NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Windows Me
A Review by Joe Schork, President, October 2000
(click to email author)

This article originally started out as an opinion as to why upgrading to the new Windows Millennium was a good idea.

It was to be based strictly on an economic aspect. A step-up at the present time from Windows 98SE costs approximately $50. An upgrade from Windows 95, or Windows 98 pre-SE costs approximately $90. A full new version for those not having Windows 95 or 98 costs approximately $180.

To wait until Windows Whistler comes out (merging home use with business use -- various dates have been given out), will undoubtedly cost much more to upgrade from Windows 95 or 98. To buy a whole new version will probably cost a considerable amount. So my contention is, that to upgrade on a step up basis may prove most economical in the long run.

This is not saying that I recommend upgrading right now. Only for experienced computer people or those willing to take a chance. For the vast majority I say wait a few months until service release 1 comes out which will address any bugs found in the new system.

That was the basis for the article, but it has since changed. I have a copy of Windows Millennium and decided to install it Sep 17, 2000, in spite of all the bad reports that have been issued.

Most of these reports have come from magazine or newspaper reviews by their computer specialists. I have lost faith in some of their reporting based on the half truths and misleading information included in some of these articles.

I will try to convey my experience in setting up and using the new Windows Millennium. The first thing I did was cross my fingers, the reports had me worried. Next thing was to make sure all programs were closed. I then went to the system tray and disabled my virus scan program and for good luck unplugged my cable modem connection. I inserted the CD into my drive and it proceeded into the autorun mode and it asked if I wanted to Install the new program. I bit down on my lip and typed in yes. It began to load and informed me it would take approximately 32 minutes or more to complete. It loaded like a dream, as good as any program I have ever used. Of course at the end it said to reboot the computer. I shut the computer down and reconnected my cable modem. This I dreaded, since I read many people had to reboot numerous times. Wow, it came right up, with a new Windows screen and a cute new musical to go with it. Finally it got to the desk top, all well and good, except that it seemed to continue running the hard drive off and on. This had me concerned, but I went ahead and tried to run some programs anyway. I noticed the dreaded thing most articles talked about, the computer ran slow, very slow. I gulped but decided to analyze this further. I knew there was an auto update feature that would run in the background, so I searched it out and set it to notify me of updates, not automatically run them. This helped a lot, but things were still slow.

At this point I started having some regrets, but decided to plunge forward. I also knew about a thing called a maintenance wizard, so I searched for it, found it and decided to run it. Was I due for a surprise? It runs everything, scandisk, other things so fast I missed them, and then goes into defragmentation. I watched for awhile and after about the fourth time it said data had changed on the drive and it restarted again, I decided to let it run, watch television and periodically check on it. Good thing I did, it seemed to run forever, but I noticed each time it got a little further ahead. Eventually it finished, and as you could guess, I was watching the television when it did.

Now for the moment of truth, I tried to run one of my programs, it ran like a charm. Didn't appear to be slow. I tried more programs with the same results. I opened some large image files (in the 3 meg range), they too opened easily and quickly. I decided I would probably stick with it so I used the restore feature and established a restore point right then and named it first, it automatically dates it.

I will now describe some of the new features and then comment on the negative articles and why I think some of them were wrong.

The restore feature is almost worth the cost alone. You can establish a restore point anywhere you want. A good point would be just before you load a new program or install a downloaded program. That way if problems creep up, you can always restore back to the last time your computer functioned properly.

Most noticeable features are obvious immediately, new Windows screen, a pleasing blue desktop with sort of 3D icons for My Computer, Recycle Bin, and My Network Places (note the new name for Network Neighborhood).

There is an Auto Update feature that will update your computer in the background. The effect of this is to slow things down while this is happening. Fortunately, you can disable this feature and have it notify you of updates, like Windows 98 SE did.

There is a feature called System File Protection, which is a great feature. According to the help file: "System File Protection (SFP) is a feature implemented in Windows that ensures files critical to system operation are not replaced by older versions or versions not approved by Microsoft.

This means that even applications developed by Microsoft cannot replace "protected" files with older versions. It also means that a third-party product can replace system files, but only if the file is shipped with a catalog signed by Microsoft that references the newer file.

This information is also available in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. If you would like to view this information online, see Knowledge Base article number Q253571, " Description of System File Protector." Windows Explorer has some new winning features:

1. You can review picture files as thumbnails.
2. You can customize each folder to add a background to an individual
3. You can view pictures from the file as full screen slideshow.

After 4 or 5 days there is a program that kicks in called Smart Menus, what this does is when you click on the start button and go to programs, it only displays the menu items that you have been using the most frequently. There is also a down arrow to click on and display the rest when you want to. Eventually, only the programs you use most often will pop up on the menus.

There are many other small changes that are too numerous to mention. I have just started to give the program a real workout, but I like what I have seen.

Now to my disagreement with the critics: Almost every article I read blames the slow performance on three factors, the System File Protection, The Restore Features and the Auto Update. Think about this for a moment, the first two features only operate if you are loading a new program or establishing a restore point or a restore. How then can they slow down your computer? Auto Update definitely is a culprit, but few of them mention you can turn it off. And how many of them actually ran the Maintenance Wizard before declaring the program dead in the water.

This is solely an opinion based on my observations, but so far I like the program a great deal and have had no problems. I haven't even gotten into the video recording features yet, but I will.

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