Windows Millennium (Me) was originally introduced in the summer of 1999, and was released to the general public in September of 2000 as a follow up to the very successful Windows 98 Second Edition.
Windows Me is based on the Windows 9x kernel, with an updated front end that makes it look more like Windows 2000. While Windows Me may look a little different than Windows 98 SE, it is basically the same.
Windows Me was not a major release, and was mostly viewed as an incremental update to the Windows 9x family. Upon installing Windows, the first thing you will notice is that there is no sign that AUTOEXEC.BAT or CONFIG.SYS files attempt to load; this was done to reduce start-up time. Another big difference that you may notice is the absence of DOS; though rest assured, it’s still there. Microsoft decided to remove access to (Real Mode) DOS “to prevent customers [from] having trouble with the DOS features and to make the computer boot up and shutdown more quickly.” True, you can no longer reboot into DOS (from the Start menu) or use F8 in the boot sequence to go directly to a DOS prompt, but it is still easy enough to make a boot disk to accomplish this task. There is only one version of Windows Me (with two different installation types: Full and Upgrade). New features included in Windows Me are:
Auto-Update: This is a feature added to Me which basically tries to determine when your modem isn’t being used to download content from the Internet and uses that time to find (and notify you) if any updates are available for your system.
System Restore: Available in Windows for the first time, System Restore will make a ‘save point,’ collecting all of your current system and Registry settings (including drivers for your hardware), which you can choose to return to, should a newly installed feature be causing you grief.
MS Driver Signing: This notifies you when a driver you are attempting to install is Microsoft certified by WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs).
Home Networking Wizard: This was also added for ease of setting up home networking features, such as PC-to-PC connectivity and Internet sharing. The Home Network Wizard takes much of the grief out of setting up a home-based network and installs the appropriate drivers for your networked components.
System File Protection: Also included with Windows Me, this feature works to ensure that new programs being installed cannot overwrite critical system files with their own, possibly incompatible files.
Expanded Multimedia Content: A newer version of Windows Media Player (version 7.0) was included with Windows Me. It includes better support for MP3 and DVD playback. Also included for the first time in this version of Windows is Windows Movie Maker, a great tool for editing digital video.
Scanner and Camera Wizard: This wizard was included to streamline the process of adding such devices without having to use the interface software included with the device.
Enhanced USB and FireWire Support: The growing demand for expansion devices and their ever-changing connectivity types brought better support for USB devices, and finally brought FireWire (or IE 13394) support to Windows 9x. FireWire is a high-performance serial bus that can connect upwards of 60 devices in a daisy chain configuration. FireWire supports connection speeds of up to 400Mbps.
Most of the enhancements that Windows Me offers over Windows 98 SE revolve around digital media content. It came with an updated Windows Media player (version 7.0), and DVD playback software, as well as Windows Movie Maker. Included with Windows Me, is the Scanner and Camera Wizard, which makes adding such devices much easier, and generally a walk-through procedure (as opposed to having to use the interface software included with the device). Other enhancements included updates to USB and FireWire support for better functionality.