Windows ME was the last version of Windows that was based on the Windows 95 kernel. Designed for home users and backward compatible with Windows 98, it had updated shell features as well as an updated graphical user interface. Although it was a continuation of Windows 9x, it restricted real-mode MS-DOS access, which helped in reducing the system boot time. Windows ME’s mainstream support ended on December 31, 2003 and the extended support ended on July 11, 2006.
Windows ME is also known as Windows Millennium Edition.
Windows ME brought many improvements to its predecessor and was notable for being the last version of Windows that did not require any product activation. Windows ME borrowed certain shell enhancements from Windows 2000, such as auto complete in Windows Explorer, personalized menus and customizable toolbars. It had considerable improvements in pre- and post-logon boot time and cold boot time. Power management also improved with the help of updated drivers. Windows ME also provided improvements to system file protection and TCP/IP stack, and introduced new games. It had an improved user interface with help and support pages that were easy to read and understand for users.
Windows ME also introduced the Windows Image Acquisition API, which helps applications communicate with image acquisition equipment. It was the only operating system from the Windows 9x series to have generic drivers for Universal Serial Bus printers and storage devices. Windows ME introduced the System Restore functionality, which helps users return the state of their system to a prior stable configuration in case of installation problems. Windows Movie Maker was also introduced in Windows ME. Another important feature was Net Crawler, which automatically searches and creates shortcuts in My Network Places.
Windows ME restricted the real-mode DOS prompt, which was an important feature in earlier editions. Features like Microsoft Fax, Quick View, etc., were also removed from this edition. Some of the enterprise-oriented features present in earlier editions went unsupported in ME, such as Active Directory Client Services, System Policy Editor and Automated Installation. Some of the Windows Explorer commands also became obsolete in this edition. Despite the improvements, Windows ME was criticized for stability issues and bugs.