Windows 2000: Insidiously Important, but upgrade
isn't for everyone
by Alan Zisman (c)
2000. First published
in Canadian Computer Wholesaler, February 2000
Barring last-minute catastrophe such as a meteorite
we will soon see the release of Microsoft?s latest operating system
2000, slated for a February 17th release.
A new OS version from Microsoft always has effects
that ripple through
the computer industry?and this one may prove more significant than
Where Windows 98, for example, was really a fairly minor retake on
95, and last year?s Windows 98 SE a barely noticeable fine-tuning of
initial Win98, Windows 2000 is a major undertaking for the software
For a start, with some 45 million lines of computer
code, it?s the biggest
and most complex version of Windows ever. Four years in the making, it
is?despite the name?two years later than originally promised. For a
there were fears that Microsoft would not be able to get a handle on
gargantuan undertaking, or that it would prove to be so incompatible
older hardware and software as to be virtually unusable.
Neither of these have occurred, however. I?ve been
running various pre-release
versions of Windows 2000 Professional for the past six months or so,
have found even these not-quite-ready for the general public versions
fast, and pretty much working as advertised.
A few things need to be made clear, however.
Despite the name, Windows 2000 is not the successor to
Windows 95, Windows
98, et al. Instead, it follows up on 1996?s Windows NT version 4.0. In
fact, Win 2000 was originally expected to be named NT 5.0?and perhaps
have been given that moniker. Despite earlier announcements that Win98
was the end of the road for that product?s evolution, Microsoft is, in
fact, separately continuing development of the Win9x series.
Like its NT predecessors, Win 2000 (aka W2K) is not
built on the DOS-core
that underlies the Windows 9x series. Built from the ground-up as a
networkable operating system, it offers more security and robustness
the Win9x systems. To achieve those noble ends, however, W2K offers
support for the wide range of PC hardware and software than its Win9x
W2K does support more hardware and peripherals than
the earlier NT versions?it
uses the Windows Drive Model (WDM) for device drivers that was
with Windows 98, and unlike NT 4.0, includes workable plug-and-play
and USB support. Improved power management will make W2K a better fit
notebook users (though this is the one area where the pre-release
consistently failed to work properly on my year-old notebook).
Assume that the practical minimum hardware required is
a 300 MHz processor
and 64 megs of RAM. A clean install uses about 500 megs of drive space.
Similarly, W2K includes DirectX, making it a better
than its NT predecessor? but that really wasn?t its goal, and it
forbids the direct hardware access that many games need. A fairly large
number of programs, including Microsoft?s own Encarta 98, for example,
will complain when you try to install them under W2K. Encarta 98 seems
to work anyway, but at least one that I tested?the music program Mixman
Studio simply refused to install.
Microsoft has a web page
hardware and software compatibility?including tested computer
BIOS versions. In checking compatible software, you may notice that
a fairly large number of products are listed as W2K-ready, hardly any
officially W2K certified. Microsoft has significantly toughened the
for software to receive W2K certification?such programs must pass a
of tests by the independent VeriTest organization, including an
that works, and an installation that doesn?t litter the Start Menu with
little-used ReadMe and Help file icons. Certified applications must be
self-repairing, and minimize conflicts among applications that share
files, while supporting multiple users or users who use multiple
on a network.
The W2K certification requirements have been needed
for a long time,
and have the potential to help solve many of the problems in the
environment?but virtually no software currently meets these
even Microsoft?s recent Office 2000 is listed as certified. In fact,
of 2237 applications listed in early January as compatible with W2K,
five were listed as certified?so it may be a while before these
have much impact.
We can expect to see W2K pre-installed on some systems
that will end
up with home, school, and small-business users. Some users will look to
upgrade existing Win9x or NT systems to W2K (and may be surprised to
that its retail pricing, like that of NT 4.0, will be about double that
of Win9x). The key market, however, like earlier NT versions, is
computer users?large corporations, where users are typically running a
relatively small number of applications on reasonable standardized
Those users will find W2K in four separate versions:
- -- Windows 2000 Professional is the replacement for
NT 4.0 Desktop.
is the version aimed at individual users, especially if they are
to a network server. In fact, many of the features that are aimed at
settings, such as Active Directory and IntelliMirror will only work
W2K Servers and W2K Professional client systems?any other combination,
and these features will not be available.
- -- Windows 2000 Server is the entry-level server
or dual-processor servers (up to four CPU systems are supported in
from NT 4.0 Server), and providing file, print, application, and web
services. Network administrators can manage a W2K Server system from a
W2K Professional desktop.
- -- Windows 2000 Advanced Server ramps up the
feature set another notch,
promising support for up to 64 gigs of RAM on Alpha and Xeon servers. A
fresh install supports up to 4 processors, while an upgrade from NT
Enterprise Edition Server can support up to 8 multiprocessors.
allows combining of several servers into a single functional unit, both
for more power and increased reliability.
- -- Windows 2000 DataCenter Server will not be
released on the February
17th date, but has been promised for later this Spring. It ups the ante
once again, supporting a larger number of multi-processors, and being
to provide services for large database or transaction processing.