Closing windows

Remember Windows 3.1? Some of you may still even be using it for mundane tasks, having never seen a reason to spend money on an upgrade. More than likely, to upgrade the operating system would require an investment in a more powerful — and thus expensive — computer to handle the higher demands of Windows 95 or 98.

Windows 3.1 is the version of the operating system that really propelled Microsoft to its position of complete dominance in the market, but if you look at its Web site (, it’s like it never existed. A few references exist, but everything is focused on the newer Windows 95/98 platform, and the networking Windows NT.

“Microsoft essentially dropped support for it about a year ago,” say John Ruley, senior technology editor at Windows Magazine (which is not affiliated with Microsoft). “There is a certain minimal level of support provided indirectly, but the message they are sending is, if you’re running 3.1, please upgrade. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get support.”

Third-part support is getting harder to find as well, but as long as there is a market for it, help will be out there.

Another drawback of remaining on Windows 3.1 is that there is virtually no development being done for the platform. If you have a program that’s meeting your needs, then it’s not a problem — assuming your software is Y2K compliant.

“You don’t see Y2K patches for Windows 3.1,” notes Ruley. “When Microsoft moved to the 32-bit model for Windows 95, most vendors were forced to rewrite their software.”

This means that any patches that work for Windows 95 will not work for Windows 3.1. And because the company is no longer generating revenue from 3.1, it probably will not commit the resources to create a separate patch.

“The last few years, the support has really dried up,” says Ruley. “It’s really coming down to crunch time, and there’s not a lot of reason to continue using it. The systems required for Windows 95 are getting to be so cheap, there is not a lot of reason to hang onto 3.1.”

Ruley says even if you have a 3.1 system that is Y2K compliant, fully tested and has everything is working well, you still may be better off upgrading now. The age of the system and the software will eventually lead to trouble, and when it does, there won’t be anyone left to help. It’s better to upgrade now on your terms than at later under the computer’s terms. If Y2K may be a problem, make the move sooner rather than later.

“In January and February, there are going to be a lot of people upgrading,” says Ruley. “At that point, it’s going to be really expensive and consulting time is really going to be at a premium.”