Windows 98: A convenience you can live with ≠≠ or without
September 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:17 PM PT
by Scott Spanbauer
note: This review appeared in the September issue of PC World.
It's based on a beta version of Windows 98.
Our first hands-on tests reveal that Windows 95's successor offers
convenience but little else: It's a collection of patches, add-ons,
and slightly improved hardware support built around an Internet Explorer≠like
Should you upgrade to the next version of Windows? Based on hands-on
testing of the first beta version of Windows 98, we can't recommend
this upgrade to everyone. If the shipping product delivers on the beta's
promises and is priced right, it will offer something for some Windows
95 users and little for others. The chief attraction is the simple convenience
of having all the latest patches, drivers, and add-ons available on
one easy-to-install CD-ROM. The product, previously code-named Memphis,
is expected to ship late this year or early next year.
Windows 98 is expected to retail for about $90.
Unlike the transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, the move from
Windows 95 to 98 involves no major changes to the operating system,
system requirements, or software compatibility.
Moreover, Microsoft has undercut the value of the upgrade by releasing
portions of Win 98 on its Web site. The most significant of these components,
Internet Explorer 4.0 (available as a beta), functions identically in
Windows 95 and Windows 98. The only cost to Windows 95 users is for
the online time required to download the 22MB file.
And if you bought a new PC this year, chances are it came with a copy
of Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2--an interim version that Microsoft
released late last year through system manufacturers. OSR2 includes
most of the downloadable features (though not IE 4.0), plus DriveSpace3
disk compression and interface enhancements from the Microsoft Plus
add-on program, as well as support for the more efficient FAT32 file
system, Universal Serial Bus devices and more (see "Not Quite Windows
98--How Close Can You Come With Windows 95?").
Still, adding all the software is a pain. Under ideal conditions, downloading
the available enhancements using a 28.8-kilobits-per-second modem could
take you more than 2 hours. Then you have to install the software--another
hour or so. If you need to reinstall Win 95, you'll have to reapply
the add-ons and patches. Next time you set up a new PC, you'll wish
you had everything on one disc.
For users who've been downloading the new fixes and features all along,
Windows 98 is less attractive. And those still clacking away on plain-old
PCs, without the latest hardware, may not see much value in the new
I installed Windows 98 on Dell Pentium-166 and Gateway 2000 Pentium
MMX-200 desktops and on a Pentium-75 based Toshiba notebook. I installed
the OS on empty hard disks and over existing Win 95 installations. (Win
98 doesn't currently upgrade Win 3.1, an option Microsoft says will
be available by the time Windows 98 ships.) I also ran popular programs,
including Microsoft Office 95, Lotus SmartSuite 97, cc:Mail Mobile,
Netscape Navigator 3.0 and 4.01, and Id Software's Quake.
Most programs ran with nary a glitch, but there were a few problems.
For example, changes to Windows' telephony module prevented cc:Mail
Mobile 7 from dialing after the upgrade. The source of this bug was
still unclear at press time.
In mid-July, reports in the popular press claimed that IE 4.0 discourages
people from using Netscape Navigator as a default browser. I discovered
that this allegation is mostly untrue. When I set Navigator as the default
browser, it launched whenever I typed URLs into the Start menu's Run
dialog box. However, entering URLs into an Explorer window's address
field opens the site in IE 4.0, even if your default browser is Navigator.
This is inconvenient for Navigator users. However, Microsoft says it's
intentional because the address window is actually part of IE 4.0.
Related stories at IDG.net
Setup trade-offs of Windows 98
Not-so-new interface of Windows 98
Hardware support Windows 98 boasts
Cool stuff in Windows 98
What's it worth?
Windows 98 offers little that 95 doesn't
Windows 98: What's missing?
Not quite Windows 98--How close can you come with Windows 95?
Need more power? Wait for NT 5.0
You can tweak your system while you wait for Windows 98 Brian Livingston's
"Windows manager" column in InfoWorld
Windows 98 = Windows 95.1 Bob O'Donnell's May 4 column
Watch Science & Technology
Week on CNN for more sci-tech stories.
© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc.
A Time Warner Company
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which
this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.