There's little need to rush to upgrade from NT to Win 2000

There's little need to rush to upgrade from NT to Win 2000

Users needing scalability might want to make the move; others might want to wait for later versions

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

Users have been installing brand-new Microsoft Corp. operating systems for as long as they've had PCs.

MS-DOS was replaced by Windows, which was followed by Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95, NT 4.0 and Windows 98. Each had its own set of service packs and variants. Most of them eventually became desktop PC standards, partly because the company ceased to support its older work.

Barring a big spike in Linux popularity, Microsoft's OS is what will continue to get the job done. But just because Windows 2000 is available doesn't mean federal users will rush to upgrade or order it on their new clients and servers.

Feds know from experience that the first generation of a Windows OS is riddled with bugs and unintended side effects that a parade of service packs will later patch. Holding out for the second or third generation is a smart move.

Right for some

Windows 2000 is not for everyone, but it immediately fixes certain problems that users may have encountered with NT and its Service Packs 4, 5, 6 and 6.0a. If you are struggling with scalability problems, for example, you might be among the first to hop on the Win 2000 bus.

Microsoft employees refer to the new OS as the fifth major release of the NT (which stands for new technology) operating system since its 1993 debut.

In fact, one dialog box refers to the new OS as Windows 5.00.2195.

One of the best features is huge memory support on the server side. But the standard Windows 2000 Server handles only 4G of RAM'quite a bit, although I expected it to surpass the memory capacity of the client OS or NT. You must buy Windows 2000 Ad-vanced Server to get 8G of memory support. The Datacenter Server version, which will arrive in about three months, supports up to 64G of system memory, at extra cost.

Individual choice

The standard Windows 2000 Professional, for individual users, supports up to 4G, the same maximum as in NT 4.0.

Besides system managers looking for scalability, other early adopters will be mobile users who now run NT. Win 2000 incor-porates features previously found only in third-party programs for NT, such as file availability when a notebook is not network-connected.

Win 2000 supports intelligent power management. It was possible to set NT to power up and down without performing a full notebook reboot, but you had do so by fiddling with the BIOS statements.

Win 2000 also makes it easier to transfer data through infrared ports.'It's almost intuitive. Anyone who has tried to get an IR connection working reliably between two notebooks will appreciate the difference.

A special benefit for both mobile and desktop PC users is easy installation of new hardware. For the first time, you can plug in peripheral devices without having to reboot repeatedly. Devices such as Web cameras immediately start recording images as soon as they are connected.

NT can't recognize Universal Serial Bus devices. But Win 2000 does, and probably will do it better than Windows 98. GCN Lab reviewers certainly hope so. I could not test USB devices because, prior to the OS' Feb. 17 official release, many peripheral makers had not delivered drivers for Win 2000.

True multimedia support will benefit consumers more than it will business users, but the OS does come with DirectX 7.0. NT supports only versions up to DirectX 3, which means that many high-end graphical programs do not work with NT.

On the server side, Win 2000 cracks down on developers whose code meddles with the OS.'It scans new drivers before installation and checks them against a list of tested drivers.'If a driver has not been certified, the user sees a warning message.

Other features that will help both server and desktop PC users are Windows File Protection, which prevents new software from overwriting essential system files, and kernel-mode write protection, which stops poorly written code from interfering with system operations.

In spite of such benefits, you might not want to upgrade yet if your NT network is running smoothly.

Microsoft so far has certified only eight products written specifically for Win 2000 [GCN, Feb. 7, Page 50].

Anything that runs under NT 4.0 reportedly will perform the same with Windows 2000.

I fully expect some incompatibility as Win 2000 comes online.


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