Many North American businesses still have computers running on Windows 98, even though support for the operating system is set to end on 16 January, according to a new study.

AssetMetrix, an Ottawa-based IT asset analysis tool vendor, collected data on more than 370,000 PCs from 670 businesses in the US and Canada. It found that 80 percent of those companies have at least one PC running either Windows 95 or Windows 98. The older operating systems accounted for about 27 percent of operating systems found.

Microsoft will end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition on Jan. 16. The products will become "obsolete," according to the Microsoft Web site. Online self-help support will continue to be available until at least 30 June, 2006, but Microsoft will not provide security fixes or other product updates.

Support for Windows 95 ended on 31 December, 2001, according to the Microsoft product lifecycle Web site.

As a result of the Windows 98 retirement, businesses who still have operating system in use face "an ever-increasing risk of security breach for their entire network," according to the AssetMetrix study. The company advises businesses to retire all Windows 98 systems that are connected direct to the Internet.