Under the gun? Achieve 2000 readiness for PCs in a hurry with the GCN Lab's 12-step program

Under the gun? Achieve 2000 readiness for PCs in a hurry with the GCN Lab's 12-step program

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

The GCN Lab cannot tell you how to stop the clock from striking midnight 95 days from now, but we do know a bit about PC year 2000 readiness.

Follow this in-depth 12-step program, and you'll have a happy New Year'at least when it comes to your PCs.

Step 1: Breathe. Yes, you can get ready in much less than 95 days.

Barring major problems, it won't take longer than an afternoon to prepare one or several PCs. But don't wait until Dec. 31 to start.

Step 2: Visit PC makers' Web sites to check for BIOS or other updates. If you cannot find a site or a manufacturer is out of business, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Do not'repeat'do not worry about the real-time clock. The horror stories about the RTC are marketing ploys, especially those for hardware cards sold to replace the RTC. A PC's BIOS controls the RTC, and the RTC's chip has a two-digit field for century information. If the BIOS is year 2000-ready, so is the RTC. Check out steps 4 and 5 for details.

Step 4: Buy Norton 2000 2.0 from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. Similar products such as OnMark 2000 Assess 4.0 from Viasoft Inc. of Phoenix or Check 2000 from Greenwich Mean Time-UTA L.C. of Arlington, Va., will also work. Install the package and check out your system's BIOS, operating system, applications and data. Data files likely will be the least of your worries. If everything else is ready on your system, two-digit years in data files will be appropriately interpreted.

Step 5: Updating the BIOS is the crucial step. Install a BIOS fix for Microsoft Windows 9x or Windows NT systems if your test package says it's necessary. For Windows 9x, both Norton and OnMark will create a bootable disk to test the BIOS. The same disk can be used to test the BIOS of an NT system. If your NT system's BIOS is not year 2000-ready, install NT Service Pack 5, which includes a BIOS fix.

Step 6: Point your Web browser to www.microsoft.com/y2k.

For the most common desktop OSes, download one of these sets of patches:

• Win95: Windows 95 Year 2000 update

• Win98: Service Pack 1 or Second Edition upgrade

• NT Workstation 4.0: Service Pack 5 or year 2000 hot fixes for either Service Pack 3 or 4. Service Pack 3 is the minimum supported by Microsoft.

Step 7: One quick fix for any version of Windows is to make certain your short-date format is set correctly. Go to the Control Panel, open Regional Settings, go to the Date tab and make sure the Short Date style is shown as yyyy in the year field. Your entry could appear as M/d/yyyy or MM/dd/yyyy or M-dd-yyyy or a dozen other ways. Just make certain there are four Ys to force a four-digit year entry.

Step 8: If you have completed steps 2 through 7, your system ought to survive the date rollover. Applications and data are what to check next.

Step 9: Application readiness can be complex, depending on the number of apps running on a system. Norton 2000 and other products scan for year 2000 application readiness and often provide Web addresses to check for app updates.

Step 10: If you use many Microsoft products, go back to www.microsoft.com/y2k and download Version 2.0 of Microsoft Year 2000 Product Analyzer. It generates a complete report about the readiness of all Microsoft products installed on the PC and gives Web page references for updates. Or call 888-673-8925 to get a free CD-ROM with the information.

Step 11: Norton and OnMark do data file checks, but mostly on common spreadsheet and database files. If the application is year 2000-ready, chances are the dates in flagged data files will be correctly interpreted. The two products produce a handy list of any files with possible problems and a quick way to fix them, if necessary.

Step 12: Relax, you're ready.

Now repeat the steps again for every PC in the office.

Some agencies apply green, yellow and red stickers to PCs.

Red generally means the system has yet to be tested, yellow means under test and green means ready.

Remember that as data and applications are added, systems need additional scans for steps 9 through 11.


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