Software Review: Windows 98

Software Review - You Gotta Either Love or Hate Windows 98

by J.A. Hitchcock

As it appeared in the November/December 1998 issue of Link-UP magazine

I was wary when I received the Windows 98 upgrade in the mail from Microsoft. I'd already lurked on various newsgroups about Windows 98 and there were more complaints than kudos. So, as a precaution, I backed up my entire 6.1 gig hard drive (especially the Windows Registry system.dat and user.dat files) before installing the upgrade.

I'm glad I did.

I popped in the CD-ROM and let "auto-run" take over. (The computer I installed this on is a Pentium 200, 64 MB RAM, 6.1 gig hard drive and SVGA/3DFX combo video card) While all the new files were loading, I barely looked at the screen and read through the slim manual that came with the software. I stopped once in a while to answer a prompt and to copy the emergency start-up disk, then kind of dozed off.

Until an error sound blasted through the speakers. I looked up. My computer had crashed.

Frustrated, I used the new start-up disk. Windows 98 was not working at all. So I rebooted into DOS mode, removed the entire Windows directory and started from scratch. I did not reinstall Windows 95 - I installed Windows 98 cold - and I highly suggest you do it, too.

This time the installation went smoothly. I breathed a sigh of relief when the Windows 98 splash screen flashed and the new desktop appeared. One thing I had been concerned about was the integration of Internet Explorer in Windows 98. Although odd at first, it was kind of nifty. Everything on the computer resembled a web page. There are links to Microsoft's web site and other appropriate hot spots on the web, which will automatically connects to the net when clicked on. When using Windows Explorer, the toolbars and an "Address" line are very similar to IE's toolbar and URL text bar. Since I prefer using Netscape's Communicator as my web browser, I didn't really mind the IE integration in Windows 98.

I have to admit, I was pretty impressed . . . at first. Windows 98 comes with more drivers, USB support, and a lot of other goodies. Outlook Express (the email/newsreader program) was great and easy to use. It was nice having all of my online functions available in one program (I used separate ones for email, newsgroups and web surfing). Okay, I admit it, I used IE as my web browser - it was hard not to. So I played around with Windows 98 for about a week. It was beginning to grow on me.

Then my computer crashed again. Right in the middle of writing an article in WordPerfect 8. I grumbled restarted the computer and had to reinstall Windows 98 . . . again. Then a few days later, another crash. I was told by a Microsoft technician that an update would be available soon to fix the problem. Soon? I use my computer every day for work. I couldn't wait for "soon." That was enough for me. I removed Windows 98 from my hard drive and reinstalled Windows 95. And it's staying that way until I know for sure the bugs have been removed from Windows 98.

(NOTE: The "bug" fix is now available at Microsoft's Windows 98 web site at or if you have Windows 98 on your computer, click on the START button, then on "Windows Update" - you'll automatically be taken to the site)

From various discussions in newsgroups, chat rooms and web pages, folks either really love or hate Windows 98. For the $90 price tag, I think it's overpriced as an unusable upgrade. As usual, this was rushed out for sale before it was completely debugged. It was a waste of my time to install it, then deal with the crashes and reinstalls. I'm not a huge fan of Windows 98. Now that the "fix" is out, I may try it again. And I may not.
UPDATE: Although I didn't try the "fix," I did purchase the full version of Windows 98, which runs great on my computer. I'd advise anyone who wants to put Windows 98 on their computer to spring for the full version, not the upgrade. You can usually get a good deal on the full version at an online auction such as Ebay.

One more thing: BBC News reported on August 10, 1998 that a British firm found Windows 98 is not year 2000 bug-free. When the clock strikes midnight on January 31, 1999, your computer will leap two days forward or one day back. Microsoft is looking into this and claims a fix will be made available.

Should you install Windows 98? If you're on the net most of the time or have a newer computer with USB ports, then I highly recommend Windows 98. It's much slicker as an online tool, with everything you need in one program. Besides, if you buy a new computer, Windows 98 will most likely be pre-installed. It's just the folks like me who have been using Windows 95 who should think twice about upgrading. And if you're still using Windows 3.1, it's time to move on up - install Windows 95 or 98 today.

- 486/66 or higher (Pentium 200+ highly recommended)
- 16 MB RAM (32+ highly recommended)
- 195 MB hard drive space for typical installation; range is 120-295 MB depending on your system config and options selected
- Windows 3.1 or Windows 95
- Internet connection
- CD-ROM or DVD-ROM (3.5" diskettes are available, but for an additional charge)
- VGA or higher
- MS or compatible mouse or pointing device
- $89.95 retail price (an extra $39.95 for the new Plus! pack)

Related web sites/newsgroups
Windows 98.
Windows 98 Annoyances
microsoft.public.outlook (for Outlook Express email/newsreader)

J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

Return to the Compute Me Reviews main page.