POWER USER

Win 2000 holds up under severe pressure

John McCormick

Although I tested beta versions of the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system some time ago, I didn't begin using Win 2000 Professional on a daily basis until fatal problems arose with one of my systems running Windows 98 [GCN, Feb. 19, Page 24].

In an earlier column, I described how I finally had to give up and install a new hard drive on a year-old Compaq Presario. In the process, I got sick and tired of Win98's crashes, so I took the opportunity to install Win 2000 on the bare new drive.

Installation went fast and painlessly. Win 2000 recognized everything on the Presario except that line-out audio no longer works, so I don't have the use of most of the sound card. But I still have microphone and headphone connections.

I haven't bothered to look for a new driver or to find out whether some settings merely need changing. The DVD drive features also stopped working because the drive isn't compatible with Win 2000, but the CD-ROM functions are fine. I didn't care much about DVD to begin with, although some users might. When I take the time to get DVD working again, I'll report any significant discoveries.

The real test of an operating system comes after the PC has accumulated a few months' worth of junk. I've now been running the initially shipped version of Win 2000 Pro for about four months and haven't suffered a single serious crash despite stressing the computer to its limits.

The Presario has been powered down only three times for a total of about 24 hours in all that time. For a week I used the Hibernate mode every night. Hibernate lets you power off after Win 2000 saves all open programs, Web pages, open files and so on. When you power on again, you go to the exact state where you left off'no need to reboot and reload everything.

Restarting from Hibernate is also much faster than normal rebooting.

I still get minor crashes about twice a week, but I am not considering a switch to another version of Windows except for testing purposes. I do have other systems running Win9x to support my clients and also to use some good older applications that don't run under Win 2000.

The crashes I still experience are probably not the fault of the OS and, even if they are, they're fairly minor and never bring down the entire system. Only Internet Explorer seems to fail when a dozen or so apps have been running for more than a few hours with five to 10 browser sessions open. But I have never lost any data, and closing Explorer has always cleared the problem.

Pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del still works the same way it did in Win98, except there are more options. The three-finger salute now brings up the Windows Security screen, which includes Task Manager but also has information about ways to log off, change a password, lock the system or shut down.

Power users will appreciate the fact that, besides selectively closing programs, Windows Task Manager also checks CPU usage, memory usage, number of processes running, and number of threads and handles.

Task Manager individually identifies the processes along with their CPU and memory usage in a list separate from the applications list. This means you can close individual processes instead of entire apps.

Win 2000 Professional isn't perfect, but it is by far the best version of Windows I've used.
I also have Win 2000 Server and Advanced Server, but they are a different story. New vulnerabilities in these complex OSes seem to get discovered and reported almost every week.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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