You may have started to hear and read about Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 2000. If not you will certainly start to! Windows 2000 is now in the shops and many manufacturers are already shipping systems pre-loaded with Windows 2000. Windows 2000 has been described as the most significant software release of all time.
What Is Windows 2000?
Windows 2000 is the new name for Windows NT 5.0. It is an upgrade of Windows NT 4.0, not an upgrade of Windows 95 and Windows 98. (The next upgrade to Windows 98 will be called Windows Millennium.)
Windows 2000 comes in different flavours for different systems: Windows 2000 Professional for desktops and laptops, Windows 2000 Server for file and web servers, Windows 2000 Advanced Server for larger servers and Windows 2000 Datacentre Server for ENORMOUS servers. Underneath these are all the same system but optimised for different purposes.
What's New In Windows 2000?
Lots of things! Probably more than is practical to outline here in too much detail, but briefly:
Visually it incorporates all the funky user interface improvements from Windows 98 into the Window NT realm and brings games support up to DirectX 7.0. Serious games users will have previously needed to stay with Windows 95 or 98, but no more!
From a hardware perspective, it adds support for Universal Serial Bus (for scanners, digital cameras, ZIP drives, printers etc), Infrared (for portable printers, mobile phones), Plug-and-Play (for network cards, sound cards) and DVD which were previously not available in Windows NT 4.0. This will mean you have access to a wider variety of hardware.
It now solves all the problems posed by laptops such as working offline, fiddling PCMCIA cards, managing batteries and using infrared connections and USB. The ability to synchronise laptops with office file servers is a major new technology.
For large companies it adds the Active Directory, which is a mechanism to more easily manage the huge number of things that need managing in a network (like users, printers, files, email, software updates and so forth).
Security wise, it adds the Encrypting File System, which allows data to be encrypted easily. File encryption is slow, so a lot of machines today will be unsuitable for it, but over the next few years encryption will be a “must-have”, especially if you use laptops. It introduces new security features at every level, from users logging in to the LAN to hosting web pages over the internet.
Microsoft also claims lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) due to its ease of administration and increases in stability and reliability. (This is mainly of benefit to companies with dozens, hundreds or thousands of computers.)
Should I Use Windows 2000?
This is a tricky question because it's easy to get into trouble with a huge software update such as Windows 2000, but equally you should not be afraid of it.
If you buy a new computer where the vendor provides the choice between pre-loading Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, choose Windows 2000. It's superior to Windows 98, just as good as Windows NT 4.0 and ultimately gives you the best of both worlds. Any early bugs that might be found and fixed in an upcoming Service Pack are not likely to affect most users adversely.
If you are primarily a Windows 9x user, putting Windows 2000 on new systems is a good way to ease into the Windows NT world. Then you can decide whether to upgrade your existing systems.
If you already have a system running Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 4.0, you will be able to buy an upgrade which converts your system with a minimum of fuss, but there are some things you need to be aware of in advance:
- You must have about 1Gb of available hard drive space and 64Mb memory. Don't bother if you have less.
- Your computer vendor must be committed to Windows 2000. Have they announced support for it? Is their product on the Hardware Compatibility List? Many computers are likely to require BIOS and/or driver upgrades before Windows 2000 will run properly and you need to be aware of these up-front.
- Your software vendors must be committed to Windows 2000 also. Have they announced support for it? Just because an application runs under Windows 95 does not mean it will run under Windows 2000. Some applications run differently on Windows 95/98 and Windows NT/2000 so you may need to re-install some programs or install updates. Gather your program disks together and check vendor websites.
I Have A System That Is Working Properly And Does What I Need. Should I Upgrade?
Not just for the sake of upgrading.
The likelihood is that if you take any given system and throw Windows 2000 on it without planning the upgrade in advance you will probably get into a mess. It may take days to sort out. The Golden Rule with Windows 2000 is that quality hardware and vendor support are “crucial”, not just “important” or “desirable”. This will rule out most clone systems built before about 1999.
If you would like to enter the world of Windows 2000, first do some reading about what it can do and look at your hardware and software. DON'T just buy the upgrade and stick the CD in.
What Are Cadzow's Experiences and Thoughts of Windows 2000?
Good! We've experimented with the early Beta versions and found them to be reliable, stable and functional. The final version now available is the same. Upgrading Windows NT 4.0 systems to Windows 2000 using modern hardware and modern applications is pain-free.
Windows 2000 is definitely the operating system of the future. It finally consolidates the hardware support and features of Windows 95/98 and stability, scalability, power and performance of Windows NT 4.0. Windows 2000 is where you should be going, but you don't have to get there immediately. The computer industry press is full of hype such as “Run, Don't Walk: Get Windows 2000 Now!” and doom-sayer stuff like “Don't Be A Fool, Leave Windows 2000 Until 2002”, but the reality sits between these headlines. For most organisations, Windows 2000 will not provide immediate benefits so rushing to upgrade is folly. But you should become familiar with it which is why we recommend it for new systems.