Operating Systems: head to head comparison (NT
by Alan Zisman (c) 1997. First published in Computer
Player, April 1997.
>1. What are the hardware requirements for your OS (memory disk
16 meg ram minimum. 32 meg better. Approx. 120 meg
disk space. CD-ROM
required for installation.
>2. Dual processing - whether the OS can address
more than one processing
NT supports multiple processors. NT 4.0 also supports
Intel (80486 or
above), MIPS, DEC Alpha, and PowerPC RISC processor machines, but MIPS
and PowerPC support is being dropped in future versions.
>3. Does the OS support multi tasking?
Specifically, preemptive multi
NT offers very well-implimented and stable pre-emptive
including pre-emptive mult-tasking of 16-bit Windows applications, DOS
applications, and 32-bit Windows applications.
>4. Does the OS support threading?
The OS SUPPORTS multithreading... it doesn't REQUIRE
it. (Does any OS?
) Multithreading support needs to be specifically written into
applications. (This is true of other OSs that support multithreading,
>5. How well does it handle simple task switching?
Task switching is well-supported; the Win95-style
taskbar makes it easy
to switch between tasks.
>6. What environment (home, business, school etc.)
is your OS best suited?
>average home user shouldn't pick WinNT)
NT is designed as an industrial-strength workplace
Many home users will be frustrated by its lack of plug-and-play, lack
drivers for some popular peripherals such as printers, and the need to
dual boot to DOS to run many games, as well as its high hardware
Its built-in networking client support and security
features make it
well-suited for many business-users.
Until better power-management support gets added, it
is not a good choice
for portable users who rely on their batteries!
>7. Does the OS have built in support for the
Internet? How easy is
it to hook
>up to the Net - what are the steps involved?
TCP/IP and Dial-Up-Networking are included and
to install. NT 4.0 ships with Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0, an
version, but it is easy to obtain copies of either MS-IE 3.01 or
>8. What makes your system a good web server? What
makes it a bad web
NT Server version includes Microsoft's web server,
this version makes
a good web server. Microsoft's license for the less expensive NT
version forbids more than 10 connections at a time, limiting its use as
a web server, even though tests suggest it could otherwise work well in
>9. Future - What's being planned for your OS?
NT 5.0 is currently beginning beta-testing. Biggest
change for home
users would be implimentation of Windows Driver Model, merging NT and
drivers, along with additional plug-and-play support. This version may
add the next version of Internet Explorer (4.0) as an optional desktop
(so-called Active Desktop).
>10. OS prices for individual client versions for
Typical prices are:
NT Workstation: $390 ($190 upgrade from earlier NT version)
NT Server: $1008 with 5 client license; $1399 with 10 client license;
(upgrades from earlier versions are about half those prices); $45 per
>11. How good is the OS gaming system?
Only a small percentage of games are 'guaranteed' to
work on NT... NT
supports dual-booting to DOS as its method of allowing users to run DOS
games, which tend to want to access the hardware in ways that is
by NT's security model. Even Windows 95 games may not always work,
on what subset of DirectDraw features are used in the game-- NT
supports only some of the DirectDraw programming interface.
As well, NT users will find that many popular
non-Sound Blaster cards
are poorly supported.
>12. Support - are updated drivers
easily/frequently available? Is there
>of info out there (either in books and magazines) about your
The number of books available on NT 4.0 workstation
has been steadily
growing- since its release last Fall... I now count about a dozen aimed
at a 'general' audience. Windows Magazine and Windows Sources magazine
include the best ongoing information about NT 4.0.
Updated drivers are available from www.microsoft.com,
where 2 service
packs and several general updates have also been posted.
>13. Interface - what does it look like? graphic?
List the good and
>features. (note: we may actually picture the screens so you don't
have to go
>into great detail)
The NT 4.0 interface is virtually identical with Win
95's-- and shares
the good and bad features with that interface. As with Win95, perhaps
best feature is the TaskBar-- no more 'losing' applications when one
covers up another.
>14. How do you navigate (mouse, keyboard,
both) on the OS and
how easy is it?
As with Win95, mouse and keyboard are both supported
for most actions.
Right-mouse button support is now (finally!) built into the user
which is powerful and convenient but confusing for users switching over
from Macintosh (single-button) or Win 3.1 (left-button only).
>15. Does your system have plug and play features
for adding peripherals
>hardware? Which ones?
NT 4.0 supports some amount of plug and play at
time-- it is much more difficult to access than W95's, however. This is
a major focus for the next version (NT 5.0).
>16. Can devices be 'hot swapped'?
No. Again, this feature has been promised for the next
>17. Does your system have complete power
management for notebook computers?
No. (Again, this has been promised for NT 5.0) Some
manufacturers are selling customized versions of NT, with power
support for their individual models.
>18. What sort of security is available for the OS?
NT is designed with a great-deal of security built-in.
Users must log
in when starting up. The optional NTFS file system provides security
to the individual file level, as well as excellent disaster-recovery
>19. What steps are required for installation? Rate
level of difficulty
>scale of 1 to 5.
If hardware meets the NT compatibility list,
installation is straightforward.
(Note: installation of NT Server is, inevitably, much more complex). If
no networking is involved, it is quite simple; if networking is
users need to be able to answer some technical questions related to
Note however, that while NT can be installed over an
3.1 installation, and will properly migrate application settings, if
over an existing Windows 95 setup, applications will need to be
(I'm not sure how to rate it on a 1 to 5 scale...
which end is good?
How about some comparison ratings?)
>20. How much aggravation is involved in
maintenance (eg. defragmentation,
I'm not sure what is meant by this question!
Because NT is very stable, there's not much problem w.
Users of NTFS file system, in particular, have a very stable system,
find less file fragmentation than with standard DOS and Windows
Note that no defragmentation utility is included with
system... but a free utility is available called Diskeeper Lite, from
>21. What level of user (beginner, expert, average)
is this OS appropriate
NT systems probably need to be initially setup by a
person; afterwards, with the Win95 interface, a beginner can quickly
a productive user.
Windows NT was developed in the early 1990s as
Microsoft's effort at
a 'New Technology' operating system to replace DOS + Windows 3,
the end of Microsoft and IBM's joint effort to replace DOS with OS/2.
The NT development team was led by Dave Cutler, a
system developer from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). The first
released as NT 3.1, resembled the popular Windows 3.1 user interface,
replaced that system's reliance on DOS with a more powerful base,
powerful security and multitasking, along with long file names, and an
optional NTFS file system.
NT 3.1 was criticized for high hardware demands, slow
for a scarcity of native applications. It was improved with version 3.5
and 3.51, which retained the Windows 3.1-style interface. On the other
hand, even from the initial version, it was designed to support
processors, and to run on a range of processor models. The current
can be installed on Intel 486, Pentium, and Pentium-Pros as well as
RISC CPUs such as DEC Alphas, MIPS processors, and Power-PCs (though
on current Power-Macs).
NT 4.0, quietly released in the Fall of 1997, replaces
that now old-fashioned
interface with a virtual clone of Windows 95, while retaining NT's
power, stability, and security. It is a much more robust multitasker
Windows 95 (try working in an application while formatting a floppy
under both operating systems).
Most software written for Windows 95 will also run as
NT software, greatly increasing the number of applications that will
at peak performance on this operating system. NT supports fewer
peripherals (modems, printers, video and sound cards, scanners, etc.)
Windows 95 however-users thinking of upgrading should carefully check
on-line NT Hardware Compatibility List.
NT is sold in separate Server and Workstation