Reports of a date related bug in Windows 98 have been confirmed by both Microsoft and the millennium specialist Prove It 2000. Both companies stress there is little risk to users but concede that data loss may be a problem in a "tiny number" of cases.
The "bug", which Microsoft opts to call an "issue", appears when Windows 98 is rebooted at a time between 23:59 and 00:00 causing Windows to either leap forward two days or fall behind a day, depending on when the computer is rebooted. Fortunately for Microsoft, the bug can only manifest itself during a "split second" on Dec 31 of any year, effectively making the bug a negligible threat.
David Weeks, Microsoft Windows 98 product manager says the problem has been identified as a "window of less than a second between 11:59 and midnight on Dec 31 of any year. We can't say exactly what second the issue appears, it varies from machine to machine". An explanation was offered by Prove It 2000 chief executive Richard Coppel who says the exact second is a moving variable that changes depending on the speed of a machine's processor. "The faster your machine is the less chance you have of being hit with this," he says, "I think the biggest risk exists for those who, because of the millennium issue, are fiddling with dates on their machines." Coppel confirmed the bug is not millennium related.
Users who are concerned that they may be affected by the bug are advised to simply reset their PC's time and date setting if they notice a problem.
Coppel denies the problem is as likely to hit users as winning the lottery: "We put two people in a room on machines to alter dates on a PC for about a day. At the end of the day both had problems."
Weeks says a patch should be available on the Microsoft Web site before Monday.