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First post, by Kahenraz

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I'm starting to run into enough unique or complex problems that I wanted to start documenting them for both my own reference and to share them with others, in the event that workarounds can be found and to mitigate a duplication of effort. To summarize, I have generally had a good experience with Windows ME and have tried some several occasions to use it in place of Windows 98 Second Edition to try and find out what problems, if any, exist when attempting to use it as a replacement. This thread is meant to be an ongoing dialog and list of problems that I have encountered with or without known solutions.

Please note that this list is meant to be specific to Windows ME vs Windows 98 and not a general list of things that would otherwise apply to "Windows 9x" as a whole or uniquely to Windows ME (such as System Restore). I am also ignoring anything specific to Windows 95 and Windows 98 (non-second edition), as I haven't done any testing on these other versions.

If any of you would like to provide other examples of behavior that is different in Windows ME than in Windows 98 worth noting here, please let me know and I will add it to the list.


There is no longer a checkbox to disable "Suggest MS-DOS mode as necessary" in .PIF file properties

SUMMARY:
Windows ME does not provide an option to disable "Suggest MS-DOS mode as necessary" in .PIF files. This is a feature present in previous 9x releases and it completely artificial. The easiest way to replicate this is to run the game Dungeon Master for DOS.

REFERENCES:
How to prevent Windows ME from suggesting MS-DOS mode?
https://msfn.org/board/topic/183712-how-to-pr … ng-ms-dos-mode/

WORKAROUND:
This flag is entirely artificial and still exists in Windows ME, but is inaccessible to be set. However, copy/pasting a .PIF file with this flag already in it from a Windows 98 machine can work around this issue. A better solution would be to find a way to edit .PIF files to toggle this flag manually, without needing to use a copy of one with it already set. Ideally, this functionality should to be restored in the properties dialog.

Safe Mode has an annoying Help Center window that pops up upon booting into Windows

SUMMARY:
Windows ME has an annoying Help Center window that starts up upon booting into Windows under Safe Mode. It is meant to provide an interface with various help topics on how to proceed. This window is annoying and gets in the way to general troubleshooting, causes startup to be delayed, and takes extra time to interact with and close, especially on older PCs. Trying to close the window too quickly with Alt-F4 also brings up another dialog warning you that it hasn't finished loading, causing further delay.

WORKAROUND:
Rename the file HELPCTR.EXE located in \Windows\PCHEALTH\HELPCTR\BINARIES. Note that this file may be restored automatically by System Restore or the operating system's integrity protection. It's recommended that System Restore be disabled ahead of time to avoid this.

CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files are not read and there is no option to "Restart in MS-DOS mode"

SUMMARY:
This problem is already well known, but I think it still deserves mention on this list. In an effort to distance itself from DOS, Microsoft removed the traditional driver processing that was available via CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. This can be a problem where certain 9x drivers or applications need to be loaded into memory prior to Windows being loaded and cannot do so later after the operating system has started.

REFERENCES:
https://www.oocities.org/dos8me/
https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/a/16877/10376
https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000361.htm

WORKAROUND:
There is theoretically to achieve this, but I have only ever used the [url=https://www.oocities.org/dos8me/Winmedos12.zip]WinME DOS Boot Activator personally. This method works to restore processing of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, but may conflict with other tools that patch IO.SYS. It does not restore the shutdown option to "Restart in MS-DOS mode". There is also the side-effect of changing the "Starting Windows Millennium..." text mode banner to "Starting Windows Millennium Emergency Boot..." as a result of inheriting IO.SYS from the Emergency Boot Disk, but this can be mitigated by modifying this line with a hex edition.

DOS mode patches are incompatible with Letter Assigner

SUMMARY:
One of the frustrating things about Windows 9x is the inability to change drive letters of fixed disks. There is a tool called Letter Assigner by Vadim Burtyansky which fixes this issue and allows drive letters to be changed and made consistent, but it is incompatible with the WinME DOS Boot Activator patch which restores the functionality of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. The result is a bluescreen upon boot.

REFERENCES:
https://msfn.org/board/topic/183753-windows-m … etter-assigner/

WORKAROUND:
Replacing IO.SYS with a version that does not use the DOS patch fixes the problem, but also disables CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT processing. The Letter Assigner installer functions differently and adds a line to CONFIG.SYS for Windows 98 which it does not in Windows ME, and this may also work around this issue, but I have not experimented further with this yet.

The Win32 Message Queue is processed differently and can cause some programs to lag or appear to hang

SUMMARY:
This is a recent discovery and something that I can only so far attribute to the Windows Message Pump. The Message Pump (or Message Loop) is a queue of messages that each Win32 program processes and is part of the functionality necessary for multitasking in Windows. For some reason, the behavior of this loop is different in Windows ME and can be seen in some applications whereby they will appear to "lag" when idle but can be sped up by moving the mouse around on top of the window to force the queue to process. The only example of this that I have encountered so far where this behavior is detrimental to software functionality has been with running a local X server. The easiest way to demonstrate the problem is to run glxgears over X where there is a visible FPS counter reporting to the terminal. On Windows 98, performance is smooth at about 50 FPS. But on Windows ME using the same tools and procedures, FPS is only about 5, but can increase dramatically (observed up to 200 fps) when the mouse is moved around in the Window. This makes forwarding applications which must do processing in the background such as a web browser impractical, as they will halt and not continue to load the requested page or react to scrolling and other mouse events without forcing the queue to process by moving the mouse around randomly.

I tried installing the Windows ME Service Pack 1.05 to see if it contained a fix, but there was no change in behavior. I don't know what is causing this issue, so I'm having trouble pursuing any meaningful workaround.

REFERENCES:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win3 … window-messages
https://retrosystemsrevival.blogspot.com/2019 … e-pack-102.html
https://msfn.org/board/topic/183781-x-forward … eue-processing/

WORKAROUND:
I haven't found a workaround for this.

Adlib Gold drivers for compatible OPL3 sound cards is missing from the driver database

SUMMARY:
I use the Adlib Gold driver to provide OPL3 support in Windows 98 from the control panel, MIDI selector, and volume slider. I found that Windows ME does not include this driver for some reason, despite the supporting driver files being present.

WORKAROUND:
The easiest workaround is to copy MIDI.INF from a Windows 98 installation and use this to install the driver manually from the Hardware Installation Wizard. It does not need any of the supporting driver files, as these are still present in Windows ME, but the necessary entries are missing from its own driver database. It's very important to install this driver early before other drivers, as I have encountered some kind of conflict when installing it later where the system will lock up when attempting to install this device. I have no such issue when it is one of the first drivers I install, before other devices such as other sound cards and video cards.

Reply 1 of 2, by BitWrangler

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I can't say that most of those are a surprise considering the principle behind ME seemed to be "delete and hide DOS as much as possible"

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 2 of 2, by ptr1ck

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I can't install ME with my Turtle Beach Santa Cruz already in the system. It picks the incorrect driver and crashes when trying to start windows.

"ITXBOX" SFF-Win11
Optiplex 790 MT-XP/10P
KT133A-NV28-V2 SLI-DOS/WinME