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Is it just nostalgia that keeps me attached to this OS, or was Windows 98 actually worth remembering? It goes without saying that an operating system released 15 years ago had its ups and downs. I remember the ups. It was the first operating system I ever used and the way I was introduced to computers. What about the downs?
Critics have been pretty harsh on the recent versions of Windows. Vista took it the hardest, but there are a lot of you who don’t seem to be the biggest fans of Windows 8 either. Maybe we should take a trip back in time and remember just how bad certain parts of Windows 98 were. Love it or hate it, you were in for some pretty big problems. Here are the three Windows 98 bugs that I remember the most.
No Password, No Problem
Windows could never get this right. In Windows 95, you’re able to Ctrl+Alt+Del, click File, Run, key in “explorer.exe”, and you’re in. In Windows XP, you could weasel your way in through the handicap menu. In Windows 98, it’s just awesome.
The GIF shown above is legendary among geeks. As you can see, you’re able to freely access your Windows 98 desktop by manipulating a few print options during the login procedure.
I’ll break the steps down for you:
- Cancel on your initial login attempt
- Click the ? icon, hold down the left mouse, drag your cursor back to the Cancel button, and right-click and select Print Topic…
- Select Properties from the Print prompt
- Select Help
- Go into the Index
- Click the Find tab
- Select the “Custom paper dialogue box” topic (without ticking the box)
- Go to File then Open…
- Navigate to your Desktop
- Select My Computer
- Right-click and select Open
You’re in. It’s worth it to do this at least once in your life. Who needs password security?
The Terrors of “CON/CON” and “AUX/AUX”
MS-DOS came with special device files that Microsoft didn’t want people playing with. With this came the reservation of device file names. These include: CON, PRN, AUX, NUL, COM(1-9), and LPT(1-9). CON and AUX became particularly popular after we realized how troublesome they can be.
Anyone who has used Windows for the past couple of years knows about the Blue Screen of Death. Windows 98 was plagued by it.
Plug CON/CON or AUX/AUX into your Run prompt and you’ll see that they’re just as dangerous as that scanner.
That’s not cool. But, what’s the big deal? How does this affect us? It can’t be used as a prank, right? “Hey, I dare you to type these commands into a prompt!” Well… not quite.
AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ were quite popular back then. HTML-based chats were also a big deal back when Windows 98 SE first dropped. I remember specifically because I was constantly haunted by a user in a chat room who would private message me one little HTML code that would immediately send me into the Blue Screen of Death:
I remember the day, many years later, that I finally read about this Windows 98 bug. It clicked in my head and I immediately thought back to when I was a confused preteen, getting owned over and over by this chat room user. It wasn’t fun. There are always alternative ways to achieve this same effect. You could easily mask a hyperlink and send someone to that file path through an IM client.
CON/CON and AUX/AUX were a nightmare.
I haven’t seen much coverage of this around the web, but it is a programming oversight that caused quite a bit of trouble for me. It’s quite simple to explain through this example: If you save a file with the same name and extension of a critical Windows file or process, even if it is not in the Windows directory, it will essentially “overwrite” this critical file. If you save the file “explorer.exe” directly to the path “C:\”, Windows Explorer will not launch when you reboot and your Windows is practically useless.
This can be fixed pretty easily if you’re skilled in the arts of Command Prompt, but wow. This is definitely a problem. Did Microsoft not think it was important to point to the absolute path of Windows Explorer (and other important files)?
This Windows 98 bug hit me in the face when I was saving a game from the web to my hard drive. That game just happened to have the word “explorer” in it’s title, and that’s what I decided to name the executable. It was a quick and messy save right to the root directory of my hard drive. And, guess what I saw a day later when I restarted my computer? Nothing but wallpaper and this game. I was pretty helpless. Times have changed.
There are a lot of interesting Windows bugs and tricks. These are just flat-out mistakes. Despite that, Windows 98 will go down as my all-time favorite operating system. These memories and failures have a special place in my heart.
What Windows 98 bugs and errors do you remember most clearly? Did you ever bypass the password prompt or fall victim to CON/CON as mentioned in this article? Let me know in the comments!