Throwback Thursday: Windows Millennium Edition

Posted on February 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows with 47 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Windows Millennium Edition

Windows Millennium Edition—or, Windows Me—is unfairly criticized for being an unexpected and unwanted extension of the Windows 9x family of products. But this innovative OS ushered in a number of technologies that we take for granted today.

To make my case, I’ve uploaded a number of videos to YouTube today. These videos were made by Microsoft and given to the press in the summer of 2000, right before Windows Me shipped. Note below each of the innovations that debuted in this unfairly maligned Windows version.

Setup

Accessibility. Windows Me Setup included exactly the same kind of accessibility-based wizard with speech capabilities that Microsoft is now championing again in Windows 10 Creators Update. Oops! They’re doing it again.

Windows Welcome. The original Out of Box Experience (OOBE) included a number of features, like a goofy mouse tutorial, simplified user interface, and new PC maker customization capabilities.

PC Health

System File Protection. Windows Me was the first Windows version to include SFP. Before this, you could completely bork Windows by deleting a key system file, triggering a complete reinstall.

Auto Update. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to include auto updating functionality so that Windows would always be kept up-to-date. Sound familiar?

System Restore. Windows Me was the first Windows version to let you “go back in time” and restore your PC to an earlier version when everything was still working properly.

Help and Support. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to include a consolidated and easy to use Help interface.

Support for new technologies

(Then) modern hardware. Windows Me provided improved support for USB, Firewire (IEEE-1394), and Universal Plug ‘n Play (UPnP) technologies.

Fast boot. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to support fast-booting, with 20-second boots and 15-second resumes on modern hardware.

Hibernate. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to support Hibernate, an alternative to sleep and a full shut down.

Internet features

Internet Explorer. OK, Windows Me wasn’t the first version of Windows to include IE, but it did include an improved version of this browser.

Outlook Express. Ditto, not the first, but an improved experience for email and newsgroups.

MSN Messenger. Windows Me included MSN Messenger-based chat capabilties.

NetMeeting. Long before there was Skype, Windows Me provided video teleconferencing capabilities thanks to NetMeeting.

Games. The games in Windows Me were, for the first time, Internet-ready, meaning you could play against opponents online, and chat while doing so.

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player 7. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to include an all-in-one media player application that supported Internet radio, a Media Guide, portable device support, and UI customizations related to the skin of the player and visualizations. It also supported CD audio importing with album art.

Photos

Digital camera connectivity. Windows Me was the first Windows version to provide in-box drivers for digital cameras and scanners. It also provided a wizard for downloading photos from those cameras and scanners.

Rich photo views in Windows Explorer. For the first time, you could view photos as thumbnails instead of icons in Explorer.

Photo sharing. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to support photo sharing, in this case by providing a slideshow maker.

Movie Maker

Movie Maker. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to include a movie editor, called Windows Movie Maker. You could share your edited videos to the web, or via email.

Home networking

Internet connection sharing. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to support Internet connection sharing, for both dial-up networks and broadband.

Home networking support. Windows Me was the first version of Windows to provide a Home Networking Wizard to help users create their own home networks, where they could share files and printers. (It was also the first to let you connect to the Internet during Setup.)

 

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Comments (50)

50 responses to “Throwback Thursday: Windows Millennium Edition”

  1. Avatar

    Boris Zakharin

    Windows ME only existed because Windows 2000 didn't quite get compatible enough with legacy hardware and software to be a home OS (this continued to a lesser extent into XP. I remember dual booting Windows 98 to play certain games). In fact, a lot of the features you list actually debuted in Windows 2000 and were back-ported (sometimes poorly) into the dead-end windows 9x code base. Honestly, it wasn't justified as XP came out only a year later and less than three years after the previous Windows release (98 SE). Compare with a 6 year wait for Vista after XP.


    As for fast boot, the first time I experienced anything remotely fast was with Windows 8. Before that booting always took over a minute for me.

  2. Avatar

    arknu

    While it is true that ME introduced a lot of features, it did not do anything good for the stability of the platform. The aging 9x platform could simply not handle these modern features. ME was certainly not stable, especially compared to XP which came soon after.

    And some of these features never worked for me. I tried System Restore in ME and never once managed to actually make it work.

    ME was a lot of good ideas on a platform that couldn't handle it. But perhaps it was a useful proving ground.

  3. Avatar

    crmguru

    Please do a Throw Back on BOB or Microsoft Works. Both those apps have features that are now considered normal. Personal assistance, F1, Help on demand, Right Click, CTRL+C CTRL+V.....

    They are not in MSDN Subscriber Downloads so you would need to get access to old media. But I would love to grow nostalgic and remember Microsoft apps that built the company like Windows 3.11

  4. Avatar

    jbuccola

    It was devilishly difficult to make NetMeeting work with contacts outside of a LAN.

  5. Avatar

    Patrick3D

    I had to format and reload a Windows ME computer for a client once, even with the vendor drivers it ended up taking 7 hours due to many of the drivers failing to install and needing to constantly work around BSOD and other issues. By comparison, 98SE could be installed and updated within 35 minutes.

  6. Avatar

    wolters

    "unfairly criticized"


    I have to say yes it was. I never had once ounce of problem with Windows ME and it felt so fresh and "forward focused" than 95 and 98 and used it up to XP.

  7. Avatar

    dougkinzinger

    Some comments. Technically, many of the features in ME debuted in Windows 2000, including hibernate support. So most of your thoughts are correct Paul, but you may want to clarify that ME was the first consumer-specific build of Windows that supported features like hibernate, improved USB support, ICS, and so on. Fondly, from a former Windows 2000 and ME tester. I even built a gaming PC with ME and named it XBOX. Got me listed on Microsoft.com as their Windows Geek of the Week! :D

  8. Avatar

    rvail317

    So: as an experiment, can WinME be made to run on current generation Skylake/KabyLake machines?

    WinXP x32 can be made to run on an Intel Haswell machine, although with several "yellow bangs" in Device Manager. Bios must be selected for "Legacy" (non-UEFI) & "IDE" (non-AHCI) mode, however.

    I suppose that a modified install disc would be required, which would include some slipstreamed Intel chipset and SATA controller drivers. Then again, WinME was way too crash-prone and unreliable, often requiring a complete system re-install.

  9. Avatar

    webdev511

    Yeah, I think you might have gone back to the WRONG TIME. Why no love for Win95 OSR2?

  10. Avatar

    johnbaxter

    UPnP: aka "total insecurity"

  11. Avatar

    prettyconfusd

    My second PC had Windows ME (Got it Easter 2001 iirc) and saw me through my A-Levels - I thought it was great! I never had the reliability issues that people go on about - it ran smoothly and gave me the tools to pass my course, start to explore the internet more, and make a move into my chosen career so I don't really get the hate. It was a much better OS for home users and beginners than 95/98 we had on the first PC (got in 97) and it was a nice intermediary jump and kept me going until XP SP2 came along.

  12. Avatar

    wright_is

    It was the most unstable version of Windows I ever experienced. I got it on a new laptop in 20001 and it lasted 3 weeks, before I nuked it and installed Windows 2000 on it. In that time, it bluescreened more often than all of my other computers over 30 years put together!

  13. Avatar

    navarac

    I skipped WinMe totally. I had already gone from Win9x to WinNT and so to Win2000. Still have happy memories of Windows 2000 (NT 5 really).

  14. Avatar

    fbman

    I also skipped this version of windows, I went straight from Win98 to Windows 2000

  15. Avatar

    dnation70

    i personally liked this one

  16. Avatar

    Peter Hewitt

    I found the trick with ME was to install Windows 98 and then upgrade to ME. A clean install had all the stability issues people go on about but an upgrade from 98 seemed to be stable but with all the new features.

  17. Avatar

    BeckoningEagle

    I liked ME, but there were many things that needed to be done to keep it running smoothly.  For example, if you wanted to defrag a drive you had to turn off System Restore while the procedure took place.  Otherwise the constant polling of system restore would force a restart of the defrag procedure.


    I found it curious that SMS 3.0 supported Windows 95, OSR2, 98 and 98SE, but the documentation for SMS 3.0 explicitly said that Windows ME was not supported.  I never understood if this was because Microsoft wanted enterprises to transition to the NT based world or that there really was something screwy going on with Windows ME

  18. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    The features may have been there, but it crashed more often than any other Windows version except 3.0. I had to use system rescue on my wife's PC at least a half dozen times. In simple uptime terms, Me and 3.0 were the worst Windows versions I've used by far, and I've used all versions except 98 before SE and Vista.

  19. Avatar

    Darmok N Jalad

    I always liked Me and never had trouble with it. Then again, I used to reinstall Windows Me and 200 all the time back then for fun. Xp and the online activation process kinda ruined that one.

  20. Avatar

    brettscoast

    Thanks Paul for this blast from the past Windows ME was very much maligned and criticized heavily but it did include a lot of new tech which is continued to this day. The videos are great to look back on too.

  21. Avatar

    mike moller

    Ok Paul, that's a nice summary of its innovations BUT


    ME had been rushed out to quickly to carry all that new stuff reliably. It earned itself a well deserved reputation as an unreliable load of crap AND


    it certainly wasn't an appropriate move in the FUD laden atmosphere that surrounded Y2K


    1. MS marketing once again rode over proper engineering development and proving cycles
    2. MS made a major strategic error in pushing out such a range of new stuff at a time when the market was already being spooked by extraneous FUD
  22. Avatar

    SIAShotgun

    Windows ME. Spent hours setting it up. Installed all my applications and it was run really well. Turned off computer, went to bed. Next morning BSODs on boot. Went back to 98SE. Sorry Paul but it was much maligned because it was bloody aweful.

  23. Avatar

    pwrof3

    Wow! I forgot about Media Player 7! I spent hours tweaking equalizer settings, downloading skins, etc. And who can forget buying Plus! and getting the exclusive themes and skins.

  24. Avatar

    Mcgillivray

    It's interesting reading all those apps that were included. Most of them - as I read I was saying "There was already a third party app for that...". So really - it seems like Me was more about taking out competition - or should I say - catching up to competition. Maybe.I don't know.


    I just remember having not good memories of that OS for some reason....

  25. Avatar

    Waethorn

    You forgot one: Windows Me had built-in support for "Compressed Folders" (zip files). To get that functionality in Windows 98, you needed the Plus! Pack. Every version of Windows since has included it by default.

  26. Avatar

    robincapper

    I think, since I started with 3.1, Windows Me was the only generation I skipped. Think it was Windows 98 to XP for me!

  27. Avatar

    JCerna

    For me Windows ME was the best experience I can remmember from back then. I remmember it like it was yesturday, drivinging to my Frys Electronics for a box with Windows ME. Whent home to upgrade my crazy expensive Compaq Presario from Windows 8 Second Edition to ME. Back then I did not know enough to do a clean install. It was smooth and it was a million times better and easier to use then Windows 98. Then XP came out and all those hardcore Windows 2000 followers would hate on XP. At the time my first tech job my Network Admin would not upgrade to XP and even downgraded the machines we purchased with it. Darn it Paul why you had to remind me, lol.

  28. Avatar

    nbplopes

    It was already a subpar OS for the time. Apple is such a closed system according to Paul but back than it was already supporting and taking on board heavily Open Source software and Linux. Most people from the Windows camp don't know this page:


    https://opensource.apple.com


    PS: While the code in Windows Me and Windows 2000 were really closed in the chains ...

    • Avatar

      MightyGorath

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Oh, I see you're trying to say that opensource = better. Right, I see.

    • Avatar

      jbuccola

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Wow - so in the spirit of open source, we could legally run Macintosh on any x86 hardware?


      Oh...I see.

      • Avatar

        nbplopes

        In reply to jbuccola:


        Clearly you don't know what Open Source is. Any code referred in that page can not only be used in your own software as well as run in any device you see fit. This since 2000, a time where MS was fully, 100% closed source and its code would only run on Intel machines.


        Now, Apple never released the entire their OS as open source, neither as MS by the way.


        The core difference between MS and Apple are only one whose impact is great in the consumer space. MS allows other companies to build machines for their OS and brand them (the machine) anyway they want. You have the liberty to buy a Windows PC from DELL, HP, ... build your own using compatible parts. Apple does not, you have to buy the machines from them to run their OS. Both systems are closed systems but in a different way that is all. For instance MS tried for years with IE by not supporting standards effectively and even deviate from standards so that sites would only run well on Windows ... such effort was repudiated by the market fast ...


        They could embrace cross platform development by supporting open standards for instance with UWP with all heart and soul. Such support even though it seams to exist is totally half hearted. You can clearly see the same tactic being used as they have done with IE.


        Now, you may say that today MS seams to be far more open in terms of software support on their OS/Cloud than it ever was, that is true. Really nice. But the reality behind it is such that simply put they have lost that battle against open source and signs were that if they did not change their approach to it, they would really, really be in trouble today.

        • Avatar

          nbplopes

          In reply to nbplopes:


          Sophisticated cross platform app development (notive) is entirely feasible today. Have a deep look at the technologies behind Visual Studio Code for instance, you would be surprised.


          Have a look at: http://electron.atom.io

          • Avatar

            nbplopes

            In reply to nbplopes:


            One more Info for educational purposes. Have you have heard about NeXT Step / Open Step from NeXT, a former company of Steve Jobs. A company he built from the ground up before returning to Apple?


            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXTSTEP


            Have a look this and in particular how it was linked to Open Source too. Even though the Workstations were really expensive. This before Windows Me!!!!!!!! Than tell me what Innovation actually looks like ... and explain to me some comments I see Windows focused users do about Windows and anything but ... well ... Windows ... what a bubble.


            Anyone who loves tech and innovation beyond brands would appreciates this kinds of stuff. Who does not, well Mary Jo was forced out of Windows Phone by MS ... what a pain it must have been.


            Cheers.


            • Avatar

              Neville Bagnall

              In reply to nbplopes:

              Shouldn't feed ... aahhh, why the hell not?

              If you want to go into ancient history, look up Microsoft Xenix, the operating system Microsoft recommended for multiuser computing in the early 80's.

              There is, I think, a general paradigm. Open (Source) works best with a services model, Closed with a product model. When OpenSource took off, accelerated by the cost elimination provided through the internet, Microsoft was a products model company. That it has embraced opensource now that has moved to a services model is just good business practice. Just as it has always been for the services behemoths that emerged during the internet era.

              Apple remains a (single) product company in essence. Its engagement with opensource is peripheral to its core mission.

              • Avatar

                nbplopes

                In reply to Neville Bagnall:


                Hehehe.


                Why did MS abandoned Xenix even though it predicted it could well be the best multitasking system once hardware matured and reached more palatable prices? ... have a look at that especially when it moved to the corporate space.


                Humm. I think over 60% on the Internet is built on top of an open product / platform model with far reach. We are not talking about 60% of thousands of high priced deployments as it was when Windows NT started on, but billions of low price deployments. MS ambraced because it had no choice if it wanted to compete in the Cloud Computing space.


                Apple its fundamentally an highly focused end to end personal computing company, from software to hardware and services. That focus is what allowed the Apple to caught MS by surprise in a turf that lead for decades in market share, personal computing.


                Microsoft on the other hand not only does personal computing which fundamentally owned in the 90's and 2000's, also corporate computing which owned in 2000's bringing down Unix in the corporate side (smashing on prem market share), and its trying to repeat the same thing with cloud/internet computing as of lately windows servers market in this space its about 30%). As businesses moved to the cloud its on prem business is at risk, so they are following a trend that is unstoppable with MS or without, so the choose to stay not to be the next IBM. Windows Cloud is just a marketing gimmick, its fundamentally Windows capped down.


                The fundamental problem I see with MS strategy with Windows is that its prediction that Unix would be the best multitasking and versetile system once hardware was ready has realized. MS has not come up with Windows tech as mature and robust to cope with this new powerful hardware as efficiently overall. It may be the case that in a few years it might, who knows. But at the moment its not really that hard to see that this is the case. The breadth of hardware unix like systems support is huge.


                But as they move their core software and services the Cloud first world, dependency on Windows as the means to generate business value becomes less and less important to the company just in case.


                I really like the tenacity, the way MS seams to be engaged for innovation lately. But the bottom line is not that great on my daily life.

  29. Avatar

    Tirith

    I like, I just suffered a ptsd attack...as i supported this thing while working for Dell at the time.


    Kidding aside, I really hated ME, and by compaerison, 2000 was a joy to work with. I think 2000 was the longest I kept a windows OS until Win7.


    I to miss NetMeeting, for some reason I felt that thing just worked. Course it was all inside a private network.

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