Microsoft has never been known for its modesty. So the name of its latest operating system should be no surprise: Windows Me.
Short for Windows Millennium Edition, Windows Me-the last in the company's 9x line of operating systems-is aimed squarely at desktops (as opposed to servers).
Windows Me typically comes pre-installed on new PCs, but is available as an upgrade if you have a little time on your hands and crave the incremental improvements it offers. The upgrade is quick and easy to install; the CD-ROM guides you through the entire process and offers a timed count-down so you know just how much longer it will take.
Depending on the speed of your PC, the upgrade can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. On a relatively new Dell Dimension with a 500MHz Pentium III, it took just under half an hour.
Minimum system requirements include a 150MHz Pentium processor and 32MB of memory, although performance and installation time on that level of machine will leave plenty to be desired.
On the surface, Windows Me looks and feels a whole lot like Windows 98. The majority of its new features are for consumers who crave multimedia. It offers a home-networking wizard, enhanced digital and audio players, the latest version of Internet Explorer, a scanner and camera wizard, and a Windows Movie Maker feature.
Windows Me also features System File Protection and System Restore, a couple of handy security features. System File Protection prevents users from deleting key system files by automatically-and silently-restoring them if they are deleted or overwritten. The System Restore feature allows you to undo damage done by applications that never should have been installed in the first place by returning your PC to its state at an earlier point in time. Another added perk: Windows Me boots up more quickly than its predecessors, so you'll spend less time waiting around before getting to work.
For businesses, most of the benefits lie on the inside. The -new OS offers greater stability than Windows 98-but because it's still built on the 9x foundation, it's not as sturdy as Windows 2-000, which Micro-soft is pushing for larger, multi-user business applications that require additional stability and performance. And for good reason: Windows 2000 is its most stable offering.
But that doesn't mean Windows Me shouldn't be welcome in certain offices. It offers several improvements over Windows 98, which many businesses are still using. The System Restore and System File Protection features offer valuable protection and can ease many IT headaches. Alone, they could be reason enough to invest the half-hour and $209 (street) for the full program or the $109 (street) for the upgrade.
Liane Gouthro, a former technology reporter at PCWorld.com, freelances from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts.