Windows ME

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Windows ME
A release of the Microsoft Windows operating system
Microsoft Windows Millenium Edition Logo.svg
Screenshot of Windows ME
Source modelClosed source
September 14, 2000[1]
Latest release4.90 (Build 3000) / September 14, 2000; 14 years ago (2000-09-14)[2]
Kernel typeMonolithic kernel
LicenseCommercial software
Preceded byWindows 98 SE (1999)
Succeeded byWindows XP (2001)[3]
Support status
Mainstream support ended on December 31, 2003
Extended support ended on July 11, 2006[4]
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Windows ME
A release of the Microsoft Windows operating system
Microsoft Windows Millenium Edition Logo.svg
Screenshot of Windows ME
Source modelClosed source
September 14, 2000[1]
Latest release4.90 (Build 3000) / September 14, 2000; 14 years ago (2000-09-14)[2]
Kernel typeMonolithic kernel
LicenseCommercial software
Preceded byWindows 98 SE (1999)
Succeeded byWindows XP (2001)[3]
Support status
Mainstream support ended on December 31, 2003
Extended support ended on July 11, 2006[4]

Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME (marketed as being pronounced as the pronoun "Me",[5] but commonly pronounced as an initialism, "M-E"), is a graphical operating system from Microsoft released to manufacturing on June 19, 2000,[6] and launched on September 14, 2000.[7] It was the last operating system released in the Windows 9x series.

Windows ME was the successor to Windows 98 SE and was targeted specifically at home PC users.[7] It included Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7, and the new Windows Movie Maker software, which provided basic video editing and was designed to be easy to use for home users. Microsoft also updated the graphical user interface, shell features, and Windows Explorer in Windows ME with some of those first introduced in Windows 2000, which had been released as a business-oriented operating system seven months earlier. Windows ME could be upgraded to Internet Explorer 6 SP1 (but not to SP2 (SV1) or Internet Explorer 7), Outlook Express 6 SP1 and Windows Media Player 9 Series. Microsoft .NET Framework up to and including version 2.0 is supported; however, versions 2.0 SP1, 3.x, and greater are not. Office XP was the last version of Microsoft Office to be compatible with Windows ME.

Windows ME is a continuation of the Windows 9x model, but with restricted access to real mode MS-DOS in order to decrease system boot time.[8] This was one of the most unpopular changes in Windows ME, because applications that needed real mode DOS to run, such as older disk utilities, did not run under Windows ME (although the system could either be booted into real mode DOS using a bootable Windows ME floppy disk or the configuration could be tweaked manually to reenable access to the underlying MS-DOS).

Compared with other releases of Windows, Windows ME had a short shelf-life of just over a year. Microsoft aimed to make ME the first consumer Windows OS based on the NT kernel. However, this did not happen and ME was rushed to the market after the Neptune project was canceled. Windows ME was often criticized for being buggy, slow and unstable. Windows ME, along with Windows 2000, were soon replaced by the NT-based Windows XP, which was launched on August 24, 2001. Mainstream support for Windows ME ended on December 31, 2003, and extended support ended on July 11, 2006,[4] which is at the same time as Windows 98.


In 1998, Microsoft stated that there would be no version of Windows 9x after Windows 98.[9] In May 1999, however, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second Edition, and then announced a new version of Windows 9x which was later revealed to be codenamed Millennium. In 2000, this was released as Windows Millennium Edition (Windows ME).[10]

At least three beta versions of Windows ME were available during its development phase. On September 24, 1999, Microsoft announced that Windows Millennium Beta 1 was released.[10] Windows Millennium Beta 2 was released on November 24, 1999, and added a couple of new features such as System File Protection and Game Options Control Panel. Several interim builds were released between Beta 1 and 2, and added features such as automatic updates and personalized menus. Beta 3 was released on April 11, 2000, and this version marked the first appearance of its final version startup and shutdown sounds (derived from Windows 2000), as the previous betas used Windows 98 SE's startup and shutdown sounds. The final version boot screen was first featured in Beta 3 build 2513. The general availability date was December 31, 2000. Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows Millennium Edition on December 31, 2003. Extended support ended on July 11, 2006. Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE Extended support ended the same day.[11] Windows ME also contained the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which caused it as well as Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE to be pulled from the Microsoft Developer Network at the end of 2003.[12] At launch time, Microsoft announced a time-limited promotion[13] from September 2000–January 2001 which entitled Windows 95 or Windows 98 users to upgrade to Windows ME for $59.95 instead of the regular retail upgrade price of $109.[13]

Shortly after Windows ME was released, Microsoft launched a campaign-initiative to promote Windows ME in the U.S., which they dubbed the Meet Me Tour. A national partnered promotional program featured Windows ME, OEMs and other partners in an interactive multimedia attraction in 25 cities across the U.S.[14]

New and updated features[edit]

User interface[edit]

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 SE. 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[edit]

Digital media[edit]

Networking technologies[edit]

System utilities[edit]

Accessibility features[edit]

Removed features[edit]

Real mode DOS[edit]

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.[8][15]

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 removed 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-createable floppy disk, known as the Emergency Boot Disk (EBD)) allowed booting into real mode MS-DOS.

Other components[edit]

Unlike past versions of Windows, Windows ME was aimed primarily at home users, and removed certain enterprise-oriented features. Several features of its predecessors did not work or were officially unsupported by Microsoft on Windows ME, including Automated Installation,[34] Active Directory client services,[35] System Policy Editor,[36] Personal Web Server and ASP. These features were supported on its predecessors, Windows 98 and Windows 95.[37] A Resource Kit publication, targeted towards system administrators, was never published for Windows ME.

Other features removed or never updated to work with Windows ME included Microsoft Fax,[38] QuickView and DriveSpace, as well as the GUI FAT32 conversion tool.[39]

Several Windows Explorer commands were removed in Windows ME.[40]


Windows ME was heavily criticized by some users, mainly for stability issues. A PC World article dubbed Windows ME the "Mistake Edition" and placed it 4th in their "Worst Tech Products of All Time" feature.[41] "Shortly after ME appeared in late 2000," the article states, "users reported problems installing it, getting it to run, getting it to work with other hardware or software, and getting it to stop running."

System Restore also suffered from a bug in the date-stamping functionality that may cause System Restore to date-stamp snapshots that are taken after 8 September 2001 incorrectly. This can prevent System Restore from locating these snapshots and can cause the system restore process to fail. Microsoft released an update to fix this problem.[42]

Byron Hinson and Julien Jay writing for ActiveWin took an appreciative look on the operating system. On the removal of real mode DOS, they had noted "The removal of DOS has clearly made a difference in Windows Me in terms of stability (Far less Blue Screens Of Death are seen now) and booting speed has greatly increased."[43] 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."[44]

Relation to other Windows releases[edit]

Windows ME was complemented by NT-based Windows 2000, which was aimed at professional users. Both operating systems were succeeded by Windows XP with their features unified. All Windows ME support, including security updates and security related hotfixes, was terminated on July 11, 2006. Support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE was also terminated on that date. Microsoft ended support for these products because the company considers them obsolete and running these products can expose users to security risks.[45]

Many third-party applications written for earlier editions of Microsoft Windows, especially older games, run under Windows ME but not under Windows 2000. This fact has become less relevant with the sharp decline in popularity of Windows ME after the release of Windows XP, which features a compatibility mode which allows many of these older applications to run.

If an installation CD-ROM from the Windows 2000 family is inserted into the drive of a computer running Windows ME, the user is prompted to upgrade to Windows 2000 because Windows ME has an older version number than Windows 2000. While this is not technically so (Windows ME was released several months after Windows 2000), Windows ME is in fact derived from the older, monolithic MS-DOS codebase (Windows 4.x) while Windows 2000 is the first of the NT 5.0 family, making the latter an upgrade.

Windows 2000 cannot, however, be upgraded to Windows ME. If an installation CD-ROM from Windows ME is inserted while running Windows 2000, the user will receive an error message that Setup cannot run from within Windows 2000. The user is prompted to shut down Windows 2000, restart the computer using Windows 95, 98, or 98 SE, or start MS-DOS and then run Setup from the MS-DOS command prompt.

Windows XP, which is NT-based, became the successor to Windows ME. It also closed the gap between consumer Windows and Windows NT. In addition, no service packs for Windows ME were released.

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

Windows ME was the last Windows release to be based on the Windows 9x (monolithic) kernel and MS-DOS.

System requirements[edit]

System requirements for running Windows ME[46]
CPUPentium, 150 MHzPentium II, 300 MHz
Memory32 MB64 MB
Hard drive320 MB2 GB
Sound hardware
  • Sound card
  • Speakers or headphones
Microphone for Windows Movie Maker
NetworkNone56.6 Kbps modem or faster with current Internet connection
Input device(s)Mouse or compatible pointing device

Windows ME is not designed to handle more than 512 MB of RAM by default.[47] 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.[47][48] Systems with 1.5 GB of RAM or more may reboot continuously during startup.[49]


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External links[edit]