OS upgrades across multiple platforms prove successful

OS upgrades across multiple platforms prove successful

By Michael Cheek and John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The GCN Lab fed CD-ROMs of Microsoft Windows 2000 code into the drives of more than a dozen systems'PCs, notebooks and servers. For the most part, upgrades went without glitches.

Using Ziff-Davis Business Winstone 99 Version 1.1, the GCN Lab recorded some strong improvements in benchmark scores.

The difficulties that did occur stemmed mostly from incompatible drivers. Only one proved crippling, on a server whose RAID storage subsystem's drivers were not yet released. Win 2000 could not read the drives.

Some systems benefited from BIOS upgrades made for the year 2000 transition.

Before starting to upgrade each system, the Win 2000 CD ran the Microsoft Windows 2000 Product Analyzer.

This 2.6M application, downloadable free from www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/compat/ready.asp, determines whether a system has proper hardware for the upgrade and which of its applications should be disabled or uninstalled.

As far as performance goes, Win 2000 improved overall benchmark scores for the upgraded systems, but we think much of the improvement came from more efficient disk usage. Many systems used the Windows File Allocation Table, and we let Win 2000 convert them to the NT File System.

Here's a partial list of the systems we upgraded:

Equium 7300D PC from Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. with a 500-MHz Celeron, 64M of RAM and Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6.0a: We were having trouble with this system before the upgrade. None of the lab's Ziff-Davis Benchmark Operation applications would run all the way through.

The Equium also crashed randomly when working with other programs. Thinking it might be an operating system problem, we first upgraded NT from Service Pack 4.0 to 6.0a.

The 6.0a installation went smoothly in about 15 minutes, but it did not help whatever problems the system was having.

Then we installed Win 2000, which took about 35 minutes without any hang-ups. When it was done, the Equium could run all the programs it previously could not.

OptiPlex GX1p PC from Dell Computer Corp. with a 450-MHz Pentium II, 256M of RAM and NT 4.0 SP 5. As one of the lab director's primary testing clients, the OptiPlex has had dozens of applications installed and uninstalled.

A couple of annoying bugs have crept in, such as missing files that cause boot errors. After a 45-minute upgrade to Win 2000, the errors disappeared.

Deskpro 2000 from Compaq Computer Corp. with a 266-MHz Pentium II, 64M of RAM and Windows 95. This upgrade took the longest'more than 90 minutes. Win 2000 installed fine over Win95, but this Deskpro does not have enough horsepower to take advantage of the powerful OS. Basic processes run far too long.

The system was on a Novell NetWare network. Win 2000 detected that and installed NetWare client files, which worked fine.

Dell PowerEdge 2300 server with dual 400-MHz Pentium IIs, 256M of RAM and no OS. We cannot blame Microsoft or Dell for the problems with this one. We never got Win 2000 installed because there were no drivers available for the server's RAID storage subsystem.

Before considering any upgrade, especially involving specialty hardware such as RAID, make certain Win 2000 drivers are available.

Express 5800 ES1200 Series server from NEC Computer Systems Division with dual 300-MHz Pentium IIs, 128M of RAM and no OS. Win 2000 Server takes longer to install than the Professional version, but not by much. In about an hour we were up and running. Because this system has standard SCSI drives, we did not encounter driver problems as with the RAID server.

Dell Dimension XPS D300 with a 300-MHz Pentium II, 128M of RAM, and dual-boot Win98 and Win 2000. We weren't ready to wipe Win98 off this system, so we chose to make a clean installation of Windows 2000 on a second hard drive. We did run into trouble, however, after Win 2000 was running. It would not recognize a mouse attached to the Dimension, although the keyboard worked fine.

Moreover, in the boot process, when the user selects which OS to run while a timer counts down, arrow keystrokes went unrecognized.

We tried to force Win 2000 to recognize the mouse, but no mouse showed up among the hardware devices available.

The solution? Because the BIOS could detect both mouse and keyboard, we decided the problem lay there.'The system already had the most recent BIOS, but after a reset to factory defaults and with Plug and Play enabled, Win 2000 installed the mouse and everything worked fine. Win98 and Win 2000 still coexist very well on this system.

ToughBook CF-37 notebook from Panasonic Personal Computer Co. with a 366-MHz Celeron, 64M of RAM and Win98. Installation took almost an hour but there were no hang-ups. The upgraded system scored a half-point higher on the ZD benchmark compared with a benchmark run just before the upgrade.

Compaq Armada M700 and Dell Latitude CPx notebooks, each with a 500-MHz Pentium III, 128M of RAM and Win98. The lab reviewed both notebooks recently [GCN, Feb. 7, Page 25], and the Compaq's benchmarks were remarkably low.'Win 2000 took care of that, bumping ZD's Winstone 99 score up almost three points into the range where the Latitude had performed. But the Latitude also improved, by almost four points.

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