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Komando Kritic: Update Windows 98 machine? October 9, 2006

Posted by oktyabr in Komando Kritic, opinions, personal.

As recently heard on the Kim Komando show a caller presented his question about the security of Windows 98, which he had installed on a machine he purchased… errr… in 1998! Specifically the caller was aware that Microsoft no longer updates security patches and the like for ’98… it is officially *unsupported*.

1) The caller claimed that he rarely used this computer online… occasionally for checking email, weather reports, etc.

2) The computer was actually used little for anything extraordinary… I recall that the machine in question was used for doing taxes and the like and perhaps a little solitaire.

3) The caller was at least somewhat computer savvy as he said at his last place of work he had had multiple computers in his office space.

4) The machine was definately too old to load XP or Vista on and little time was spent exploring this possibility.

5) The caller said he was *retired*, which one can reasonably assume means *on a limited income*.

Kim’s solution: purchase a new computer! She said that if he shopped well he could probably purchase a new machine with XP (probably the incredibly crappy “Home” version on it) for around US$400 and that might even include a new monitor! Not only is this money that could probably be better spent elsewhere but for the purposes the caller suggested it is probably overkill too. It doesn’t take a new machine to check email and track your taxes and check book.

My solution: Put a linux on it! Most current distros will happily run on typical vintage ’98 equipment ( Ubuntu’s minimum requirements for “desktop” is at least Pentium 100Mhz and 128MB of RAM) . Even if the machine in question doesn’t have a CD burner for burning a downloaded ISO Ubuntu will actually ship you an installer CD for FREE!

I’m not suggesting Ubuntu is the only distro out there suitable for such use, just that it is the only one (that I know of) that the company will ship without cost to the customer. You can purchase other distros very inexpensively at places like OSdisc and Linux CD org which expands the possibilities.

But why anything at all? Much “hacking” can be prevented simply by purchasing a NAT hardware capable router (US$50 at most retailers) and allowing that to act as a firewall between the computer in question and the internet. Also, even though Microsoft no longer supports Windows 98 that doesn’t mean that other software providers have completely jumped ship too! A quick glance at snapfiles.com shows at least half a dozen very capable antivirus applications that ARE still updated for Windows 98 and can be had for FREE as well! I’m sure anti-spyware software is a similar story and Firefox is the top notch anti-adware browser for *any* OS.

Ok, so why buy at all… Kim? Ok, Kim’s sugar on the cereal was that since Windows 98 was no longer supported by Microsoft that a $400+ investment would be good idea because, last but not least, hackers might be seeking such vulnerable computers! Now that Microsoft has abandoned ’98 it is MUCH more attractive to the nefarious peoples of the cyber underworld! Come on! That’s the lamest excuse I heard during the whole call!!! For starters most people still running antiquated hardware with antiquated software like 98/ME/SE/95 are relatively far and few between… most of those actually still using dial up to gain access to the web when they go on it at all. Think people in this group use credit cards and paypal a lot online? Nope. Think the majority of serious hackers are interested at all? Nope. And of the ones that are most aren’t even old enough to “know” these older window’s versions well enough to hack them! No, by far the most popular OS to hack for evil and/or unlawful purposes is newly installed “virgin” build of Windows XP “Home”. It is by far the most common, the least protected (on average) and thus the most profitable, from a bad-guy point of view anyway…

At least Kim didn’t try to name a specific retailer for this $400+ “solution”.



1. Adam - July 15, 2008

I love Ubuntu. But I have yet to get it to run pleasantly enough on a windows 98 machine for me to feel good about the install. I suggest maybe trying DSL or Puppy…. though I have not tried Xubuntu yet. hmm… maybe i will have to try that:)

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