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3 Windows 98 Bugs Worth Revisiting

Craig Snyder 05-07-2013

windows 98 bugsIs it just nostalgia that keeps me attached to this OS Live Out Your Operating System Nostalgia With The Restart Page Here on the Internet, you'll see a whole lot of nostalgia – old movies, old music... Pokémon. It's all here, and if it doesn't affect the rest of your life too much, there's nothing wrong... Read More , 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.

windows 98 bugs

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:

  1. Cancel on your initial login attempt
  2. Click the ? icon, hold down the left mouse, drag your cursor back to the Cancel button, and right-click and select Print Topic…
  3. Select Properties from the Print prompt
  4. Select Help
  5. Go into the Index
  6. Click the Find tab
  7. Select the “Custom paper dialogue box” topic (without ticking the box)
  8. Go to File then Open…
  9. Navigate to your Desktop
  10. Select My Computer
  11. 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 11 Tips to Help You Fix the Windows 10 Blue Screen Error What is a blue screen in Windows? How do you fix blue screen errors? Here are several fixes for this common Windows problem. Read More . 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:

<img src=”file:///C:/con/con”>

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.


Horrible Pathing

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 10 Windows Command Line Tips You Should Check Out While the Windows command line is not considered as powerful as a Linux's, here are some Windows command line tips and tricks not everyone might know about. Read More , 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)?

windows 98 bugs

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 11 Weird Windows Bugs and Easter Eggs You Have to See There are always some bugs and Easter Eggs hidden in all versions of Windows. Care to discover 11 of them? Read More . 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!

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  1. Anonymous
    May 23, 2017 at 12:51 am

    You could do something like the first gif on an iPhone.

  2. Anonymous
    May 11, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I tested the "Forgot Password?" Bug. All I did was click cancel and I was in. I had a password on it.

    • Paul
      August 31, 2019 at 8:20 pm

      Me too.

  3. 123
    January 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    windows 98 has a special space in my heart
    it's the first operating system I met too first

  4. Billyray
    October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I've just spent the last couple of weeks tweaking my Windows 98 SE machine; a PIII @ 450mhz, 768 MB ram, 2 hdd's, 40 and 60 GB respectively, on an Intel SE440BX mobo. The system had developed random freezes due to a dying 8 GB hdd which I replaced with a new 40 GB hdd that I found on ebay for $11 including shipping! That fixed the freezes. For the poster above, I use Clamwin antivirus which updates daily. I also use Opera web browser, but not the latest, Office 97, FrontPage 2000, IE6, Outlook Express, and most important, all of my Windows 98 games, which work flawlessly on a Leadtek Winfast A250 Ultra TD 128 MB graphics AGP card! This pc is on the home network along with a Windows 95 with Plus! Intel 486 machine with 96 MB of Ram, 2 XP computers, and 3 Windows 7 computers. I still also have a 386 machine with 2 MB or Ram, dual booting DOS 3.3 and PC-MOS 4.0! That one's not on the home network though. I just can't bring myself to retire these things!

  5. Wes Atkinson
    July 18, 2013 at 8:59 am

    PHEW! I thought for a second then you were going to mention Windows ME. My favourite OS has to be windows 95 Ver.C (with USB support!). Windows 98 was also the first windows OS to get sliding menus if I remember rightly.

    On the bug side. I remember I could make windows 98 go into safe mode after restart by just setting the windows clock back 10 years - Used to send everything haywire!

  6. Evan Spangler
    July 10, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Windows 98... Unfortunately, a little before my time. Year I was born, actually. I don't remember ever using 98, ME, 2000, or 95 before the age of 10. I do, however, fondly remember doing everything I could to play around in XP, when I didn't know anything more about computers than I could figure out on my own. Now I look back, only a few years later, with my A+ and soon hopefully Network+, and think about that. Funny how time flies...

  7. Barbara H
    July 9, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    I still have a win98 and love it, wish I could find a virus program so that I could go online with it.

  8. Jash Sayani
    July 7, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Great post. Lots of lessons for software developers.

  9. Pooky J
    July 5, 2013 at 7:42 am

    The last one is due to the lack of Windows System File Protection.

  10. Patrick S
    July 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

    98 was a step up from 95 in terms of stability, which isn't saying much when you come off of an almost zero base. At least it recognised my modem, something which 95 refused to do despite the fact that the drivers were 95-specific.

    • Philip Gray
      July 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      We still have a 40mhz 386DX running win95 which we use at work to run a chemical analysis program. The only time it ever gets rebooted is in the rare occasion of a power outage to the building.

  11. Alan W
    July 5, 2013 at 6:51 am

    I thought Win 98 was itself a "flat out mistake" :)

  12. ReadandShare
    July 5, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Never cared for any of the Win 9.x OSes. Win XP was the first OS that I didn't actively dislike.

    Indeed, of all the Microsoft products, the only two that I actually liked were Win 7 and Excel.

  13. Mian S
    July 5, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Back in time! Didn't knew Windows 98 had these bugs back then.. Nice post!