Windows 2000 does many things better than NT, but it's not more stable

Michael Cheek

By Michael Cheek

The love affair is over.
Pause. Reboot.

Microsoft Corp. certainly fulfilled many of its promises with the release of Windows 2000. The new operating system, the progeny of a marriage between Windows 98 and Window NT, has Win98's beauty and NT's brawn.

Despite the too-common requirement of preventive rebooting, I do like the OS. Given the choice between NT 4.0 and Win 2000 Professional, I would go with the new OS every time.

But Microsoft's slogan for the OS''The Business Internet Starts Here''lacks these words: 'Right After This Reboot.'

Pause. Reboot.

I'd been using Win 2000 for a few weeks when the GCN Lab experienced some bandwidth problems. Nothing too serious, but the Internet's oversubscribed population had driven our network's partial T1 speeds to roughly the equivalent of a 28.8-Kbps modem.

Win 2000 hates it when the Net slows. The OS, too smart for its own good, flips to what Microsoft calls offline mode and essentially ignores any incoming data traffic via the Net. In the offline mode, e-mail delivery times out and Web pages won't download. In the lab, as Net access choked off, all heck broke loose.

I crashed Win 2000. Or maybe I should say Win 2000 crashed itself.

Pause. Reboot.

That was my first implosion, but not my last. Other crashes occurred because I had too many windows or applications open simultaneously. Even with 256M of RAM, I found that having 10 or fewer windows open is ideal. Whenever I open more than that, Windows gets flaky. And I mean seriously flaky.

When I'm reviewing a product, I might have more than 20 windows open and six or seven major apps running. When I try to switch from one to another, the OS usually locks up a couple of the apps, refusing to refresh the screen.'Eventually, the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination will bring up the Task Manager so that I can close down some apps and keep working.

Pause. Reboot.

With more use, I am experiencing more crashes and occurrences of apps refusing to work. Although none of the failures has been quite as glorious or frustrating as those I experienced while running Win9x or NT, I now know how to handle a crash. Following the usual mantra for any Microsoft OS, I choose the reboot-and-pray approach.

After years of development, Microsoft still hasn't figured out how to build a client OS that doesn't require multiple reboots. Despite a nicely loaded PC, I reboot just as often as I did with NT. There are fewer failures than under Win9x, but there are still too many.

Pause. Reboot.

I recognize that Microsoft doesn't make all of the software and therefore can't control rogue .dll files or other events that cause crashes. The drivers for anomalous hardware also contribute to crashes. With hundreds of hardware manufacturers producing thousands of components, managing drivers has become quite a boondoggle.

Nonetheless, rebooting is getting out of control. Microsoft has already issued updates for Win 2000. And after each, the OS recommends that the user reboot.

What's more, I've found an occasional reboot simply makes good sense. Like flushing out a pipe with Drano, rebooting prevents future clogs on my PC.

Pause. Reboot.

Windows 2000 is prettier, friendlier, easier to use and better than its predecessors. It's just not more stable.

Don't let Microsoft lull you into the false hope that reboots are a thing of the past. They're not.

Michael Cheek ( is senior editor and GCN Lab director.

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