For some time, it's been a joke that every other version of Windows is terrible. People liked Windows 98, hated ME, loved XP, despised Vista, clung to 7, ridiculed 8, and now for the most part enjoy Windows 10. This leads to many people staying on popular versions for as long as possible, while those who get stuck with a bad version try to upgrade as soon as they can.
However, have you ever wondered why the worst Windows versions have earned that title? Let's take a look at the three most-hated Windows versions: Windows ME, Vista, and 8—and see why they're considered the worst Windows versions ever.
This edition of Windows, officially known as Windows Millennium Edition but often nicknamed the Mistake Edition, launched in late 2000 and was the last entry in the Windows 9x line.
Windows ME's Background
Windows 2000, launched earlier that year, was mainly intended for business use. Windows 98 was only a few years old, but XP was still in production and not ready for general use. Microsoft wanted to launch a new consumer version of Windows to generate buzz; thus ME was born.
The short-term nature of Windows ME ended up hurting it badly. Because Microsoft rushed it to meet an arbitrary deadline, it ended up feeling incomplete and was an awkward bridge between the Windows 9x years and Windows XP.
ME was only sold for about a year, and Windows XP became a smash hit when it released a year later. While Windows XP still had a good bit of the market share even in 2014-2015 after its support had ended, ME dropped off the map long before this. This speaks to how poorly folks received it.
Why Was Windows ME So Bad?
On the software side, ME was basically Windows 98 with a few new features slapped on. However, some of these features, like System Restore, suffered from bugs. ME also removed the DOS mode present in Windows 98 and earlier that let users install older software. At the time, this was a drawback for many.
Instead of a new and exciting version of Internet Explorer (IE), ME treated its users to the in-between IE 5.5. In those days, this was much more important. Windows and Internet Explorer were tightly integrated, as IE had a big hand in Windows Explorer and other features.
Additionally, other browsers weren't as readily available as they are today, so including a lousy IE version likely had a hand in ME's issues.
Prevalent throughout the operating system were crashes, slowness, and strange performance issues. People's mileage varied, but most users experienced bugs and other annoyances that made the OS hard to use. Many users reported that when returning to their machines after a few minutes, just moving the mouse caused Windows ME to crash.
We can attribute most of these problems to the aging Windows 9x architecture, coupled with a rushed product that simply wasn't ready for release. Windows ME was quickly replaced with the superior XP, and people never looked back.
Those who never used Windows ME usually think of Windows Vista, released in early 2007, as the worst Windows version ever.
While Vista was also a much-hated Windows version, its story is different than Windows ME. Vista was actually much different from Windows XP, so it didn't bring any baggage with it like ME did.
Because Windows XP had so many security problems, Microsoft focused on making Vista a more secure OS. In practice, this led to some of its many annoyances.
Are You Sure You Want to Do That?
Perhaps the most infamous problem introduced with Vista was User Account Control (UAC). This was developed because of a major security issue with Windows XP. Most software in XP required an admin account to work properly, so standard user accounts could do next to nothing.
Thus, people ended up using admin accounts all the time, which isn't safe.
To keep programs from running with administrative privileges freely, UAC prompts the user to confirm that they want to run a program that could make changes to their computer. It's still present (and greatly toned down) in every version of Windows since Vista, but it was overwhelming in its initial state. It seemed that every time you clicked an icon, you had to confirm something.
Apple mocked this and other Vista problems in its famous "Get a Mac" ads, which certainly had a hand in the public view of Vista.
Compatibility and Hardware Problems
Vista also required much more powerful hardware to run than Windows XP. This makes sense, since it launched six years later and had more features. However, Microsoft ran into issues with PC manufacturers over these requirements.
Despite Vista running terribly on low-end machines, companies still placed "Compatible with Windows Vista" stickers on computers that barely met the minimum requirements. This led to people becoming frustrated with their new machine's sluggish performance.
Finally, Vista suffered from lots of compatibility issues. To work on the security problems of XP, Microsoft changed the driver model, which made the system much more stable. This greatly cut down on the number of blue screens, and Vista was able to recover from graphics driver crashes that would have taken down XP.
Since these changes were significant, they also resulted in a learning period for developers. Older drivers also didn't work under the new model, so many people trying to use old software or devices found that they were incompatible or crashed.
It's clear that many of the problems in Vista arose from changes that were necessary to make from XP. Sort of like Windows ME, Vista was an initial testing ground for changes that were later perfected. Just two years later in 2009, Microsoft released Windows 7. It was what Vista should have been, and fixed the majority of the problems that Windows Vista had.
Windows 8, which released in 2012, is the worst Windows OS that's still fresh in some people's minds. Let's review why Windows 8 got so much hate.
For most people, the biggest problem with Windows 8 was that it changed so much for no reason. Windows 7 was only three years old at the time of release, and people still loved it. After the rocky Vista, it was refreshing to have an OS that not only looked great, but was rock-solid and fast as well.
Ignoring all this, Microsoft followed its vision for a multi-device OS and Windows 8 got rid of the Start Menu, a Windows staple since the 1990s.
That was only the beginning of the issues, however. Windows 8 introduced the Windows Store, an attempt to have a central location for downloading Windows software.
However, it quickly became filled with garbage, and most people knew where to download the best Windows software already. Windows 8 also included some Modern apps that confusingly duplicated normal software's functionality.
Windows 8 suffered from a split personality. The traditional desktop, almost copied and pasted from Windows 7 (minus the Start Menu), was still present. However, it was clear that Microsoft wanted you to get invested in the new Modern apps.
Built for Touchscreens
These Modern (or Metro) apps were aggravating. Apps on smartphones make sense because they're more efficient than mobile websites. Websites are already built to cater to desktop and laptop browsers, though, so apps really weren't necessary.
Changing basic options required figuring out whether your desired setting was in the new Settings app or in the old Control Panel. Opening a picture on your desktop could send you into the Photos app, totally breaking what you intended to do.
Though nobody wanted it, Windows 8 also prioritized touchscreens over sensible user interface design built for mouse users. Features like the Charms Bar activated by swiping in from the side of a touchscreen, but with a mouse, this required awkward gestures. When the OS launched, people panicked because they couldn't even figure out how to shut down their computer. This is a clear failure on Microsoft's part.
In the end, Windows 8 shows that mobile and desktop user needs are quite different. We can't ever be sure how Microsoft thought that Windows 8 was a good idea. The company did release Windows 8.1 to correct some of the issues with Windows 8, and while it's not perfect, Windows 8.1 is a more usable OS.
What Is the Worst Windows Version for You?
We've looked back at the three worst Windows operating systems that most people hated. Thankfully, we're in a pretty good time for Windows versions now. While Windows 7 is no longer in support, Windows 10 is better than ever and receives free updates so you don't have to pay to stay current.
If you use Windows 10, make sure you know what version of Windows 10 you have so you can enjoy the latest features.
Image Credits: costix/Shutterstock