Upgrading to a new operating system can be exciting up until you try to fire up a graphics app or send a file to your vintage-but-workhorse printer. That's when you (might) realize you need a new driver.
But it's often the case with Windows updates that drivers don't yet exist when the upgrade ships or that new drivers don't work quite smoothly. Microsoft Windows 2000, released in February, promised to be an operating system with better stability and security than prior Windows releases . But missing drivers has left many Windows 2000 customers with software and hardware incompatibility problems.
Part of the problem with Windows 2000 is that people loaded it on desktops hoping to use it as a more stable Windows 98, says Jeffrey Tarter, editor and publisher of Softletter. But Windows 98 is really the choice for multimedia use, while Windows 2000 appears even on servers.
"If you're trying to run Windows 2000 as a game machine or using it for multimedia applications, you're going to have compatibility problems," Tarter says. And missing device drivers remains an issue for Windows 2000.
According to Dan Kusnetsky, vice president of system software at IDC, "There are still issues with missing Windows 2000 drivers for older and obscure printers, drives, and scanners."
Fortunately, early predictions foretell a less frustrating migration for Windows Millennium edition. Microsoft froze the Windows Me code in June, so vendors have had several months to update their drivers.
Neither Tarter nor Kusnetsky expect as many driver problems with Windows Millennium Edition as occurred with Windows 2000.
"Windows Me is just another version of Windows 9x," Tarter says. "I don't think there's anything particularly new, just chrome and tailfins."
Where you could run into compatibility problems is with older devices that use 16-bit drivers, Kusnetsky suggests.
"Windows Me is basically Windows 98 with the 16-bit subsystems partially removed," Kusnetsky says. "Devices with 32-bit Windows 95 or 98 drivers will probably work fine, but 16-bit drivers might be a problem."
Major peripherals vendors such as graphics card maker ATI and zip drive vendor Iomega say drivers are ready for use with Windows Me.
"Iomega Zip, Jaz, PocketZip, and CD-RW drives from Iomega work flawlessly Windows Me," says Todd Schuelke, Iomega product reviews manager.
And even if you don't have the latest version of Iomega's IomegaWare utility suite, Windows Me has bundled native support for Iomega drives and adaptors in a variety of interfaces, including USB, ATAPI, FireWire, PC Card, and SCSI, he says.
But to take advantage of Iomega's full suite of utilities, you may want to download the vendor's version, Schuelke adds. The latest free version of IomegaWare 2.5 and Quik Sync 2 version 2.02 were both released earlier this summer.
Adaptec also says it's ready for Windows Me. Back in May, the company announced that its protection and system recovery software, GoBack 2.2, would support Windows Me. Now Adaptec also says its SCSI products are compatible.
"All our drivers for our SCSI products are available and embedded in Windows Me," says Paul Griffith, software marketing manager for Adaptec's core SCSI group. "We've gone through the standard process to obtain Microsoft's Windows Hardware certification, and all of our SCSI products have passed."
There is no news, however, on Adaptec’s Toast and Easy CD Creator utilities for CD burning, the company’s products that are most used by creatives.
Having a whole summer to prepare for the newest Windows release has apparently helped. Still, some vendors may not bother developing new drivers for older products. Analysts suggest you check with Microsoft and the hardware or software vendor to see if your preferred devices or applications have - or will get - a compatible driver for Windows Me.