Windows 98: What Now?

Although Microsoft has extended support for Windows 98, eWEEK Labs recommends that customers not wait to make some decisions about their own OS strategies.

Microsoft has bowed to customer pressure and extended support for Windows 98, but Microsofts original announcement—that it would pull the plug on support for the OS this week—had many customers pondering when and to where their Windows 98-based systems should be migrated. eWEEK Labs recommends that customers not wait for June 2006, Microsofts new deadline for pulling the support plug, to make some decisions about their own operating system strategies.

Among enterprises, the Windows 9x architecture continues to retain a considerable corporate presence. In a survey of 670 corporations, the research division of consulting company AssetMetrix Research Labs found that more than 80 percent of companies had at least one instance of Windows 95 or Windows 98. In addition, more than 27 percent of the total PCs deployed at the 670 organizations surveyed were running Windows 95 or Windows 98, compared with about 7 percent using Windows XP, according to AssetMetrix, of Ottawa.

Microsoft has not had great success in getting customers to upgrade every time it releases a new operating system—approximately every two to three years, said Chad Robinson, an analyst at research company Robert Frances Group Inc., in Westport, Conn. Instead, most companies prefer to upgrade desktop systems on longer cycles—as much as five to eight years for fixed tasks.

Enterprises that cant justify the cost of an upgrade or dont see the value in upgrading have the option of running Windows 9x systems without support. In fact, many organizations chose to do exactly that when Microsoft discontinued support for Windows NT and NT Domains two years ago. In the AssetMetrix survey, an estimated 13.3 percent of PCs continue to run NT 4.0 today.

Windows 9x next steps

  • IT managers with Windows 9x installations should consider the following:
  • Ensure that all PCs, regardless of operating systems, have the latest Microsoft Security Hotfixes
  • Identify the magnitude of Windows 95 and Windows 98 presence in the corporation via a PC inventory
  • Prioritize Windows 9x-based PCs with access to the Internet as candidates for migration
  • Determine if installations of Windows 2000 or Windows XP are covered under a Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreement
  • Determine if PC candidates require RAM or hard drive upgrades—or require a complete replacementSource: AssetMetrix

Enterprises must consider a number of factors before upgrading. Moving to Windows XP or a non-Microsoft operating system will incur training and hardware upgrade costs, for example. Moving to Windows 2000, meanwhile, may be risky because the operating system is relatively mature and could be phased out by Microsoft in the not-too-distant future.

The easiest way to upgrade from Windows 9x is to start fresh by bringing in new PCs. The added benefit is that hardware that will easily support Windows XP or Windows 2000 stands a better chance of being able to support Longhorn when it becomes available.

IT managers such as Gregory Smith, CIO of the World Wildlife Fund and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, advocates system replacement instead of upgrades. "We adopted a clear replacement strategy with new computers preinstalled with Win XP Pro," said Smith. "We were able to reduce labor costs and capitalize new PC purchases with the OEM-installed version of the OS."

Senior Writer Anne Chen is at

(Editors note: This story was originally published in the Jan. 12 issue of eWEEK. The story was amended to reflect Microsofts extension of Windows 98 support from January 2004 to June 2006. The extension was announced Jan. 12.)