I received a number of emails this morning about Windows 98 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) Updates CDs being available for order from the Microsoft Web site: thanks to everyone that wrote in about this. The sudden availability of these updates is a bit confusing, so here's an attempt to sort through the mess:

Windows 98 Second Edition (SE)
Now available at retail and bundled with new computers, this new version of Windows 98 offers the bug fixes from SP1 (see below), Internet Explorer 5.0, new hardware support, and some new features, such as Internet Connection Sharing. Windows 98 SE costs the same as Windows 98 (about $90 for the upgrade version). If you're an existing Windows 3.1 or 95 user and you'd like to upgrade, this is the version you want. However, be careful that you're buying SE and not the old Windows 98: the SE packaging includes a red sticker that says "SECOND EDITION" on it, while the old version of Windows 98 includes a red sticker that says "NEW VERSION." Yes, it's confusing.

Windows 98 Service Pack 1 (SP1)
The Windows 98 Service Pack includes bug fixes (including Year 2000 fixes) to Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 4.0 but does not include any new features. The Service Pack can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site for free or you can order it on CD for $5.00. Windows 98 SP1 is obviously designed for existing users of Windows 98 that do not want to upgrade to IE 5.0, which is required when installing Windows 98 SE.

Windows 98 Second Edition Updates CD
This special CD includes Windows 98 Service Pack 1 and the Windows technologies downloads (see below) on one handy CD-ROM that you can order from the Microsoft Web site for $24.95 including shipping. This CD also includes the new features in Windows 98 SE, such as Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), and comes with a handy booklet describing those new features. If you're an existing Windows 98 user that wants the whole enchilada, this is the way to go. You cannot download the entire contents of the SE Updates CD (ICS, for example, is not available for download).

Windows technologies downloads
Microsoft has made a variety of the new Internet-related features in Windows 98 SE available for free download to existing Windows 98 users, including Internet Explorer 5.0, NetMeeting 3.0, and Windows Media Player 6.0. If you'd rather download some or all of these new products and simply add them to your existing Windows 98 (or 95) installation, this is the way to go.

To download or order any of these new products and features, please visit the Windows 98 Web site