Five months from today, support will end for Windows 98 and Windows ME.  I know what you’re saying: “Yeah yeah we’ve heard this before.  This won’t affect me because I never call Microsoft.”  This time, though, it’s a little different.  The biggy here is that after June 30, 2006, there won’t even be any more SECURITY UPDATES for Windows 98 and Windows ME.  Of course, it’s possible that if a major exploit comes out, Microsoft could release a 98/ME patch out of good will, but I wouldn’t count on it.  Remember that Windows Vista is coming out in the second half of the year, and Microsoft, after all, is a for-profit corporation.

So our official advice is that by June 30, you should try to replace all Windows 98 / ME boxes with newer machines.  It’s time anyway.

If you have machines that you use for limited functionality, and your budget prohibits replacing them, we recommend you implement static IP addressing on these machines (through reservations in your DHCP server) and create firewall-level rules that prevent these machines from communicating with any computers outside your network.  In addition, don’t run any mail applications on these machines (e.g. Outlook connected to your internal Exchange Server).  Simply put, don’t let these machines online.

Simple scenario here…  If a Windows 98 machine in your company got compromised by malware and, in turn, exposed your proprietary client information, you’d have a hard time defending your negligence in a lawsuit.  So after June 30, 2006, think of any remaining Windows 98/ME machines as strangers — you might need them, but you really can’t trust them.

More information is available from Microsoft:  End of Support for Windows 98 and Windows Me