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Microsoft is to end customer support for its Windows 98 and Millennium Edition operating systems from Tuesday as part of its product lifecycle policy.

IDC analysts estimate 70m users of Windows 98 alone will no longer be able to avail of telephone customer or technical support from Microsoft, and the firm will also cease providing security updates by Tuesday.

Microsoft said existing support documents and content collated over the lifespan of the software will continue to be available through its Support Product Solution Centre website.

A Microsoft support technician told ENN that Irish businesses that are currently running Windows 98 but have a support contract with Microsoft running after 11 July can carry over any remaining time outstanding for support services to an upgraded package.

Microsoft had originally planned to scrap Windows 98 and ME support in 2003 but the services were continued on a paid-for basis because of protests from customers. The software giant is now encouraging users of outdated systems to upgrade to Windows XP and warned that users of the older systems could now be exposing themselves to security risks.

It is believed most large firms will have upgraded their operating systems either by, or soon after, the original 2003 date, but the concern is that many home users and a lot of small businesses are still running Windows 98.

Microsoft Millennium Edition came bundled with laptop computers in the late nineties and many of these computers are not powerful enough to smoothly run the more up to date packages.

Users of Windows 98 or ME who have problems with the software may find an answer to their query by hunting through the support information collected on the Microsoft website.

The message from Microsoft is for Windows 98 or ME users to upgrade to a more secure operating system, such as Windows XP, as soon as possible.

In related news, the BBC reports on hi-tech crime gangs in Eastern Europe who specialise in making viruses that target weaknesses in Windows 98. The concern is that these gangs may up the ante and increase malware attacks now that security updates for the software are discontinued.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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