In the face of Microsoft's assertions that most Windows 98 customers are experiencing a seamless upgrade, almost half of the respondents to a CNET NEWS.COM poll who have attempted to upgrade reported potholes along Redmond's Route 98.
Over the last week, as more and more people began reporting problems upgrading to Windows 98, Microsoft insisted that the software migration is a breeze for the majority of users. But according to the latest informal NEWS.COM Poll, a substantial 48 percent of readers answered "no" to our query: "If you've taken the upgrade plunge, has your experience gone smoothly?"
Microsoft asserts that its decline in tech support calls tells another story. "We care very deeply about ensuring that customers have a positive upgrade experience, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help," said Kim Akers, group product manager of Windows 98, who noted that support calls are down by 50 percent compared with the launch of Windows 95.
The 52 percent who experienced a positive upgrade experience cited increased stability and decreased expectations. "It works faster, runs better...All in all I am very happy," concluded user Richard G. Vissers.
"My programs do start more quickly! So there, all you naysayers! I am glad I upgraded!" exclaimed James Pomeroy.
The 48 percent of readers who voted "no" blamed incompatibilities, as reported last week.
"I did a 98 over 95 install instead of a 'clean install' on July 4. It was early in the day, but the fireworks were just beginning," wrote reader Steven Dell, in one of the calmer epistles. He went on to uninstall Windows 98 altogether.
"I thought the reason it took Windows 98 so long to reach the market was to make sure that there wouldn't be any bugs in installation," noted reader Robert Carter. "If that's so, why did it crash on me three times during installation?"
Readers who weighed in with Windows 98 horror stories questioned why a company with seemingly limitless testing resources released a somewhat faulty product. "I was expecting a smooth upgrade according to Microsoft and beta testers who testified online that they were having no problems," wrote Robert Redding. "Someone did not tell all!"
"I'll be the last to hop on the Win 98 party line...Why should anyone have to pay double for bug fixes in an operating system, which should be rock-solid to begin with? As for the problems with Microsoft's [PC vendor] partners and getting Win 98 to run on their machines, the blame falls squarely on Microsoft's shoulders," fumed reader David Sanborn. "If they had made beta versions more readily available to [PC vendors] for testing, this whole mess could have been avoided."
Other readers took the bugs and crashes a bit too seriously: "Win 98 made me hate myself," said one distraught PC owner.
For more reader responses, see the following page. Following is a sample of reader responses to the NEWS.COM Poll.
Easy as pie
"This was a pleasant upgrade. Windows 98 outclasses Windows 95 by far. Start-up time has not noticeably decreased on my machine, but boot failures have. It is also incredible to watch a machine that used to take 10 to 40 seconds to prepare for shutdown now do the same in less than 5."
"So far, no problems at all. From the start of the upgrade process until the present, I have had smoother operation. It seems I get very few "fatal errors" compared with Windows 95."
"Windows 98 seems to have cured these system crashes, and I'm very happy with the upgrade. In my case, it was easily worth the $90 price. I think just the System File Checker tool alone is worth the upgrade."
"The upgrade to Windows 98 [was] trouble-free. I am 45 years old and this is my first computer, purchased in November. If I can do it, anyone can."
"A piece of cake! I did a format and install on my 233 MHz and an upgrade on my wife's 166-MHz. Just remember to disable your antivirus and your Norton utilities."
"I upgraded from 95 in 45 minutes without a hitch. So far so good. Of course, that was what the guy falling from a 40-story building said as he passed the 30th floor!"
"It's a great system, a great set of upgraded functions...I love the integrated browser--that's where computing is going, why not blend it now. If some of these crybabies actually READ the documentation or knew how to operate a PC, maybe they wouldn't be whining."
Too hard to handle
"[After installing Windows 98], now [my system] hangs during boot-up and only comes up in safe mode with no access to the modem, sound card, SyJet, printer, Monster 3D, and scanner. Of course, without modem access I couldn't even send email to 'Innovative Microsoft' support...I'm mentally preparing myself for the major headache I know I'm going to get when I begin dealing with Microsoft support."
"I was one of the foolish few who did not hate Microsoft and Bill Gates...I was a believer, that is, until I bought and tried to install Windows 98. Oh, the horror...Oh, the humanity. Fear, loathing, unbridled cynicism, and unabashed hatred. How could anyone get away with producing such buggy fluff and charging money for it?
"It is the only product in the world that if you buy it and it doesn't work, the most you can do is pay again to find out how to fix it. My God! Allahu Akbar! Oh, mighty Isis! Heavens to mergatroid!
"Needless to say the install process did not work."
"Windows 98 freezes up my Sony more than three times a day...Start-ups have become slower because I already had FAT32 from OSR2. All I get from those problems is an Active Desktop that I don't want."
"I should have known I was in for a rough ride when my PC got hung up during installation of Win 98 because of a message stating something about a corrupt file on the installation disk. Since installation was about half-complete, I was anxious to see what would happen when I rebooted. Luckily, it did complete the installation after rebooting.
"I should have said 'unluckily,' since a far greater frustration was ahead. More than once I had the computer either completely shut down by itself or leave me with the message 'It is safe to shut off your computer' after being left unattended for several hours."
"In short, my upgrade experience was a nightmare. First of all, I'm a systems analyst. I know the technology. This caught me completely by surprise. I spent nearly a week trying various things like deleting hardware to cause Win98 to redetect it...I really should have waited another 6 months for all the fixes to be released."
"You have to be a very technically sophisticated user and an uncommonly patient buyer to put up with a situation like this. SIIG boards and HP printers are not exactly obscure hardware choices with which to expect compatibility--particularly when I already had the beta tuned and running! After all this effort, to be ignored is extremely angering.
"Right now, I'd say that Steve Jobs has a renewed opportunity to pick up market share.
"Windows 98 is nothing more than Windows 95 with all the fixes it should have had three years ago. The only problem with it is the integration with the Internet...I can't believe Microsoft calls this a feature with all the problems it causes. Your computer doesn't need a million lines of [code] to just to open a window on your local hard drive. Microsoft doesn't seem to understand this."
"As far as the upgrade operation went, it was very smooth and hitch-free. However, from an operability standpoint, the burden on my computer just to lug that bloated OS around was such that I was compelled to remove it.
"Conclusion? I'm determined now to do one of two things in the wake of this Windows 98 business: Change my hardware configuration around a bit so I can run Linux, or get my hands on an iMac."
"I have spent the better half of three days trying to debug the many error messages that I get when I use Win 98. It has been very frustrating, and I would recommend to anyone thinking of upgrading to think twice."
"Windows 98 destroyed the drivers for my modem, printer, sounds, and camera. I also had to reinstall about half of my software to get it to run properly. Plug and play, which was 'plug and pray' in Windows 95, is now 'plug and forget it.'
"After all the hype on the 'ease' of upgrade and the good luck I had when I upgraded to Windows 95 several years ago, I was certainly not prepared for the nightmare of Windows 98. Microsoft should never have released this program in its current state. We are told that 98 fixes [thousands of Windows] 95 bugs, but no one had told us how many new ones we got in exchange."