Security software problem for Windows Me

Local user secures refund

Users of Windows Millennium Edition may have to do without anti-virus and personal firewall protection for the time being.

Although Windows Me is built on the Windows 9x kernel, not all Windows 98 software runs properly on it - as local user Tony Cairns discovered this week.

Cairns says he found after buying Windows Me that it was incompatible with Symantec's Norton Systemworks Professional 2000, leaving him without antivirus protection - even though compatibility information on the box says the OS is compatible with Windows 98 applications.

He says that when he approached local Microsoft support for help, Microsoft support staff said they were prevented by New Zealand law from commenting on third-party software, "but they couldn't quote the law which says that products should be fit to work."

Eventually, Symantec was able to confirm that the changes in Windows Me meant it no longer worked with the Norton product. Cairns was told he'd have to wait until late October for Norton Professional 2001 - and pay $NZ150. A version of Nortons Antivirus will ship in several weeks for $100. Applications from Dr Solomon and McAfee are in a similar position.

Cairns describes this kind of upgrade as "the hidden cost of Windows Me" and, after uninstalling the new OS, he sought to return the software to Microsoft for a refund. He says Microsoft initially held to its policy of not accepting back software on which the seal is broken but yesterday agreed to refund his purchase price.

The Windows Me code was frozen in June, and although Windows Millennium Edition is built on the Windows 9x kernel, it has become clear that not all Windows 98 software runs properly on it, particularly antivirus and personal firewall programs.

Among the Windows 98 programs that have had problems with Me are personal security tools such as Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2000, Norton Personal Firewall 2000, Network ICE's BlackICE Defender, and Network Associates' McAfee PGP Personal Privacy.

Microsoft says the Windows 98 versions of these applications might be having problems because of at least two key changes in Windows Me that weren't anticipated by all vendors. One is that Microsoft no longer supports DOS for Windows Me users. Real Mode DOS is a character-based operating system, and all earlier versions of Windows 9x allowed access to it so users could run non-Windows DOS programs. Also, the new OS uses the Windows 2000 TCP/IP networking stack instead of the one from Windows 98.

Either way, you may need to upgrade antivirus and firewall software to run smoothly with Windows Me. Upgrades are available for Norton Systems Works 2000, Internet Security 2000 and Personal Firewall 2000, Network ICE BlackICE Defender, and McAfee VirusScan 5. If you run Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus or PGP Personal Privacy, you'll have to delay upgrading to Windows Me until the applications vendors release updates--or forgo those programs.

Changes for the Best?

Microsoft says it removed Real Mode DOS support to better protect the Windows ME system, even though the function is used in some antivirus tools and disk utilities as well as hardware devices.

"RealMode DOS lets any application or device driver write straight to the system memory for improved performance," says Greg Sullivan, lead product manager Microsoft Windows Me. "The problem is, errors writing to memory can adversely affect your entire system."

Instead, Sullivan says, Microsoft gives devices and applications other ways to achieve the same capabilities. For Windows Me, the appropriate tools are DirectX for video and the Windows Driver model.

Previously, device manufacturers had to write different drivers for Windows 9x and NT, Sullivan says. Now, "Drivers written to Windows Driver Model, or WDM, should be supported across both systems," he says.

Consolidating driver support also looks toward Whistler, Microsoft's next operating system update. It's being built on the Windows 2000 kernel, not the 9x kernel that Me is based on. If new drivers work with Me and 2000, theoretically they will work with Whistler.

Another way Windows Me prepares the way for Whistler is by using the TCP/IP networking stack from Windows 2000, Sullivan says. This version improves reliability and security when systems talk across the Internet, he says, adding that this change affects applications that relied on the Windows 98 networking stack, he adds.

Norton Internet Security 2000, PGP Personal Privacy, and Dr. Solomon Anti-Virus are among those applications, although workarounds are in development. But these aren't the only products that have problems with Me.

Upgrade Your Apps for Windows Me

You'll have to upgrade many major antivirus and personal security applications to ensure they'll run on Windows Me. Unfortunately, not all the upgrades are free or even ready.

Norton SystemWorks 2001 supports both new operating systems, Symantec says. Norton's upgrades have new features as well as OS compatibility. SystemWorks 2001 contains new versions of Norton Anti-Virus and Norton Utilities that support Windows 2000 and NT for the first time. But they cost.

"The changes are a little deeper" than Symantec is willing to offer in its free Live Update service, Marian Merritt, group product manager of Norton SystemWorks says.

With the release of Windows Me, Symantec is shipping Norton Internet Security 2001 version 2.5 (regular and family edition) and Norton Personal Firewall 2001 version 2.5. They support Windows Me, 9x, and 2000.

If you bought Internet Security 2.0 60 days ago or less, you can return the product and get the new version at no charge," says Tom Powledge, product manager of Norton Internet Security and Personal Firewall. "And if you just want Norton Personal Firewall to work on Me, we'll soon make available a free patch through Live Update."

Quarterdeck product CleanSweep, now part of SystemWorks, has also been updated for Me, Powledge says.

Verify Compatibility

Although personal firewall and intrusion protection program BlackICE Defender was on Microsoft's list of applications incompatible with Windows Me, Network ICE says that's not true.

BlackICE Defender had some problems with Service Pack 1 for Windows 2000 because Microsoft changed the service pack slightly from the one it issued to developers, says John Myung, technical marketing manager at Network ICE. "In August, we released Black ICE Defender that covers Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, as well as Windows Me and 9x," he says.

Network ICE offers a free upgrade to current BlackICE Defender users who already pay the $US19.50 annual maintenance charge. New users can buy the product for $US40 plus the maintenance fee.

Network Associates says all current McAfee security products are compatible with Windows Me except PGP Personal Privacy, a component in McAfee Student Survival Kit and McAfee Office 3.0; and Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus. Compatible are McAfee Office 3.0 and McAfee QuickClean 1.0, released this week; as well as McAfee Utilities, McAfee UnInstaller, McAfee Firewall, and McAfee Internet Guard Dog.

"McAfee VirusScan 5 users can get a free patch from" to work with Windows Me, says Tracy Hulver, director of product management, McAfee software unit at Network Associates. "Users of older versions need to purchase VirusScan 5 for $29."

Still Waiting for Upgrades

Neither Network Associates' Dr. Solomon Anti-Virus nor PGP Personal Privacy, an encryption application, are yet compatible with Windows Me.

"There will be upgrades, but we don't have dates yet," Hulver says. "When you get into security and encryption it gets difficult."

For now, if you depend on PGP Personal Privacy, Dr. Solomon, or any other security tool that does not yet support Windows Me, you may want to hold off on that operating system upgrade.

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