Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME as it is commonly called, from Microsoft has placed itself in a very odd position in the market. The product was released a few months after the second edition of Windows 98 but months before Microsoft’s planned launch of Windows XP.
(Windows XP, as you may or may not know, will come in the same flavors as Windows 2000 but with only one version, Personal Edition, aimed at consumers. The Personal Edition is set to replace the Windows 9x/ME line of operating systems, whereas the rest of the XP lineup is set to replace the Windows 2000 operating systems of the same name.)
The product was released a few months after the second edition of Windows 98 but months before Microsoft’s planned launch of Windows XP.
Windows ME is basically Windows 98 SE with a few additional enhancements and programs (such as updated versions of Media Player and Internet Explorer). Almost every network and server administrator fears running Windows 9x on mission-critical systems because of its DOS roots. To its credit, Windows ME actually steps away from DOS by disallowing the option to boot to a DOS command prompt of any kind by pressing the F8 key during the initial boot-up process.
While testing the operating system, we noticed that many of the well-known networking utilities from Windows 95 and 98 were missing. To affirm our hypothesis that Windows ME is simply a stepping-stone between the DOS-based Windows 98 and the NT-based Windows XP, we found that Windows ME had utilities, such as “ipconfig,” which are command line-based, instead of the famous “winipcfg” from the Win9x days. The Windows XP user interface further confirmed our suspicions. From what we’ve seen, Windows ME is just one slight move to the XP GUI, which will offer the biggest overhaul to the Windows GUI since Internet Explorer v4.0 changed Windows Explorer.
No matter how hard Microsoft tries to hide it, Windows ME is still based on DOS. Thus, because of stability problems that result from using a DOS kernel, under no circumstances can we recommend Windows ME for server use. The kernel is the most basic of operating system components, and the DOS kernel is almost as old as the 8086 processor — even older if you consider DOS just an implementation of CP/M.
One can still run third-party server software on Windows ME if he or she wishes, but it comes with a very small amount of serving utilities. Internet Connection Sharing and Dial Up server are the only two that come with Windows ME by default. We tried to download and install Personal Web Server v4.0, but it failed to install properly each time, providing us with only a vague “error in the ‘sysocman’ process” message.
As a server platform, Windows ME has many other shortcomings, including no support for an NT-type “service.” An NT service is a special type of program set to run on a system even when no users are logged in. It is similar to a Unix Daemon.
Server administrator looking for an operating system on which to run mission-critical apps should consider hitting the books on basic operating theory and do a little more research on operating systems. Those even remotely considering Windows ME as a server operating system of any type, should rethink their choice. In almost all cases, a Unix- or NT-based operating system is the only way to go for a server operating system in terms of the x86 market.
Pros: 7 Steps away (slightly) from 9x’s DOS roots
Cons: 7 Unstable, 7 Old technology, 7 Few and poor built-in server apps
Version Reviewed: 4.90.3000