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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 16:15 GMT
Review: Windows 2000

Windows 2000 is hailed as an extremely reliable operating system. BBC News Online's Andrew Godleman examines the facts.

Windows 2000 means never having to say you're sorry, at least according to Microsoft. The company trails its new operating system as the software users will not have to re-start ('re-boot').

Windows 2000
Designed for
business users,
web servers,
network applications
requires 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU
at least 64 megabytes of RAM; more memory improves speed
2 gigabytes hard disk with at least 650MB of free space.

Source: Microsoft
Windows 2000 runs software programs in their own separate space. If one goes wrong, it will not cause the computer to crash anymore, a 'feature' that has dogged computer users for years.

If users install software that does not meet the rigours of the new system, it overwrites it with the original system software afterwards.

This is obviously useful in ensuring the basic system functions, but it may be somewhat more frustrating when you realise that it is the system that causes the failure to install new software.

There are tools available to handle compatibility problems, but you or your software provider will need to apply them carefully, and they may not work.

Windows number is up

Win2000 event viewer Windows 2000 promises to contain errors and avoid computer crashes
Microsoft has been at great pains to ensure that much of the existing hardware and software in use can run on the new system.

The biggest compatibility problem found initially was the importance of the Windows version number. A lot of software checks which version of Windows you are running when it is installed. Existing software is version 3 or 4, but the new operating system is 5, and like the year 2000, a lot of software isn't expecting it.

At one stage Microsoft considered not changing the version number to try and get round this.

Win some

If you are running the 'professional' (client) version, there is a feature called 'hibernate', where all your work is saved. This helps get rid of lengthy start up and shut down procedures.

The client version also supports single and dual CPU systems, so it can run on more powerful machines. Microsoft claim it provides 25% faster performance than Windows 95 and Windows 98 on systems with 64 megabytes (MB) or more of memory.

Lose some - Windows 2000 : A space odyssey

Much has been made of the large number of lines of software code behind the operating system (millions of lines, so it is said). This is not exactly a benefit, given that every line of code represents a new opportunity for a coding mistake.

Windows 2000
key features
'Kerboros' Security built in at the lowest levels
System repairs itself automatically if a software installation goes wrong
No need to re-start the computer after making changes
No more crashes - or at least much fewer
Rumours have circulated that more than 63,000 'potential issues' still exist in the code, and this is prompting industry analysts to suggest waiting for 'service pack' releases (collections of fixes by Microsoft) before buying the product.

On the other hand, Microsoft themselves have drawn attention to the extensive beta (trial copy) testing that has already gone on for some time, including use of the software within Microsoft itself.

The amount of code may account for the large amount of computer hardware required to install and run the system. The software takes up over half a Gigabyte of hard disc - 650MB minimum - compared to the 40MB that can run a high street cash dispenser.

Remember Win

When Microsoft released Windows 98, they were rumoured to be hoping that not too many people would buy it.

Although it fixed a number of problems with previous versions, it also enhanced the usability of current systems to the point that the benefit of Windows 2000 would be reduced.

Win 2000 disk manager Computer management will be made easier, is the Microsoft promise
The other problem Microsoft faced was the longevity of the Windows NT server software "version 4", which as a tried and tested system meant that no one was going to buy Windows 2000 until at least after all Y2K issues had been resolved.

It seems that Microsoft have in part repeated the OS/2 experience, where IBM caused themselves great problems by releasing an operating system that overnight rendered obsolete much of the computing infrastructure.

Microsoft, who had in fact written OS/2 for IBM, were at that time able to "save the day" by providing the original Windows software, which didn't need quite so much of a change of hardware, and allowed more existing software to run.

This time Microsoft are already advising home computer users, running Windows 98 or Windows 95, to wait for their next 'consumer' operating system, code-named "Millennium", and due for release later this year.

This represents a change from last year when it was hoped that the same release of software would finally be running on business and home client systems.

Reflections in Windows

Win 2000 disk manager All systems healthy, reports the new disk manager
As previously, some features in the new Windows system have existed in other operating systems for years. In the past, this famously led to legal proceedings (eventually settled) when Apple tried to prove that Microsoft had copied from them.

Windows 2000 introduces a "My Documents" feature, to supersede the current "My Computer" folder. The idea is that your documents may be held anywhere on a network of computers without you needing to know the exact location.

You can then log on to any workstation, and treat it as your own. This is very similar to the system that any standard Unix cluster uses (and has used for several years already).

A Win Win situation ?

So, should you install Windows 2000? Well, that depends on several issues :

If you have a lot of software and devices that currently work well enough, you may have problems if you try to install and run them under Windows 2000.

However, if you are just starting and only wish to use software that is certified as working on Windows 2000, then you will get the benefits.

Also, if you have networked systems, or you are responsible for software that serves a group of people and must be highly available, you will probably find it provides better reliability and more manageable behaviour, although at some initial cost.

The overall emphasis on addressing network needs and being reliable reflects Microsoft's ongoing desire to reach the parts of the corporate market that are still suspicious of an operating system that runs on home computers as well.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Business
Countdown to Windows 2000
16 Feb 00 |  Business
The software superpower
16 Feb 00 |  Business
Linux - Microsoft's new nightmare
16 Feb 00 |  Business
Apple - back to the future

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