which runs under Linux and is a major time sink though I have not yet tried the last two versions

  15. Stuclark

    The days of OSR releases...

    I was working for a MS disti back in the day when 98 was released and remember it well!

    I'd spent the previous month debugging their OEM Pre-Install Routine, otherwise known as the OPK installer; as the MS instructions simply didn't work! For every 5 copies of 98 we sold, we sent out my hand typed *extra* instructions, and never, ever, had an OEM system builder phone up asking how to get it working (unlike our competitors).

    ((I might have made a bit of fuss about this on MS's OEM forums on their fairly new website, and might have had an email from a certain S.Ballmer basically telling me to STFU))

    Win95 had 15 seperate CD releases; the best of which was the penultimate OSR2.1 (OSR2.5 introduced USB support and was as stable as a chocolate teapot). Win98 had 3 releases from memory; the best (for overall stability in our labs) being the initial OSR1; 98SE was OSR2 and was a piece of crap; OSR2.1 was much, much better and was what should have been released to the public (but as was MS's way then, never was!)

  16. Esme

    Windows made me do it..

    ... a (L)user's tale...

    Me and my t'other half had been very happy Amiga users, but as Commodore shot itself in the foot multiple times and support for the platform dwindled, clearly Something Had To Be Done. So we bought a Windows PC,running Win95. What a piece of excrement!

    Joy at its ability to run new games we hadn't seen before soon gave way to frustration at how often it crashed. Don;t get me wrong, the Amiga would go into 'guru meditation' every now and then (usually only when playing games though - it was pretty solid when running applications), but it recovered gracefully and quickly. Not Win 95. I wondered whether there were other operating systems about that'd run on the hardware, bearing in mind I'd been messing about with computers since the days when just about every piece of kit had its own bespoke OS. At that point I didn;t find any alternative.

    Then Win98 came along. I THINK we found that slightly better, then when SE came along, it was much better. But still flaky as hell compared to our experience with Amigas. Then we had WinXP, which was somewhat better again, and I think it was around this time that I came across Linux, and ended up buying a copy of Mandrake Linux. Which was - OK. Very stable, but the only games were the equivalent of Minesweeper etc. I set up our PC to dual-boot, and did anyything important (liek letter-writing) on the Linux side, and played games on the Windows side.

    My partner was quite happy just using Windows, but I persisted in keeping an eye on developments in the Linux world, and to cut a long story short, went fully Linux after a few years (by then we each had our own PCs) and have been using Linux ever since. Not once has Linux lost any of my data, and the games situation just kept on improving.

    Thanks to early versions of Windows being so awful,I missed the horrors of ME and Vista, and all the forcible UI-pratting-about that happened with Windows - except in the workplace. At home, computers were again easy to use, fun and entertaining and also did the important stuff well too. At work, it was the frustrations of being a Windows user or a helldesker for companies using Windows.

    That's not to say that Linux was utterly without problems, but such as I experienced were either caused by myself pratting about, or by things like the KDE revamp, which pushed me into using Xfce instead. But that was the nice thing - I had the option to just install a different UI, an option Windows didn't give me by default. And crashes became a thing of teh past. Stuff Just Worked - and kept on working. I was, and am, a happy (L)user.

    So thank you Windows - for some good games, and for otherwise being so horrid that I sought something better. Happy birthday, cheers!

  17. Fading Silver badge


    I managed to avoid owning a machine with any of the win 95 to ME "Operating" Systems. My trusty 486 DX2 (Dos 6.22 Win 3.11) kept me going until I picked up an XP machine (Pentium III). At work was a different story and why 95 was ever put in a corporate environment I'll never know (such innocent times where security consisted of asking people to only ever do nice things).

    I did have the misfortune of having to provide family IT support on a Win 98 SE machine - active desktop crashing, BSOD just because it hadn't BSOD'd for awhile, woeful drivers that caused more BSOD and dial-up internet (28.8) - what a great time to be young.......

  18. Michael Habel Silver badge

    And, yet its still (for me...), a more desirable MicroSoft OS, than Windows X will ever be. Honestly they could have stoped at Windows98 SE for what it was worth. But, I understand why they wanted to just focus on NT(FS), and so in turn let Windows 9x/Me die. Even if it took three different Service Packs to eventually get XP up, and running. But, by that argument, I guess they could also reseruect XP from the dead as well. I know plenty of People who'd welcome it back.

    But, as things stand, I'm already getting comfortable with Linux, cause we all know MicroSoft have nothing with which to replace the aiging Windows 7 with. unless your lucky enough to grab a hold of a valid LST Branch of said Windows X. Which is about the ONLY version of Windows X that's fit to be ran.

  19. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    All I have to say is "Ctrl-Alt-Del".

  20. Craigie Bronze badge

    el reg

    Looking at early el reg versions, it seems the same headline writers are in place today. Good show.

  21. Hairy Spod

    World Cup

    Diss 98 all you want, but the news tickers for the World Cup and F1 along with the active desktop were all loads better than anything we have today

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    January 1999 -- Windows 98 made me mad....

    ....BSOD all the time in the middle of actual work...around $750 for Windows software licences in the previous year. Bad, bad, bad....


    RedHat 5.2 to the rescue. And I'm writing this using Fedora28/XFCE today. In the intervening years there's been nothing, nothing at all, that I haven't been able to accomplish with RedHat or Fedora.


    My only beef is that the ten or so PCs and laptops I've bought since then have meant being forced to pay the Microsoft tax (handily included in the purchase price of the new PC). Still, a bare metal install of Linux each time makes me feel SO much better!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: January 1999 -- Windows 98 made me mad....

      > My only beef is that the ten or so PCs and laptops I've bought since then have meant being forced to pay the Microsoft tax (handily included in the purchase price of the new PC).

      Buying without an OS installed is a common option in Germany. Elsewhere, I just refuse the Windows licence(s) and get the corresponding discount (which is much less than the OS' retail price, the bundled stuff being an OEM version).

      Back in the day I chased this up with the consumer ombudsman and yes, they cannot refuse to sell you just the hardware, much less force you to enter into a contract with a third party (the OS vendor).

  23. MJI Silver badge

    I liked 98

    Ran DOS apps really well against Netware servers

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 2000 was the best

    Fast, stable, compatible and usable.

    It's one of the few Microsoft operating systems which has a similar feel to Linux in terms of stability and efficiency.

    That said. Most Microsoft OSes are fine now. You may need to skip the odd one but generally they are pretty good.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Windows 2000 was the best

      So is Ten, an odd number? in any case its still worth giving it a pass. But, i guess a return to the Salmon Days of Win98SE & Win2k. are over now. As its more profitable to spy on your LUsers, and sell then Candy Cush Saga instead.*

      While removing things like Chess, and Solitair which had been previously been avalible on earlier versions... But, hay its NOT all a tragidy at least you have DX12 to play with right?


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