itmWEB TechWeekly

April 4, 1998

Why You Will Upgrade to Windows 98

This will be an important release for Microsoft which will give them further market dominance.

On June 25, 1998 Microsoft is ready to ship Windows 98 to the general public. This will occur unless the US Department of Justice take some sort of dramatic action to stop the shipments. See the link below for more information regarding this ongoing legal battle:

DOJ has cast a wide net in its Microsoft probe -- ZDnet takes an in-depth look at the current DOJ actions.

Beginning in mid-May, hardware manufacturers will begin to receive the commercial version of Windows 98. By mid-summer, all new computers will come with the new Windows 98 operating system installed. What about the rest of us? Should we make the step up to Windows 98?

To answer this question, we should first take a look at the new operating system features offered by Windows 98 which are beyond the current capabilities of Windows 95.

Important New Hardware Support Features

Hardware technology keeps evolving at a incredible pace. The new processors, hard drives, sound and video cards, DVD, MMX, and a host of other new offerings all require a new operating system to fully exploit their capabilities. Listed below are some of these major hardware advances supported by Windows 98.

Enhanced Graphics Support

Windows 98 will include built-in support for MMX processors and Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) graphics cards. This means a faster screen loading experience for both graphics intensive applications and internet browsing.

Universal Serial Bus Support

This makes your computer compatible with today's advanced plug & play capabilities. Using this new industry standard connector you can add new devices to your computer while it is running.

Multiple Display Support

Using this feature, it will be possible to use up to nine monitors simultaneously (even if they run at different resolutions). All display adapters must be PCI or AGP devices. Obviously, this will let you do things like increase the size of your desktop, or run different applications on separate monitors, or play games with multiple views.

IEEE 1394 Bus / Fire-Wire

This is the new industry-standard interface for controlling consumer electronic devices from your computer. These devices can be stereos, video players, CD players, etc. Wow, just what I've always wanted - a master control center right from my PC! I'll never have to leave my chair again. Actually, these connections are a great a way for sending PC resident content (like DVD) to an outside device. Way cool.

Advanced Power Management

Microsoft has created a new feature called "OnNow". This feature can start your computer in just a few seconds rather than making you endure the long boot-up process. Once on, the system will bring up your programs in the state they were in when the machine was last shut down. "OnNow" will only work with computers that support the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI).

FAT32 Disk Management

I consider this to be one of the major technical advances of this release. The Windows 98 File Allocation Table controls the storage of files on your computer's hard drive. Using the new FAT32 routine, hard drives that are over two gigabytes can now be formatted as a single drive.

The new FAT32 routine also uses smaller clusters than the older FAT approach. The payback to you is a more efficient use of the hard drive, which can result in a significant increase in your available disk storage space. Also included in the new operating system is a FAT32 conversion utility, which will "quickly and safely" convert your hard drive from the older FAT routine to the new FAT32.

DVD Support

Digital Video Disk technology is the successor to CD-ROM technology. Windows 98 fully supports this new industry standard. It will allow DVD to deliver high-quality digital movies and sound directly to your computer monitor or to your TV (through the new "fire wire").

Television Capabilities

You will be able to watch TV on your computer monitor and search for your favorite TV programs with the built-in Windows 98 Program Guide. You will also be able to watch television and HTML content side by side. This means that networks like ESPN Sports in the US will be able to deliver television programming which has real time statistics alongside the actual sports broadcast.

Important New Operating System Features

This is the part we've all been waiting for - the BIG OS improvements. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint you, there really aren't any. Most of the features I have listed below I consider to be natural evolutions of the product. Some of the other new features are just currently downloadable Microsoft utilities now simply built directly into the operating system. Yawn...

Year 2000 Compliant

Why is this listed a Windows 98 feature? Aren't all Microsoft operating systems already year 2000 compliant?

Fortunately for Windows 98 users the date dependent functions within the operating system will be fully year 2000 compliant. But now we all have a new worry, what about the other, older Microsoft products? I did manage to find one product compliance listing below for Microsoft Office:

Using Microsoft Office Through the Year 2000 -- A look at the year 2000 compatibility issues for Microsoft Office.

If you know about other Microsoft year 2000 resources (especially for the operating systems) please post them on the General IT Forum. Thanks!

System File Checker

This new feature monitors the critical Windows 98 system files. If any of these files are deleted, moved, or changed, then the System File Checker restores them.

Disk Cleanup

Another long overdue feature. This finally takes the fear out of cleaning up and maintaining your hard drive. This new utility removes any unnecessary files to free up precious space. The beauty is that the Windows 98 Disk Cleanup utility can be configured to remove temporary Internet files (cache), recycle bin files, downloaded program files, and ordinary temporary files.

Registry Checker

Many of us have downloaded a program called RegClean from Microsoft to keep our Windows 95 Registry trouble free. The Windows 98 Registry Checker is pretty much the same thing now built into the operating system. It is simply a system maintenance utility that finds and fixes registry problems at boot-up time. If it finds a serious problem, it will restore the Registry from a backup copy, or it will fix the Registry if a backup copy cannot be found.

Backup Enhancements

This new Windows release mainly provides more support for different vendor tape drives and the most recent back-up hardware. Seagate Software actually wrote this utility, and it is now a much more feature-rich program.

Tune-Up Wizard

Running Tune-Up wizard will perform an optimization check of your system This includes program performance checking, hard disk problem diagnosis, and hard disk space utilization. Tune-Up wizard can be scheduled to run on a regular basis.

Update Wizard

This is the feature you will hear a lot about in the media!

This new utility will connect your PC to the Microsoft Web site in order to automatically download the latest patches, drivers and updates required by your system. It will also allow you to revert back to a previous device driver or system file by using the built-in uninstall option.

As a current IS Director, I am unsure if I will risk utilizing this capability in our corporate environment. It sounds dangerous and unpredictable to me! What is your opinion? Tell me on the General IT Forum.

What About Internet Explorer?

Web interface integration is now a built-in part of Windows 98. This brings features such as "single click" access to files and applications, icon highlighting, forward and backward buttons, and a customizable Start menu right to the desktop.

Having Internet Explorer 4.0 now merged with the operating system, the following utilities are also right at your finger tips:

  • Outlook Express
    The new e-mail client and collaboration tool.

  • NetMeeting
    Great for Internet conferencing.

  • NetShow
    A network enabled multimedia utility for streaming audio listening and video viewing.

  • FrontPage Express
    A personal Web page editing tool.

Look out Netscape Navigator and Lotus Notes!

Installations and Upgrades

The installation procedure has been made more informative by incorporating real time monitoring information which allows you at any point to see what Windows 98 is doing. For those folks who are still using Windows 3.x, several special utilities will be included in Windows 98 to assist with the big jump!

Making the Leap!

So, do you think you will upgrade?

If you are buying a new personal computer with any of the latest hardware advances, you will be required to have Windows 98 up and running. If you have a recent vintage machine, you will want this new OS to really increase your performance and hard drive space. If you consider yourself to be a low tech computer user, you may like the new "hand holding" features of Windows 98. If you play graphics intensive games, you will clearly want the multimedia power of Windows 98. The rest of us in the herd will probably just follow right along. Mmmmoooooo!

Me? My bet is on Windows 2000. Full voice recognition, computer speech, artificial intelligence, breakfast in bed...

I can't wait to see what three billion dollars of software research can buy!