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For some time, it’s been a joke that every other version of Windows is great. People liked Windows 98, hated ME, still love XP, abhorred Vista, clung to 7, ridiculed 8, and now for the most part enjoy Windows 10. This leads to many people staying on popular versions for as long as possible, while those who get stuck with an off version try to upgrade as soon as they can.
What we haven’t examined is why the “bad” versions of Windows were so hated. Let’s take a look at the three most hated Windows versions — Millennium Edition (ME), Vista, and 8 — and see what was so terrible about them.
This edition of Windows, often nicknamed the Mistake Edition, launched in late 2000 and was the last entry in the Windows 9x line.
Windows 2000, launched earlier that year, was mainly intended for business use. Windows 98 was only a few years old, but XP was still in production and not ready for use. Microsoft wanted to launch a new consumer version of Windows to generate buzz; thus ME was born.
The short-term nature of Windows ME ended up hurting it badly. Because Microsoft rushed it to meet an arbitrary deadline, it ended up feeling incomplete and was an awkward bridge between the Windows 9x years and Windows XP.
ME was only sold for about a year, and XP became a smash hit when it released a year later. While Windows XP still has a 10 percent market share fifteen years later, ME isn’t even on the map. This speaks to how poorly folks received it.
ME in Everyday Use
On the software side, ME was basically Windows 98 with a few new features slapped on. However, some of these features, like System Restore, suffered from bugs. ME also removed the DOS mode present in Windows 98 and earlier that let users install older software.
Instead of a new and exciting version of internet Explorer (IE), ME treated its users to the in-between IE 5.5. In those days, this was much more important. Windows and IE were tightly integrated, as IE had a big hand in Windows Explorer and other features. Additionally, other browsers weren’t as prevalent as they are today, so having a lousy IE version likely had a hand in ME’s issues.
Prevalent throughout the operating system were crashes, slowness, and strange performance issues. People’s mileage varied, but most users experienced bugs and other annoyances that made the OS hard to use. Many users reported that when returning to their machines after a few minutes, just moving the mouse caused ME to crash.
a person is showing a presentation on windows systems and said windows ME stands for mistake edition instead of millennium and I'm SO PISSED
— ? a bot, stuck in pink-cyan music bullet hell ? (@logicthelog) November 21, 2016
We can attribute most of these problems to the aging Windows 9x architecture coupled with a rushed product that simply wasn’t ready for release. Windows ME was quickly replaced with the superior XP, and people never looked back.
Those who never used Windows ME think of Windows Vista, released in early 2007, as the worst Windows version ever.
While Vista was also hated, it doesn’t have the same story as ME. Vista was actually much different from XP, so it didn’t bring any baggage with it like ME did. Because Windows XP had so many security problems, Microsoft focused on making Vista a more secure OS. In practice, this led to some of its many annoyances.
Are You Sure You Want to Do That?
Perhaps the most infamous problem introduced with Vista was User Account Control (UAC). This came to be because of a major security issue with Windows XP. Most software in XP required an admin account to work properly, so Standard user accounts could do next to nothing. Thus, people were using admin accounts all the time, which isn’t safe.
To keep programs from running with administrative privileges willy-nilly, UAC prompts the user to confirm that they want to run a program that could make changes to their computer. It’s still present (and greatly toned down) in every version of Windows since Vista, but it was overwhelming in its initial state. It seemed that every time you clicked an icon, you had to confirm something.
Apple mocked this and other Vista problems in its famous ads, which certainly had a hand in the public view of Vista.
Compatibility and Hardware Problems
Vista also required much beefier hardware to run than XP. This makes sense, since it launched six years later and had more features. However, Microsoft ran into issue with PC manufacturers. Despite Vista running horribly on low-end machines, it still placed “Compatible with Windows Vista” stickers on computers that barely met the minimum requirements. This led to people becoming frustrated with their new machine’s sluggish performance.
Finally, Vista came with lots of compatibility issues. To work on the security problems of XP, Microsoft changed the driver model to make the system much more stable. This greatly cut down on the number of blue screens, and Vista was able to recover from graphics driver crashes that would have taken down XP.
Since these changes were significant, they also resulted in a learning period for developers. Older drivers also didn’t work under the new model, so many people trying to use old software or devices found that they didn’t work or crashed.
It’s clear that many of the problems in Vista arose from necessary changes from XP. Vista became a testing ground for these changes. Just two years later in 2009, Microsoft released Windows 7. Windows 7 is what Vista should have been and fixed the majority of the problems it had.
Windows 8, which released in 2012, is still fresh in most people’s minds. Let’s review why 8 got so much hate.
For most people, the big problem with Windows 8 was that it changed so much for no reason. Windows 7 was only three years old, and people still loved it. After the rocky Vista, it was refreshing to have an OS that not only looked great, but was rock-solid and fast as well. Ignoring all this, Microsoft followed its vision for a multi-device OS and Windows 8 got rid of the Start Menu, a Windows staple since the 90s.
That was only the beginning of the issues, however. Windows 8 introduced the Windows Store, an attempt to have a central location for downloading Windows software. However, it quickly became filled with garbage, and most people knew where to download the best Windows software already. Windows 8 also included some Modern apps that confusingly duplicated normal software’s functionality.
Windows 8 suffered from a split personality. The traditional desktop, almost copied and pasted from Windows 7 minus the Start Menu, was still present. However, it was clear that Microsoft wanted you to get invested in the new Modern apps.
You Want Touch Screens, Right?
These Modern (or Metro) apps were aggravating. Apps on smartphones make sense because they’re more efficient than mobile websites. Websites are already built to cater to desktop and laptop browsers, so apps weren’t a fit.
Changing settings required finding whether your desired option was in the new Settings app or in the old Control Panel. Opening a picture on your desktop could send you into the Photos app, totally breaking your chain of thought.
Though nobody wanted it, Windows 8 also prioritized touch screens over sensible user interface design. Features like the Charms bar activated by swiping the side of a touch screen, but those without a touch screen had to use awkward mouse gestures. When the OS launched, people panicked because they couldn’t even figure out how to shut down the computer.
In the end, Windows 8 shows that mobile and desktop user needs are quite different. We can’t ever be sure how Microsoft thought that Windows 8 was a good idea. It did release Windows 8.1 to correct some of the issues with Windows 8, and while it’s nowhere near perfect, 8.1 is a more usable OS. Microsoft has already dropped support for Windows 8, so everyone should upgrade.
Windows XP was the best version of Windows ever made. Thanks to Vista, else Windows 8 would have been the worst!
— pj (@BeingPractical) July 25, 2013
Which Versions of Windows Did You Hate?
Thankfully, we’re in a pretty good pocket of Windows versions now. Many people are still running smoothly on Windows 7, those who hated Windows 8 could upgrade to Windows 10 free, and Windows 10 is pretty great. (And did you know Microsoft has a special business version called Windows Server? Of course, Windows Server is different from Windows.)
Microsoft might have finally broken the cycle of good/bad with Windows 10. Going forward, it’ll release major updates instead of new versions to bring in significant changes. (Confusingly, updates are also referred to as versions sometimes.) Here’s everything you need to know about the latest Windows update.
No version of Windows is perfect, of course, and there are things that annoy us about Windows 10, too.
Image Credits: costix/Shutterstock