Jim contacted Microsoft Technical Support about this. They confirmed the problem and eventually traced the cause to a library file called Microsoft Office 98. It is supposed to be stored in the Office folder inside the Microsoft Office 98 folder. However, in some cases, it may mistakenly wind up in your System Folder (Microsoft contends that this can only happen if you manually drag the file to your System Folder). If this happens, when you run Remove Office 98, the program mistakenly assumes that the System Folder is a Microsoft Office folder and should be deleted! Apparently, this problem does not happen with the Remove Old Office Versions program or with the Remove option of the Microsoft Office Installer.
Update: Gary Pederson writes: "Yesterday I had this exact problem. I assure you that I did not manually drag any files to the System Folder, so Microsoft's explanation doesn't hold water." Jim Finkelstein similarly confirms that he did not drag any Office file to the System Folder.
Bottom line advice: Check on the location of Microsoft Office 98 before running Remove Office 98. Make sure the file is not in your System Folder. In any case, make sure you have a back up of your hard drive before running the program.
"Visual Basic not installed" error By the way, Jim decided to run the Remove Office 98 application because of yet another problem. Whenever he launched Word 98 he kept getting an error message that said that Visual Basic was not installed. Microsoft told him that this is a false error message (it really is installed). They are still uncertain what triggers it (not all users get it). Francois Schiettecatte and Peter MacLaren report similar problems. Francois adds: "What worked for me was to run both the Remove Office 98 and Remove Old Office Versions applications, clean out the Preferences and Extensions folders of any Word, Excel and PowerPoint stuff and then do a complete reinstall. If you have Internet Explorer installed, you may need to do reinstall that as well, as libraries appear to be shared. I also deleted the OLE shared preferences as suggested by the Remove Office 98 application." Of course, when Jim tried this, he met with a far different fate.
Some words from Microsoft Microsoft's Kevin Browne replied to my query about this issue. He offers additional information and advice. He also comments on several other Office-related bugs (all of which have been mentioned on MacFixIt before) - including conflicts with RAM Doubler, Adobe Type Reunion, and the "G3 bug." He notes that updates are expected soon to correct at least some of these problems. Check the MacFixIt Extras report on Troubleshooting Microsoft Office 98 for all the details.