Ok, this review started out being about the RC2 version of WinME, but since the final's been released I decided to wait and review it. Well, I've had the final on two different PC's so far, and have gotten a pretty good feel of it. First things first, here's the system configurations:
Coppermine [email protected]
Abit SE6 (Intel i815e chipset)
128MB Crucial PC133 RAM (CAS3)
2 Maxtor 7200RPM 30gig drives
Voodoo5 5500 AGP
Promise Ultra 66 Controller
Netgear FA310TX network card (100mbs)
Sound Blaster Live Value OEM (with digital out)
Hitachi GD-2500 4x DVD-ROM
Plextor 8x4x32 CDRW
PcConcepts Wireless Keyboard
Micrsoft Intellimouse Explorer
Antec full-tower case with 300watt power supply
The hard drive with WinME installed is on IDE1. IDE2 has the Plextor as Main, and the DVD as Secondary (for some reason DMA was disabled if it was on the Promise, so I moved it to the onboard IDE). The first port on the Promise has the second hard drive, which has Windows 2000 Pro on it. The second port is now empty (after moving said DVD).
Intel Celeron 333 non-overclocked
Shuttle SpaceWalker Hot 661 motherboard (Intel BX chipset)
64MB Crucial PC133 RAM (running at 66MHz, CAS2)
Maxtor 5400RPM 8.4gig drive
Intel i740 AGP
Netgear FA310TX network card (100mbs)
Iomagic Sound16 (Opti931 chipset)
Samsung 32x CD-ROM
Microsoft Internet Keyboard
Logitech Trackball Marble mouse
Generic mid-tower case with 250watt power supply
Hard drive is on IDE1, CD-ROM is on IDE2. Not much to say here, folks.
Install was completely painless on both PC's. I did an upgrade just to see if I'd encounter any problems (no problems btw), then did a complete format and a clean install.
Here's some screenshots of the install, in case you were curious (these were taken of WinME RC2 being upgraded over Win98, btw):
Not much interesting, just your basic "Do you agree to this document which we know you won't read" and "Enter your CD-Key here which is not legible so you'll have to try 10 times" and the like. If you do an upgrade you probably won't need to install any new drivers, as the Win9x ones generally work fine. If you're doing a clean install, it's probably a good idea to have them ready. At least make sure you have your modem driver ready, so you can hop online to get your other drivers (such as video, sound, etc.). Lastly, be sure to answer YES to saving your system files if this is an upgrade! If you have any problems with the upgrade, you'll thank me!
For the Main PC, I only had to install the Voodoo and the SBLIVE drivers to get up and running. The ATI TV-Wonder has always given me problems, so I won't count it. It recognized the i815e chipset right away, so I didn't have to load motherboard drivers (like I did for Win98, and Win2K). For the Second PC, it was pretty much the same story. Download the video and soundcard drivers, and all was perfect.
A few new features have been added. Msconfig has been updated slightly, and Windows Movie Maker has been added (I'm sure the DOJ won't mind).
First, we'll start with the problems. Every once in a while I'll get a BSOD if the Intellimouse Explorer is plugged in the USB port (do not get an error in Win2K btw). It recovers fine, but the mouse is so jittery it needs a reboot. Note that I did have an extra mouse plugged in the PS/2 port, though I doubt this caused the problem. Since I had boot-up problems also, I just moved the Explorer to the PS/2 port (fixed both problems).
AtGuard 3.22 would cause WinME on the second PC to not even boot, I generally got a blank screen. Other people have had similar problems (some can get to the login screen, but it blue screens after that). Works fine on the main PC though. Since they've been bought out by Norton, I'm sure there'll be an update if it hasn't been fixed already (only if you bought the Norton version though, sold as Norton Internet Security).
Their new Help and Support system is everywhere. You can't load System Information without it loading first.
It works just fine, but load times are much higher than before. Why do I need Help and Support loaded anyways, just to check out my system info?
IE 5.5 has some rendering problems on the second PC. The cause has something to do with the video card or its drivers, since replacing the voodoo on my main PC with the Intel i740 causes the same problems. Updating to the new IE 5.5 version does not help. There were a few problems with IE on the main PC too, mainly certain letters would be bold when they shouldn't. Updating to the newer version fixed that.
This brings up another point. Many people have been complaining, saying that WinME has a beta version of IE 5.5 included in it. I generally keep up to date on these things, and IE 5.5 went gold before WinME did. So it seemed those rumors were false. However, going to WindowsUpdate shows a different story:
It doesn't say an update to IE 5.5, or any patches, just says that a download for IE 5.5 is available. Installing it changes the version number from 5.50.4134.0100 to 5.50.4134.0600. And yes, there have been some changes as it fixed my previous font problem on my main system. An update to Windows Media Player is also available. The included version is 7.00.00.1440 while the version on the Windows Update site is 7.00.00.1954.
Now, for the good parts. For one thing, it seems quite a bit more stable. I can have 20 windows open and not have a crash. Now, icons in IE, and even parts of toolbars will disappear, but still no crash (system resources were below 1% at the time, yes I was trying to crash it). When you're way too low on resources, it simply won't let you open more windows (much like Win2K does, except you can have over 3 times the windows open in Win2K). Closing the extra windows will return everything to normal (ie font and icon problems). It recognizes the extra buttons on my keyboards, such as volume control, search buttons, etc. Also recognizes the extra buttons on my Intellimouse Explorer, defaults to using them as back and forward buttons (this is without the mouse software installed).
I also have grown quite fond of the System Restore feature. I generally make a new restore point after each major software install (and if I remember to, just before also). This way I can troubleshoot just what went wrong. It bailed me out when @guard caused the second PC to stop booting. And it also helped me when trying to get the ATI TV-Wonder working. I could install the drivers, it'd work on next reboot, but not afterwards. So I would uninstall, reboot, but I couldn't reinstall. System Restore would take me back to just before I installed the first time, so I could try a few more things before giving up in the end.
Now, for the good AND the bad. Microsoft finally listens to us, and they've gotten a lot of criticism for it. Why? Well, everyone complains about why Win9x is so unstable, and how it's just a hodge-podge of 16 and 32-bit code. Well, they've removed probably over half of the 16-bit code by getting rid of real-mode DOS. This does help stability quite a bit, which is what everyone's wanted. However, there are some downsides. Alot of programs depend on DOS, and will not work correctly now. Also, you can't do a "sys a:" anymore, which gives some people problems when flashing their bios. To help with that last problem, here's some instructions on making a minimal boot disk in WinME, provided by Alan B:
Go to the Control Panel, run Add/Remove Programs, click on the Startup Disk tab. Create a startup disk. Then procede to delete all the files on the floppy disk except for the following: command.com, ebd.sys, io.sys, and msdos.sys (note that ebd.sys, io.sys, and msdos.sys may not be show, this is just becuase by default windows hides all system files. If this is the case then delete everything but command.com and you are set). You will now have a working Windows Millennium Edition boot disk.
So what's the verdict? It's a nice OS, and has made some improvements since Win98. And if you're into making movies, the included Movie Maker is nice (not as powerful as other programs, but is easy to use). If you already have Win98, and don't need the new Movie Maker, I'd stick with that. If you're building or getting ready to buy a new PC, then I'd get one with WinME if possible. Of course if you're a power user, and aren't much into older games, Win2K is probably the best choice for you.