Some relatives and friends have asked me, “Do I need to upgrade to Vista?” Well, Vista is worth a few posts itself, but I discovered that some people that I know are running really, really old versions of Windows.
For the record, this is the current state of Windows support:
End Of Life: 12/31/2001
Windows 98 SE
End Of Life: 7/11/2006
Windows NT 4.0
End Of Life: 6/30/2004
End Of Life: 7/13/2010*
End Of Life: 4/8/2014*
Windows 2000 has already reached the end of what Microsoft calls “Mainstream Support”, and XP is slated to hit the end of “Mainstream Support” in April 2009. This means that security fixes are available, but hotfixes won’t be (in other words, you can still get Windows Updates for security holes, but any odd driver or OS issues that come up will no longer be supported).
It is, quite simply, irresponsibly dangerous to use 95, 98, or NT on a network-enabled computer. If you’re still running 98, it should only be on a stand alone machine. If you’re still running 98 and you’re connected to the Internet, I would say that it’s a virtual certainty that your computer is riddled with spyware, adware, malware, and probably part of a botnet run by a spammer. A firewall is of minimal help -> if your computer is compromised by some attack that isn’t stopped by a firewall (and there are many), you can’t patch your machine, as there are no longer security fixes available.
On a personal computer, I’d say you need to be running XP or Vista (or opt-out of Windows entirely and jump into the Linux world, or pack it in and buy a Mac).
In the business world, if your organization is still running Windows 2000, you might want to talk to your IT guy and make sure that migration plans are underway to cut over to Vista in the next two years. The hardware requirements for Vista (relative to 2000) are pretty severe, and if you’re not planning now you’re going to have budget problems.