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Broken applications

Windows Me was designed to be more stable and cause fewer crashes than previous versions, including Windows 98 and Windows 98: Second Edition. Although Windows Me is built on the Windows 9x kernel, not all Windows 98 software runs properly on it, particularly antivirus and personal firewall programs.

Microsoft says that Windows 98 versions of Symantec’s Norton Internet Security 2000, Norton Personal FireWall 2000, Network ICE's BlackICE Defender, and Network Associates McAfee PGP Personal Privacy might be having problems because of at least two key changes in Windows Me that weren't anticipated by all vendors. One is that Microsoft no longer supports DOS for Windows Me users. Given how known this was during the Windows Me development period, it's difficult to grasp how come they didn't 'anticipate' this. RealMode DOS is a character-based operating system, and all earlier versions of Windows 9x allowed access to it so users could run non-Windows DOS programs. Also, the new OS uses the Windows 2000 TCP/IP networking stack instead of the one from Windows 98.

As mentioned before, Symantec has released a full line of its popular desktop applications, which are fully compatible with Windows Me. In the past couple of days, Symantec has slowly been updating its Internet products, and all should be able to work under Windows Me in the coming weeks. McAfee and Network ICE have released updates for their antivirus and firewall tools, respectively. If you run Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus or PGP Personal Privacy, you'll have to delay upgrading to Windows Me until the applications vendors release updates - or forgo those programs.

Real Mode DOS and TCP/IP Networking Stack

Microsoft says it removed Real Mode DOS support to better protect the Windows Me system, even though the function is used in some antivirus tools and disk utilities as well as hardware devices.

What Real Mode DOS does is, it lets any application or device driver write straight to the system memory for improved performance. But the problem with that is that errors writing to memory can adversely affect your entire system. Instead, Microsoft gives devices and applications other ways to achieve the same capabilities. For Windows Me, the appropriate tools are DirectX for video and the Windows Driver model.

Consolidating driver support also looks toward Whistler, Microsoft's next operating system update. This is being built on the Windows 2000 kernel, not the 9x kernel that Windows Me is based on. If new drivers work with Windows Me and Windows 2000, theoretically they will work with Whistler.

Another way Windows Me prepares the way for Whistler is by using the TCP/IP networking stack from Windows 2000. This version improves reliability and security when systems talk across the Internet, ultimately, this change affects applications that relied on the Windows 98 networking stack.

System File Protection

There’s also another side to the story. Microsoft pitches it that it made a number of changes in Windows Me that solved several "issues," but these created "temporary" issues with eight applications. But that's OK, because the vendors/victims will all be updating them shortly.

Basically, the new feature in Windows Me that causes the problems is System File Protection. This feature "prevents core files from being overwritten," but in the past, many outside applications overwrote certain system files, an action that Microsoft says results in a more crash-prone PC. But that depends on which side of the fence you're looking from.

By eliminating the ability to overwrite system files, Windows Me is less likely to crash. But some application developers have not yet updated their programs to recognize this change.

In theory it's a reasonable way to have less crashes, but I've had the same amount of crashes so far as I had with Windows 98 - a heavy-handed approach by Microsoft if you ask me. It's too easy for people to change something, which affects the entire operation of the system; where many developers are forced to update these files.

The eight pieces of software, which Windows Me is incompatible with, are:

McAfee's Dr. Solomon AV version 7.70
Network ICE's BlackICE Defender
Symantec's Norton Internet Security
eNova Software's SOS-Best Defense
Network Associates' PGP Personal Privacy
Certain versions of Adaptec's GoBack
Quarterdeck's Select-It 1.0
StopLight 95

Microsoft and the software vendors will post updates to their Web sites once these applications are supported.

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