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Windows Me

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Not to be confused with Windows 2000.

Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me (marketed with the pronunciation of the pronoun "me"), is an operating system developed by Microsoft as part of its Windows 9x family of Microsoft Windows operating systems. It is the successor to Windows 98, and was released to manufacturing on June 19, 2000, and then to retail on September 14, 2000. It was Microsoft's main operating system for home users until the introduction of its successor Windows XP in October 2001.

Windows Me was targeted specifically at home PC users, and included Internet Explorer 5.5 (later default was Internet Explorer 6), Windows Media Player 7 (later default was Windows Media Player 9 Series) and the new Windows Movie Maker software, which provided basic video editing and was designed to be easy to use for consumers. Microsoft also incorporated features first introduced in Windows 2000, which had been released as a business-oriented operating system seven months earlier, into the graphical user interface, shell and Windows Explorer. Although Windows Me was still ultimately based around MS-DOS like its predecessors, access to real-mode DOS was restricted to decrease system boot time.

Windows Me initially received a positive reception when it was released, however it soon garnered a negative reception from many users due to stability problems. Windows Me became infamously known by many as one of the worst versions of Windows ever released, being unfavorably compared with its immediate predecessor, Windows 98, several years before. In October 2001, Windows XP was released to the public, having already been under development at the time of Windows Me's release, and popularized most of Windows Me's features, while being far more stable because of it being based on the Windows NT kernel. After the release of Windows XP in 2001, mainstream support for Windows Me ended on December 31, 2003, followed by extended support on July 11, 2006.

Table of contents
  1. Development
  2. New and updated features
  3. Removed features
  4. Upgradeability
  5. System requirements
  6. Support lifecycle
  7. Reception

Image gallery

Windows ME Microsoft Windows Millenium Edition Logo


At the 1998 Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates stated that Windows 98 would be the last iteration of Windows to use the Windows 9x kernel, with the intention for the next consumer-focused version to be based on the Windows NT kernel, unifying the two branches of Windows. However, it soon became apparent that the development work involved was too great to meet the aim of releasing before the end of 2000, particularly given the ongoing parallel work on the eventually-canceled Neptune project. The Consumer Windows development team was therefore re-tasked with improving Windows 98 while porting some of the look-and-feel from Windows 2000. Microsoft President Steve Ballmer publicly announced these changes at the next Windows HEIC in 1999.

On July 23, 1999, the first alpha version of Windows Me was released to testers. Known as Development Preview 1, it was very similar to Windows 98 SE, with the only major change being a very early iteration of the new Help and Support feature that would appear in the final version. Three more Development Previews were released over the subsequent two months.

The first beta version was released to testers and the industry press on September 24, 1999, with the second coming on November 24 that year. Beta 2 showed the first real changes from Windows 98, including importing much of the look-and-feel from Windows 2000, and the removal of real-mode DOS. Industry expert Paul Thurrott reviewed Beta 2 upon release and spoke positively of it in a review. By early 2000, Windows Me was reportedly behind schedule, and an interim build containing the new automatic update feature was released to allay concerns about a delayed-release.

In February 2000, Paul Thurrott revealed that Microsoft had planned to exclude Windows Me, as well as new releases of Windows NT 4.0, from CD shipments for MSDN subscribers. The reason given in the case of Me was that the OS was designed for consumers. However, Thurrott alleged that the real motivation behind both case to force software developers to move to Windows 2000. Three days later, following a write-in and call-in campaign by hundreds of readers, Microsoft announced that Windows Me (including development versions) would ship to MSDN subscribers after all. Microsoft also apologized personally to Thurrott, claiming he received misinformation, though in a follow-up article he stated that it was "clear that the decision [...] actually changed".

Beta 3 was released on April 11, 2000, and this version marked the first appearance of its final startup and shutdown sounds derived from Windows 2000, as the previous betas used Windows 98's startup and shutdown sounds.


Although Microsoft signed off on the final build of Windows Me on June 28, 2000, after trialing three Release Candidate builds with testers, the final retail release was pushed back to September 14 for reasons that were not clear.

Shortly after Windows Me was released to manufacturing on June 19, 2000, Microsoft launched a marketing campaign to promote it in the U.S., which they dubbed the Meet Me Tour. A national partnered promotional program featured the new OS, OEMs and other partners in an interactive multimedia attraction in 25 cities.

Windows Me was released for retail sale on September 14, 2000. At launch time, Microsoft announced a time-limited promotion from September 2000 to January 2001 which entitled Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE users to upgrade to Windows Me for $59.95 instead of the regular retail upgrade price of $109. Non-upgrade versions cost $209, the same as Windows 98 on its release. In October 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, which also included the ZIP folders, the Spider Solitaire game and Internet Explorer 6 by default, all while being based on the Windows NT kernel of Windows 2000.

New and updated features

User interface

Windows Me featured the shell enhancements inherited from Windows 2000 such as personalized menus, customizable Windows Explorer toolbars, auto-complete in Windows Explorer address bar and Run box, Windows 2000 advanced file type association features, displaying comments in shortcuts as tooltips, extensible columns in Details view (IColumnProvider interface), icon overlays, integrated search pane in Windows Explorer, sort by name function for menus, Places bar in common dialogs for Open and Save, cascading Start menu special folders, some Plus! 95 and Plus! 98 themes, and updated graphics. The notification area in Windows Me and later supported 16-bit high color icons. The Multimedia control panel was also updated from Windows 98. Taskbar and Start Menu options allowed disabling of the drag and drop feature and could prevent moving or resizing the taskbar, which was easier for new users.

Hardware support improvements Digital media Networking technologies System utilities Accessibility features
Removed features

Real mode DOS

Windows Me restricted support for real mode MS-DOS. As a result, IO.SYS in Windows Me disregards CONFIG.SYS, COMMAND.COM and WIN.COM and directly executes VMM32.VXD. In its default configuration the system would neither boot into an MS-DOS command prompt nor exit to DOS from Windows; real mode drivers such as ANSI.SYS could not be loaded and older applications that require real mode could not be run. Microsoft argued that the change improved the speed and reliability of the boot process.

In Windows Me, the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files are used only to set global environment variables. The two files (if present) are scanned for settings relating to the environment variables, and any other commands present are moved into a Windows registry key (see below). The two files thus contain only settings and preferences which configure the "global environment" for the computer during the boot phase or when starting a new virtual DOS machine (VDM).

To specify or edit other startup values (which, in Windows 98, would be present in the AUTOEXEC.BAT file) the user must edit the following Windows registry key:
For troubleshooting and crash recovery, both the Windows Me CD-ROM and the Windows Me startup disk (a user-creatable floppy disk, known as the Emergency Boot Disk (EBD)) allowed booting into real mode MS-DOS.

It is possible to restore real mode DOS functionality through various unofficial means. Additionally, a registry setting exists that re-enables the "Restart in MS-DOS mode" option in the shutdown dialog box; however, unless patched unofficially with third-party software, Windows Me cannot be booted to MS-DOS real mode.

Other components

Unlike previous versions of Windows 9x, Windows Me was entirely aimed at home users, and thus had certain enterprise-oriented features removed. Several features of its predecessors did not work or were officially unsupported by Microsoft on Windows Me, including Automated Installation, Active Directory client services, System Policy Editor, Personal Web Server and ASP. These features were supported on its predecessors, Windows 98 and Windows 95. A Resource Kit publication, targeted towards system administrators, was never published for Windows Me.

Other features that were removed or never updated to work with Windows Me included Microsoft Fax, QuickView and DriveSpace, as well as the GUI FAT32 conversion tool. Several Windows Explorer commands were also modified in Windows Me, matching the menu structure in Windows 2000. While some were simply moved to a different location, certain functionality of the Go menu, as well as the Find command on the Tools menu, are no longer available. For the latter change Microsoft recommends using a variety of similar functionality labeled Search.

Windows Me, like Windows 98 Second Edition, did not ship with the WinG API or RealPlayer 4.0, unlike the original release of Windows 98, due to both of these having been superseded by DirectX and Windows Media Player, respectively.


Windows Me could have its components upgraded or have new components installed up to the latest versions:
System requirements

The /nm setup switch can be used at the DOS command line to bypass the minimum system requirement checks, allowing for installation on a CPU as low as the 16†MHz 80486SX.


Windows Me is only designed to handle up to 512†MB of RAM without changes. Systems with larger RAM pools may lose stability; however, depending on the hardware and software configuration, it is sometimes possible to manually tweak the installation to continue working with somewhat larger amounts of RAM as well. The maximum amount of memory the operating system is designed to use is up to 1†GB of RAM. Systems with more than 1.5†GB of RAM may continuously reboot during startup.

Support lifecycle

Compared with other releases of Windows, Windows Me had a short shelf-life of just over a year. Windows 2000 and Windows Me were eventually succeeded by newer Microsoft operating systems: Windows Me by Windows XP Home Edition, and Windows 2000 Professional by Windows XP Professional. Windows XP is noteworthy that the first preview build of Windows XP (then codenamed "Whistler") was released to developers on July 13, 2000, two months before Windows Me's general availability date.

Microsoft originally planned to end support for Windows Me on December 31, 2004. However, in order to give customers more time to migrate to newer Windows versions, particularly in developing or emerging markets, Microsoft decided to extend support until July 11, 2006. Microsoft ended support for Windows Me (and Windows 98) on this date because the company considered the operating system to be obsolete and prone to security risks, and recommended customers to upgrade to a newer version of Windows such as Windows XP for the latest security improvements.

Retail availability for Windows Me ended on December 31, 2003. The operating system is no longer available from Microsoft in any form (through MSDN or otherwise) due to the terms of Java-related settlements Microsoft made with Sun Microsystems.

The Windows Update website continued to be available after Windows Me's end of support date, however, during 2011, Microsoft retired the Windows Update v4 website and removed the updates for Windows Me from its servers.

Support for Office XP on Windows Me ended on July 12, 2011, ending support for all versions of Office on Windows Me.

Microsoft announced in July 2019 that the Microsoft Internet Games services on Windows Me (and XP) would end on July 31, 2019.


Windows Me initially received generally positive reviews, with reviewers citing the operating system's integrity protection (branded as "PC Health") and the new System Restore feature as steps forward for home users. Despite this, however, users' real-world experience did not bear this out, with industry publications receiving myriad reports of problems with the "PC Health" systems, PCs refusing to shut down cleanly, and general stability problems.

As time went on, the reception became even more negative, to the point where it was heavily panned by users, mainly due to stability problems. Because of its many bugs and glitches, Windows Me is now infamously viewed as one of the worst operating systems of all time, both in critical and retrospect, being unfavorably compared to its immediate predecessor and successor. A PC World article infamously dubbed Windows Me as "Mistake Edition" and placed it 4th in their "Worst Tech Products of All Time" feature in 2006. The article states:
"Shortly after Me appeared in late 2000, users reported problems installing it, getting it to run, getting it to work with other hardware or software, and getting it to stop running."
Consequently, in response to these heavy criticisms, most home users ultimately opted to stick with its predecessor, Windows 98 Second Edition, for the remainder of Windows Me's lifecycle until the release of Windows XP in 2001, while some moved over to Windows 2000 Professional despite the latter operating system being primarily marketed towards the high-end business and enterprise market at the time. In Netherlands and Sweden, Windows Me was mockingly nicknamed "Windows Meer Ellende" and "Windows Mycket Elšnde" (Dutch and Swedish for "more suffering", respectively).

System Restore suffered from a bug in the date-stamping functionality that could cause System Restore to incorrectly date-stamp snapshots that were taken after September 8, 2001. This could prevent System Restore from locating these snapshots and cause the system restore process to fail. Microsoft released an update to fix this problem.

Byron Hinson and Julien Jay, writing for ActiveWin, took an appreciative look on the operating system. On the removal of real mode DOS support, they had noted "The removal of DOS has clearly made a difference in Windows Me in terms of stability (far less Blue screen of death are seen now) and booting speed has greatly increased." In a recommendation of the operating system upgrade for users of Windows 95 and 98, they had stated "If Windows Me isn't a revolutionary OS it's clear that Microsoft has focused its efforts to make it more user-friendly, stable and packed full of multimedia options. The result is great and the enhancements added are really worth the wait." The new features that Windows Me introduced were also praised and have since remained part of subsequent Windows versions.

Along with Windows 2000 from the Windows NT family, Windows Me was the last version of Windows that lacked product activation.

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