Windows 98 – the End is Nigh and a Look Back

What OS were you using in 1998?  Windows 98?  Red Hat 5.1?  Something else?

The MSRC blog recently re-iterated the upcoming end of life for Windows 98, Window 98SE and Windows ME, indicating that there will be no support after the July 11th patch Tuesday. (There’s more detail about this and other Support Lifecycle dates on the Support Lifecycle Website:  After a short new lease on life, the road is reaching it’s end later than originally planned.  Or, earlier, if you like the slashdot re-interpretation.

I fondly remember my upgrade to Windows 98 and later Windows 98SE – which served as my workhouse game and home budgeting platform for several years.  I moved to Windows 2000 and later Windows XP, but kept a 98 partition for quite a while.

According to a Washtington Post artcile on the topic, Al Gillen of IDC estimated that 13% (48 million Win98 and 25 million WinME) of Windows user base was still running Win9X/ME and that would still be 6% (my math says 6 * 73 / 13 = 33.7 million) by the end of 2006.  Interestingly, an IDC presentation to OSDL, (by my eyeball addition of slide 11) indicates that Linux PC shipments and re-provisions might reach 30 million cumulative for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

I thought it might be interesting to see what was happening in the Linux world in June/July of 1998 and see if that puts the stability and durability of Windows 98 in a new light eight years later.  These are gleaned from the Linux Weekly News Timeline page for 1998:

  • May1998 (though Wiki says March), SuSE 5.2 is released.  Can’t find when support ended, though
  • May 1998 Red Hat 5.1 released.  Quoting LWN: Red Hat 5.1 was released and immediately started accumulating rather more than the usual number of updates (partly as a result of the Linux Security Audit program). There was talk of “Red Hat 5.1 service pack 1” as a result. 5.1 did eventually stabilize into a solid release. “
  • June 1998 – {Linux} Stable kernel 2.0.34 is released after a long prepatch series.
  • July 1998 – {Linux} Stable kernel 2.0.35 is released.

I also note that in November 1998, both Red Hat and SUSE announced their first “enterprise” support programs – which IMO is the real significant change (as opposed to anything related to the OSS development model) that eventually opened the way for businesses to use Linux.

Anyway, that gives some interesting perspective.  Who is still using Red Hat or SUSE 5.x?  If someone wants to talk about “how broken” Windows 98 is (slashdot again), I guess I’d just have to ask about the Linux distros of the time, as opposed to the latest and greatest.


About the Author
Jeff Jones

Principal Cybersecurity Strategist

Jeff Jones a 27-year security industry professional that has spent the last decade at Microsoft working with enterprise CSOs and Microsoft's internal teams to drive practical and measurable security improvements into Microsoft products and services. Additionally, Jeff analyzes vulnerability trends Read more »