|How to keep using Windows 98 / Me into the future,|
Life after Microsoft Support Ends (for Dummies!)
There is alot of advice available on the internet for older operating systems but rarely is there an easy to follow guide for the less informed users on the net. The Dummies, the Noobs, the casual PC user. So I thought I'd write this to help them out.
In saying this if you are an advanced user, some of this advice is probably not for you. This article will offer the easiest, most common methods available to secure their computers.
Lets Get Started
Well you should beaware that on the 11th of July 2006, Microsoft officially ended support for the following operating systems.
- Windows 98
- Windows 98 Second Edition (Windows 98 SE)
- Windows Millenium Edition (Windows Me)
These operating systems along with Windows 95 are designated as being based on the Win9x code base.
Microsofts decision means no more security patches will be released by Microsoft for these operating systems. So what do should you do?
This guide will give you some suggestions on what path you should take.
My Win9x system is NOT connected to the Internet
Meaning you DON'T play online games, use email or browse the web on your PC.
Well the good news is you can keep using your computer like you always have. You see Microsofts end of support means it will no longer offer updates that prevent nasty's on the internet from affecting your PC. So if your not on the internet you can't be affected by these nasty's anyway.
Remember you can still get computer viruses that may damage or delete your computers files from infected media (floppy disks, CD-ROMS, USB drives, and MP3 Players like iPODS etc etc)
1. don't put other peoples media in your machine
2. have a good up-to-date virus scanner running on your system
My Windows 9x system IS connected to the Internet
Meaning you DO play online games, use email or browse the web on your PC.
Now if you do connect to the internet you ARE affected by Microsofts decision to end support of the Win9x operating systems.
But the good news is you can MINIMISE most risks to you computer. The following will tell you how.
1. Win9x isn't as unsecure as people would like you to think!
Firstly lets dismiss a rumour that Microsoft has even helped to create. Win9x systems DO NOT have to be considerred as un-secure operating systems for use on the internet. In fact they CAN be quite secure IF appropriate steps are taken.
A benefit of Win9x systems is that they DO NOT include as many inbuilt online and network features as newer operating systems like Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista.
What does this mean? Well it means your operating system doesn't have as many access points (think unlocked door ways) for nasties to get into your PC from the Internet. That means if we can find a way of securing the remaining access points (guarding the doors we need to use) we can infact have a very secure system. (See Point Note 4)
A side benefit of using an aging operating system like ones based on Win9x are no longer in the hackers and virus writers spot light. Banks, Governments, Big Business and the more popular operating systems are the usual targets for online attacks.
As the usage rate of Win9x drops, so does its profile from the hackers and virus writers radar. Another good thing! That is why many of the big viruses of late DID NOT affect Win9x systems!
2. Get Windows as up-to-date as possible!
Over the years since Win9x was launched Microsoft has produced many security updates for these operating systems. Get them, and install them!
These updates will close many access points and weaknesses in the operating system that the bad stuff (Viruses, Trojans, Hackers, Spyware) on the web try to exploit.
Thankfully Microsoft makes it easy to get the updates if you have an internet connection thanks to Windows Update.
Just enter the following address into Internet Explorer: http://www.windowsupdate.com
Now click for it to Scan for Updates and agree to install Critical Updates and Service Packs.
3. Upgrade Windows Critical Components (Internet Explorer, DirectX and Media Player)
- Internet Explorer
Now for the average user of Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millenium Edition it is recommended you upgrade to the latest avaialbe version of Internet Explorer (for advanced users there are reasons for and against this) you can.
Why? Because for these operating systems Internet Explorer is built into its foundation. Therefore weaknesses in Internet Explorer are actually weaknesses in Windows.
The most Current (and most likely final) version is Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, with the June 2006 Cumulative Update.
You can also get these updates from Windows Update
or directly from Microsofts Internet Explorer webpage: http://www.microsoft.com/ie
DirectX is an inbuilt component of Windows that allows you to play games, listen to music and play videos among other things on your computer.
For improved graphics, sound, games and online security upgrade your DirectX version to the latest release:
Windows 95 - DirectX 8.0a
Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millenium Edition - DirectX 9.0c
Get it from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/directx
- Media Player
This upgrade is optional. There are both for's and againsts for doing this which we wont mention here in too much depth.
For: Latest codecs for better sound and support of newer sound formats, mp3 players and online music content.
Against: May not run as quick on slower computers, and may opens a few new security concerns.
Latest Version avaialble:
Windows 95 - Windows Media Player 6.4
Windows 98 - Windows Media Player 7.1
Windows 98, Windows Millenium Edition - Windows Media Player 9
If you choose to upgrade to the latest version get it from: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia
4. Lock the doors! Use a Firewall
Computer have access points (door ways) that allow software to communicate with the Internet.
Some of these access points are used for good purposes such as allowing you to send and recieve emails, visit websites, use online messaging or to play on-line games.
The problem is there are so many ways for un-wanted nasties to sneak in through these access points and run-a-muck on your system. realmad.gif
So how do we help to protect our PC from nasties getting onto your computer or keep those already hiding on there from sending personal information out?
Easy, get a door man! laugh.gif
A computers version of a doorman is called a Firewall. It only allows approved processes in and out of your system. So if you jump onto your web browser it will allow you to access the net, but if a naughty hacker try's to gain access to your PC, it will deny then access!
Now there are two basic types of Firewall available. Software (an installed program) and Hardware (a physical device you can touch).
Hardware Firewalls are built into some modems and routers and close certain know access points to your PC. Check your modem, routers, networks documentation to see if it includes a built in firewall.
Software Firewalls are a program that is installed onto your PC that acts as an internal doorman. Data from programs like your web browser, or online game approaches the software firewall (doorman), and then has to prove they have appropriate clearance to pass on through. If the doorman has suspisions about the data it will ask you with a prompt to allow or deny the data to pass. If you don't know the program asking for access, just deny it permission.
Many of the virus scanning and security products you can buy from the likes Norton and McAfee include Firewall software.
Otherwise an easy to use free (for personal users, must purchase if to be used by businesses) firewall is ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm.
For Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millenium Edition, the latest version you can use is: 6.1.744.001
Get it here: http://download.zonelabs.com/bin/free/1012_zl/zlsSetup_61_744_001_en.exe
You cannot use the newer ZoneAlarm versions from 6.5 + as they are no longer supported on Win9x systems.
Please Note: There are many other free firewalls available on the web.
A firewall will protect you from MOST nasty's trying to access your computer, and a combination of Hardware and Software firewalls will offer the best protection.
5. Have an up-to-date Anti Virus software and Spyware detector
Viruses are programs that can do many bad things such as delete or corrupt files, send emails from your email account, allow other viruses in, make your computer crash or at worst un-able to run.
Viruses can get on your computer by different methods.
1. From infected media (floppy disks, CD-ROMS, USB drives, and MP3 Players like iPODS etc etc)
2. through email attatchments
3. through the internet (websites, online games, instant messaging, other programs that access the internet)
4. through netwrok connections
So install a Virus Scanner and keep it up-to-date so it can catch and remove the latest nasties.
A good free Virus Scanner is made by GrimSoft called AVG Anti-Virus Free.
Get it from: http://free.grisoft.com
Spyware and Adware are little programs that get on your PC and can among other things;
- spy on what websites you go to and then send this information to companies so they can sell this information to marketers.
- steal your passwords by means such as recording what keys you hit on your keyboard, then sending the information gathered back to the creator so they can access your back accounts.
- make those annoying ads pop up
- Change your web browsers home page
- slow your computer down or make it crash
So there are plenty of reasons to get rid of them.
A good free spyware remover is made from Lavasoft called Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition (becarefull, there are alot of trick products that are named similar that are infact spyware!)
Go to http://www.download.com and so a search for Ad-Aware and download and intall it.
Virus Scanners and Spyware Detectors must have their databases kept UP-TO-DATE!
The database is what the Virus Scanner or Spyware detectors refer to a this database (big list) to help them determine what a virus looks like. If you don't keep the list up-to-date your scanning software WILL MISS VIRUSES that are on your computer. Thankfully most scanning software has in-built auto-update features. Use them!
6. Get a new safer Web Browser!
Lets face it, Internet Explorer 6 is no longer a safe option for browsing the web. Internet Explorer 6 on Win9x systems will by default allow some programs and scripts to run automatcially on your computer. This allows many viruses, trojens and spyware to be installed without your knowledge. Not good!
Unfortunately Internet Explorer is still often required for Microsoft services, for some programs to run and to access certain websites. So you can't easily uninstall it (throw it away).
But, you can minimise the risks by using a safer web browser for the majority of your web browsing. As they are not integrated into Windows itself, they don't allow websites as much access to the system. These newer web browsers not only prevent many nasties from automaticaly installing themselves on your computer without your permission, they can also offer new and improved features.
- blocking pop up ads
- help to varify that sites are secure and valid (important when doing online banking)
- have tabbed browsing
- are standards compliant
- Offer integrated serach engines
Two top class web browsers worth considerring are:
Mozilla Firefox - http://www.firefox.com
Opera - http://www.opera.com
(Ensure you get the latest Win9x compatible versions)
7. Make wise decisions!
The truth is most viruses, spyware and hackers gain entry because of a users mistakes or carelessness.
A little vigilance from the user can prevent most nasties from gaining a foothold on your PC.
1. If your computer is doing strange things or you are recieving strange pop ups, run a FULL SCAN with your Virus Scanner and Spyware detector. Go to Start, Program, [YOUR VIRUS SCANNER] and select to sun a full system scan.
2. Keep all of your software up-to-date especially ones that utilise the internet! (eg. including: Java, Abobe Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, Shockwave, Microsoft Office, Media Players, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, Limewire, Kazaa etc etc among many others)
3. If a pop up comes on your screen whilst browsing the net informing you that your computer is at risk (from a program you do not have installed), just close the window and ignore it. Don't follow its advice to install anything or run a system scan. Nearly 99% of all pop ups of this kind are bogus!
4. Keep away from un-trust-worthy websites. This includes many porn, warez (free illegal software and game downloads), crackz, online system scans and gambling sites.
5. If an email looks suspicious, or is offering something free, cheap deals, viagra, sex services etc etc, DON'T open or even view it! Just delete it! And never ever reply to them! And don't open attatchments that you don't know or need, EVEN FROM FRIENDS.
Often viruses can get onto your friends computer and send you a copy of the virus from their email address! So becarefull of ALL Office files, or programs sent to you. Either ensure your virus scanner is set so it scans your emails or use a free online email service that does it for you (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail)
6. Either Switch off your internet connection when you aren't at your computer for extended periods or if you can't do that turn off the computer. Computers that are connected to the internet for long periods of a time are more prone to being hacked. So turn it off when its not in use and you have just minimised the risk.
7. IF THIS IS ALL TOO MUCH FOR YOU, IT MAY BE TIME TO UPGRADE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM!
Microsoft, Apple and Linux have many new operating systems that are still supported (but remember many of the recommendations made here are still required on newer systems too. There is no hands off way to secure your computer yet)
LONG LIVE Win9x
So in summary just because Microsoft has pulled the pin on Win9x based systems DOESN NOT mean you have to. But as has been show you do now have to take your security concerns into your own hands.
Hopefully this guide will help you have many more years of faithfull service from your Win9x computer.
END OF GUIDE
Quick Disclaimer: Recommended software and websites were accurate at the time of writing. The mentioned approach taken will protect you from MOST security issues CURRENTLY known at the time of writing. By continuing to use an un-supported operating system, you do so at your own risk. But in saying that, I for one will still be using Windows 98 for a long time to come.