New WinNT a bit quirky and demanding
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1996. First
published in Computer Player, Dec 6, 1996
Despite alternatives ranging from the Apple Macintosh
to IBM?s OS/2
to various shades of Unix, the battle for the millions of computers on
business desktops is pretty much between three shades of Microsoft
last year?s Windows 95, this year?s Windows NT 4.0, and old classic
Estimates from xxxx predict sales of 48 million copies
of Windows 95,
23 million copies of classic Windows, and only 4 million copies of NT.
Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed experts all expect NT to be the
winner, with businesses who have up until now passed up on Win95
NT?s robust stability, 32-bit power, and US government-certified
especially now that it sports a new, Win95-style interface.
I?ve been living with the new NT Workstation for the
past couple of
months?long enough to find lots to like, and some things to dislike
it. I installed it alongside my main operating system, Windows 95, on a
Pentium notebook, with 16 megs of ram, and a 1 gig hard drive. Some
? For those who, like me, are unwilling to risk all on
an untried operating
system, NT can be installed quite happily alongside DOS, Windows 3.1,
Windows 95. Just choose to install it into a different directory than
current Windows version. If you want to take advantage of NT?s advanced
file system, NTFS, you?ll need to install it into a partition of its
will format it as an NTFS partition (which will, however, destroy any
or data currently residing on that partition). PowerQuest?s Partition
utility does a nice job creating a new partition out of empty space on
your drive, without destroying your current programs. After
you get a boot menu allowing you to choose between booting to NT or
previous DOS or Win95 (NT calls Win95 DOS? hmmm?)
Lacking plug and play, the installation?s
hardware detection is
more primitive than Win95?s?it tries out a series of drivers, and makes
note of the ones that work. Fewer hardware variations are supported
with W95?my notebook?s sound card, for example, lacks NT drivers. Make
sure all your hardware is on the officially supported list?you can?t
DOS, Windows 3.1, or even Win95 or older NT drivers in a pinch.
If you choose, as I did, to install NT into a
different directory from
your current Windows, your current applications aren?t automatically
If you install over your current Windows 3.1, NT will successfully
the settings for your applications (but you lose the ability to use the
NTFS file system). NT can?t make use of Win95?s Registry, however?even
if you install over your current Win95 directory, you?ll lose all those
? NT is bigger and slower to boot than Win95. It
requires a password
at boot?there?s no getting around it by pressing Escape, as you can
faced with a Win95 login request. On my machine, however, I get an
message each time the machine boots?I suspect that because on my
the floppy and CD-ROM share a single slot, NT notices the missing part,
and complains, regardless of which piece of hardware is installed.
just a guess, however, because viewing the Event Log, as recommended by
the error message, doesn?t really provide much help. Still, despite the
error message, everything seems to work okay.
? Everything except my modem, that is. Much to my
surprise, NT claimed
to recognize my PC Card slot, and to recognize the card in it correctly
as a Megahertz 28.8 modem. It let me set it to all the same values that
work under Win95? but it doesn?t work. So no e-mail, no Internet. That
limits my work greatly, forcing me to continue to work under Win95 much
of the time.
? After reinstalling my applications, most worked
NT. My modem program was the only one to fail?I suspect that NT was not
allowing this 16-bit Windows program from directly accessing the
You can?t use disk utilities designed for DOS, Windows, or Win95 on an
NT NTFS partition?you?ll need native NT utilities. There?s an NT
of Norton AntiVirus for NT, for example. Unlike DOS or Win95, Microsoft
doesn?t include a disk defragmentation utility with NT? in theory NTFS
partitions are less prone to fragmentation. You can get a free defrag
from http://www.execsoft/dklite?but to make it work, I first had to
NT?s Service Pack 1. Yes?even though NT 4.0 was only weeks old at the
there?s already a Service Pack 1. (Free on the Internet, at
While you?re visiting Microsoft?s Web site, get the latest version of
of this handy freebie works for NT 4.0 as well.
There are fewer places to get help for NT? the
bookstores I checked
only had a couple of books about NT 4.0 Workstation, compared to a
or more when Win95 was first released. I bought a $70 1,000 page tome,
complete with CD disk. The boot seemed moderately useful, but the CD
a poor assortment of shareware?only 160 megs on a disk that could have
held 650 megs, and nothing that I found worth keeping.
How?s the performance? With a mere 16 megs (!), it?s
slower than Win95.
I?m planning to upgrade to 32 megs?then we?ll see if it seems faster.
multitasking is more stable than Win95?s, and the few applications
to make use of multi-threading show off the potential?there was a nice
demonstration when installing it on a different machine over an
NT 3.51 installation?I was able to format floppies at the same time
the setup program was copying files from the CD onto the hard drive.
slick, very stable, a real time-saver. But few applications that I?ve
have been written to make much use of these capabilities.
NT 4.0 may turn out to be an outstanding performer on
least on new machines with fast processors, big hard drives, lots of
and only NT-standard hardware. It?s certainly reputed to be a
network citizen (something I haven?t had any opportunity to test). On
existing machines, and certainly on most portable machines, Win95 or
staying with Windows 3.1 may prove a better bet.