Software giant Microsoft has ended its technical support and security updates for its eight-year-old Windows 98 operating system.
The move, which will also affect Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition, is designed to push the 70 million Windows 98 users around the world towards a newer operating system.
"Microsoft is ending support for these products because they are outdated and these older operating systems can expose customers to security risks," the firm said in its "final customer notification".
"We recommend that customers who are still running Windows 98 or Windows Me upgrade to a newer, more secure Microsoft operating system, such as Windows XP, as soon as possible."
Although only eight years have passed since the software giant launched its follow-up to Windows 95 amid a massive publicity campaign, the increased capabilities of computers have outstripped the natural lives of many PCs.
As a result observers have suggested that small businesses currently using the Windows 98 system may be forced to switch to the newer XP system or an alternative sooner than they might like.
Attempts to prevent the forced transition from Windows 98 had succeeded in 2003 following appeals from developing countries that they relied too heavily on the software to cope with the complete removal of technical support.