Win ME requires a minimum CPU of 150 Mhz, and you really
can't do anything with ME with less than 300 - 400 Mhz.
You need 64 - 128 MB of RAM for ME.
You must upgrade to the latest audio, video, sound
card, and CD-ROM drivers before upgrading to ME.
You can' t run DOS apps in ME.
Myths #6 - #10:
If you can't meet requirements #1 - #4, then you surely
can't run Office 2000 on that old bugger.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Times10!!!
Windows 98 v3
To all who dare slay the upgrade
dragon, you must first conquer the myths.
I have just upgraded to Win ME on
an AMD 586-133 Mhz machine with 32 MB RAM, a non-IDE 2X Panasonic CD
connected to a "no-name" SB16 compatible soundcard, and with a
crappy SIS video card.
Yes, Virginia, it can be done! And
it works just fine; no worse than before, and actually, Microsoft Office
2000 seems optimized to run more efficiently on ME even though O2K arrived
on the scene first.
First of all, why bother? "If it ain't broke, ...." Well, in
this case, it was broken. The machine had been around the Windows
neighborhood for some time: 95 and 98 both worked just fine, but SE never
quite lived up to its name. Reinstalls, System File Checker, tweaking
never quite fixed missing icons, missing file associations and relatively
sluggish Office 97 performance.
What if your system is already plodding along? Still consider the upgrade
for the same reason we have been sheepishly uttering since 96,
"Greater Performance and Greater Stability." And we will still
be at the mercy of Microsoft to repeat the same mantra probably
until around 20 something. I agree with the critics who claim that we are
paying for what really amounts to an SR, albeit a major SR in the case of
ME. But consider the alternative, the real cost of developing and
improving software. Would you be willing to lease software and the
operating system with an annual maintenance contract, which is the way it
used to be done or pay as you go and just call it an upgrade? In
the end it really doesn't matter --- there ain't no free lunch.
Now for the how. My first attempt
was simply to take a hard drive with ME on it from another machine and
swap it in the box, but no can do. I knew the registry would crap out, but
it was worse than that. Boot up indicated disk I/O error. Jumpers were set
properly, BIOS detected drive okay, LBA was appropriately set to LBA
off (540 MB drive), FDISK was a normal FAT16, partition was
active, and the initial boot up screen indicated that the drive was
assigned a letter. Still, no valid drive was accessible. So, I was at a
dead-end. My guess was that either the Master Boot Record (MBR) or the
operating system apparently made the hard drive somewhat system dependent
well before the registry kicked in.
Next, I put the original drive back in the system as the master and
connected the ME drive as the slave. All worked fine --- the ME slave was
recognized. So I thought about cloning the slave over to the master.
However, I wasn't quite ready to abandon the existing SE Master drive in
case the procedure failed.
So basically, I kept the half-alive/half-dead SE drive in the system, and
deleted as much of the Windows folder as possible to make room for ME.
Fortunately, Windows will not allow you to delete files which are running,
so even if you attempt to delete all of the Windows' folder files, you
will be forced to skip over those active files. In any case, I planned to
keep all of the files in the System folder until the upgrade was complete.
That way, all of my drivers and old registry would stay pat. At some
point, I would have to run Regclean to clean up the registry, but that was
Next, I ran E:\SETUP /NM directly from Windows! The /NM
switch bypasses the required 150 Mhz minimum. I previously reported that
this was an undocumented switch but not confirmed by my testing. Well, now
I can happily confirm that ME never even gave the 133 Mhz machine a second
thought! Running setup directly from Windows allowed me
to access my CD-ROM. Otherwise, I would have used a startup boot disk with
the CD-ROM DOS drivers on it. I feared that if I hung up in DOS, I would
lose access to the CD-ROM altogether.
Running setup directly from Windows, however, has two
1) You cannot do a custom install --- that option never pops up.
2) You cannot do a clean install to a new folder--- because Windows is
running and is considering the install as an upgrade over the existing
The advantage of upgrading from Windows is to keep CD-ROM Windows drivers
intact, and it works! By the way, I did try both the Win 98 and ME startup
disks, and they both failed to recognize my ferkachta CD-ROM.
The question of upgrading my CD-ROM driver was a non-issue. I don't think
there was a snowball's chance in hell of finding one. They don't make the
drives that way anymore. Admittedly, I didn't even try to find one. Yes, I
know, I could have picked up a 40X or a 50X for a song and did so for ten
bucks recently, but you know, I hate to throw away working hardware.
The upgrade took over an hour, and in the last two minutes, my heart
skipped a beat as I got an error message that Windows may not work
properly. Some VXD for some device was complaining. This was the same
message that I had been getting from SE. I believe that the
"proprietary" SB16 card was causing the error message. I pressed
OK, my only choice, and away went the message. Up came ME. Whew!
A check of System Devices showed that I still needed to either reinstall
or upgrade the video driver, but I was accustomed to that from my
experiences with the other ME upgrades that I have done on Pentiums with
built-in AGP video. While ME complained about the existing driver, it
happily listed a dozen alternatives. While several worked, the only one
that did away with the error messages was the one that came with the card.
This is an important point, for although drivers which were dated more
recently were available and were automatically installed by ME, the early
boot warning they generate, that "your display adapter is not
configured correctly," became an annoyance beacon. The older
original drivers worked and yielded no error messages. Thank
I ran MSConfig and deleted all non-essential startups. I also disabled PC
Health and State Manager on this particular machine. If the system went,
so be it --- no biggie on this machine. Incidentally, by removing the
startups, the registry got cleaned up a little. ME has a nasty habit of
bringing old startups out of the woodwork during its installation, so this
cleanup is both useful and necessary.
The real surprise came after I installed Office 2000. All office apps
worked flawlessly and with some noticeably improved snappiness ---
especially after a little caching kicked in.
Obviously, if you have a Pentium class machine you can take full advantage
of ME's multimedia features, but if you use your computer for typical
home/office/Internet apps, a lesser machine need not be MEless! I will,
however, definitely up the RAM!
Oh, I almost forgot about DOS apps. This machine doesn't run any, but I do
have another ME machine running a DOS-based database. Most databases need,
what are called, file handlers to process read/writes to the hard disk. In
DOS, there is a command, Files = nn, which is placed in
By default, ME limits open file handlers to 32, which was insufficient for
the database. ME also does away with Config.Sys. The solution was to edit
the [386Enh] section of the System.Ini file with the following:
That did the trick!
I realize that one exception doesn't make a rule, but I'm a 60s kind of
guy, living at a time when rules were made to be broken. Windows ME can
be installed in a less than high speed, centa-MegaRAM machine, and more
importantly, can actually improve the performance of your older machine.
[Copyrighted 2001, Fred E. Kagel, Freehold
Computer Training Center. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to republish in
non-profit publications provided this notice appears in its entirety.]