A last minute checklist for Y2K Compliance

In 4 short months, we'll all be watching, fingers crossed, hoping we caught the worst of our Y2K-compliance problems. If you've been busily updating systems this year, you'll find this summary of Y2K readiness for Windows NT and related products reassuring. If you haven't paid attention to Y2K matters for several months, you'll find out which of the most commonly used products need updates.

You can install NT with a variety of devices and services, and the Y2k updates you need are based on your configuration. To convey the details clearly, I think it's best to discuss Y2K concerns starting with the most recent product versions and working back to the older versions. I cover Service Pack 5 (SP5) first, then SP4, SP3, review Windows NT 3.51, Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC), Internet Explorer, and finally, Outlook. Remember that all Y2K update information applies equally to NT Server and NT Workstation.

I also review the Year 2000 Product Analyzer, which you can download at Microsoft's Y2K Resource Center (http://www.microsoft.com/ Year2000. This utility compares installed versions of many products with the Y2K-compliant versions. In theory, this tool should help diagnose the updates required, based on the versions of installed software. Sadly, when I ran it on my BDC, it failed to identify NT Server at all, and I have the screen shots to prove it.

The sidebar, "Checking Service Pack and DLL Versions," tells you how to identify the version of a DLL, a technique you need to determine whether you have to update only one or two components in a product. This sidebar also provides instructions for identifying the current service pack level and verifying the installed version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE).

Microsoft's Compliance Ratings
I read Microsoft's compliance definitions six or eight times and was left scratching my head in bewilderment. After doing all the research for this article, I think I've deciphered the definitions. Compliant means the product stands on its own. Compliant * means you must take corrective action, which typically involves installing a service pack. Compliant # means that after you apply the required updates, the product still has one or more cosmetic or nonintrusive date problems that should not interfere with normal operation (Microsoft carefully documents the problems for each product). Last, Compliant + means you need an update, but the update is not yet available. I hope my definitions help you dig your way through this Pandora's box of service packs, updates, hotfixes, and bug fixes. Good luck!

Dates, Dates, and More Dates
The date ranges in Y2K-compliant products are amazing. When you look hard at how software vendors implement dates across a broad spectrum of products, you wonder how the products work at all, let alone work with each other. For example, according to the documentation at Microsoft's Year 2000 Resource Center (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/year2k/), NT 3.51 and NT 4.0 support a date range of January 1, 1996, to December 31, 2036. It appears we get to repeat this process again in 2035. Although it doesn't have the same snappy appeal as Y2K, Year 2036 compliance is just 3 decades away.

I'm not sure I believe the published NT-supported date range, because I have files on my system that date back to 1993, and the supported date range post-dates these files. To complicate matters, Outlook 98 manages dates between April 1, 1601, and August 31, 4500. Think of the conversion that must occur if, on August 1, 2000, I mail a file I created in 1993 to a friend. The deeper you dig, the worse the situation gets. I believe each individual product will be fine when the calendar rolls over to three zeros, but it seems prudent to worry about how the products will communicate dates to each other. Testing cross-product date conversion has to be the job from hell.

NT 4.0 SP4/SP5 BIOS2 Hotfix
As of August 6, there is one hotfix—the BIOS2-fix—you need to apply. This hotfix correctly refreshes the realtime clock when the selected time zone does not observe Daylight Saving Time. The hotfix also updates the multiprocessor kernel, if one exists. There are two BIOS2-fix updates, one for SP4 and one for SP5, so be sure you download the correct version for your installed service pack. You can find the instructions for checking your installed hotfix version (there are three—the original, BIOS, and BIOS2) listed by filename and size in the file Q216913.txt, which is located in the hotfix download directory. See Table 1 for the download URL.

NT 4.0 SP5 Status
NT 4.0 SP5 is a bundled version of bug fixes, hotfixes, and security updates for SP4. As far as I know, SP5 doesn't introduce any essential OS changes. Most of these bug fixes and hotfixes have been available for at least 6 months and have been thoroughly tested.

According to information on the Microsoft Support Online Web site at the beginning of August, NT and NT Server, Enterprise Edition with SP5 are Y2K compliant and require no corrective action. NT Terminal Server Edition SP4, which is the most current release of Terminal Server, is also Y2K compliant. If you're already running these versions, congratulations. Be sure you read the IE and MDAC sections later in this article to ensure you've covered all the known Y2K bases.

If you haven't upgraded your systems to SP5, you'll be glad to know that feedback on SP5 has been universally positive. So unless you have a compelling reason not to proceed, I strongly encourage you to update your servers to SP5 before October. SP5 is much easier to install than a collection of 20 hotfixes and even more bug fixes for SP4. I expect to see some last-minute Y2K updates, even for SP5. If you're ready in October, you can easily install a few late-breaking bug fixes. You can download service packs and hotfixes for NT Server, Terminal Server, and BackOffice products from http://technet.microsoft.com/ reg/support/sp.htm.

Upgrading to SP5
Microsoft strongly recommends that you update IE 4.01 to SP2 or newer (e.g., IE 5.0) before you apply SP5. You also must install MDAC 2.1 SP1 or newer to take care of object-related date problems before installing SP5.

SP4 changes several key OS features including memory management, service order dependencies, WINS, DHCP, and DNS. The service pack adds new Event Log records and support for mixed NTFS 4.0 and 5.0 environments. Some of these enhancements affect how NT installs and starts drivers and services. The net result is that SP3 drivers might not run with SP5. Compaq Alpha systems and some RAID controllers need firmware updates to run SP4 or SP5. So, before you upgrade, check with vendors for SP4- and SP5-compatible drivers and update your firmware as well. This approach will give you a much smoother ride.

If you're moving from SP4 to SP5, you can apply SP5 to domain controllers in any order. However, if you're upgrading from SP3, you must use the following procedure when you install SP5 on multiple servers:

  1. Update the BDC to SP5.
  2. Promote the BDC to PDC using Server Manager on the BDC.
  3. Update the original PDC (now the BDC) to SP5.
  4. Synchronize the BDC with the PDC.
  5. Promote the BDC to the PDC.

SP4 encrypts the SAM and the Local Security Authority (LSA) databases that contain user, group, and service accounts, security policies and other essential security data. Because service packs are cumulative, the same is true for SP5. Because SP4 encrypts the SAM and the LSA databases, security databases on an SP3 server are incompatible with the SAM and LSA files on an SP4 or SP5 system. When you mix domain controllers running SP3 and SP4 or SP5, you can only promote or demote a domain controller from Server Manager on a system running the newer release. If you follow the upgrade procedure identified above, you should have a successful upgrade from SP3 to SP5. Intel and other companies have successfully tested this procedure.

NT 4.0 SP4 Status
According to Microsoft Support Online article Q230714 (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q230/7/14.ASP), SP4 solves most known Y2K problems. To ensure Y2K compliance, you might also need to update MDAC and IE, because compliant versions of MDAC and IE post-date the release of SP4. You'll find IE and MDAC versions, compliance requirements, and download locations later in this article. Officially, Microsoft plans to maintain SP4 Y2K compliance through January 1, 2001.

NT 4.0 SP3 Status
Microsoft released SP3 on July 29, 1996, which makes the service pack outdated. Although I doubt many sites are running an OS with a 3-year-old service pack, SP3 does handle most Y2K concerns gracefully. You must install an additional 12 hotfixes or bug fixes to correct fundamental date problems.

After you apply the additional fixes, eight problems with dates of 2000 and later remain unresolved. These problems include WINS and DHCP expiration dates, custom date properties in Word 97 documents, failure to rollover a BIOS date, OLE automation, an incorrect date in the System Information applet, 4-digit years in non-English versions, improper dates in the Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0 HTML Administrator, and date problems creating Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ) internal certificates on leap day. Because these concerns are mostly cosmetic, Microsoft labels them as acceptable deviations, which is why SP3 has a Compliant # rating. Microsoft plans to maintain a baseline Y2K compliance of SP3 until January 2001.

NT 3.51 Status
It hard to believe, but according to Microsoft's Year 2000 Web site, NT 3.51 is compliant after you install SP5 and the NT 3.51 Y2K update. You can download the English version of SP5 at ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/ winnt/winnt-public/fixes/ usa/NT351/ussp5, and you'll find the English version of Y2K-fix at ftp.microsoft.com/ bussys/winnt/ winnt-public/fixes/ usa/NT351/hotfixes-postSP5/Y2K-fix. International versions of SP5 and Y2K-fix are available at the same site in the appropriate country directory. At publication time, SP5 was available for all versions of NT 3.51 except Chinese Traditional and Chinese Simplified.

IE and Outlook Express Status
Several combinations of IE are Y2K compliant, including IE 5.0 and IE 4.01 with SP2. IE 4.01 SP1 with the SP1 Y2K update is also compliant. Microsoft intends to maintain IE 4.01 compliance until January 1, 2001. You can download IE 4.01 SP1 files at http://www.microsoft.com/ msdownload/ iebuild/ie4sp1_win32/en/18174_INTL.htm, and you can download the

IE 4.01 SP2 files at http://www.microsoft.com/msdownload/ iebuild/ie4sp2_win32/en/ie4sp2_win32.htm.

Outlook Express is tied to IE, and users discovered a new problem in Outlook Express in June of this year. In some cases, Outlook Express misinterprets an incoming date when it is not "99" and translates it incorrectly to 2000 plus the 2-digit date (e.g., 97 turns into 2097). If you're going to stay with IE 4.01, you must also install the Outlook Express Y2k update along with SP1 or SP2. Information at the Microsoft web site is not clear as to the updates required. One reference indicates this data problem is corrrected in O98dtfix.exe which you can download at http://support.microsoft.com/ support/kb/articles/q193/ 6/04.asp. Another reference, article Q234680, indicates the update replaces only msoert.dll. I recommend you check both these articles before you download to ensure you install the correct and most recent Outlook update.

MDAC
Developers are familiar with MDAC, a collection of data connectivity components that includes ADO, Remote Data Service (RDS), OLE DB, ODBC, and several OLE DB and ODBC drivers. Microsoft bundles the components into a redistributable setup file called mdac_typ.exe. To ensure proper operation of MDAC 1.5 and 2.0 SP2 components, you must install a Y2K update for the Microsoft Jet Database Engine 3.5. MDAC 2.1 SP1, which ships with IE 5.0, includes version 4.0 of the Jet engine, and thus does not require a Y2K update. You can download all versions of MDAC, including international versions, at http://www.microsoft.com/data.

Other NT-Related Required Product Updates
In addition to the products I've already discussed, several others require updating. I doubt many sites are running the following older versions, but if you are, you'll appreciate knowing the necessary corrective action.

  • Active Directory Services Interface (ADSI) 1.0 (upgrade to version 2.0 or newer)
  • Microsoft FrontPage 97 (install FrontPage 97 Y2K updates)
  • Microsoft FrontPage 97 Server Extensions (install FrontPage 98 Server Extensions)
  • Microsoft Internet Locator Service (ILS) 1.0 (install version 2.0)
  • Site Server Express 2.0 (uninstall version 2.0 and install version 3.0)
  • Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) 1.0 and 1.1 (install version 2.0 from the Option Pack)

Y2K Product Summary
I realize this article is a veritable tangle of products, versions, and service pack levels. If you got lost in the jungle of details, Table 1 can help. This Y2k Product Summary summarizes the products, versions, service pack levels, and corrective action you must take to make each product Y2K compliant. I've included what I consider the most widely deployed products for NT. I've also included the sidebars "Common Products You Don't Need to Update" and "Y2K URL Quick Reference" which summarizes most of the downloads I've discussed in this article.

The Microsoft Year 2000 Product Analyzer
The Year 2000 Product Analyzer runs on Intel NT 3.51 systems, Intel and Alpha NT 4.0 systems, and Windows 9x. The analyzer identifies installed products by the executable name, compares the version of each .exe file against a database of compliant versions, and generates an HTML report of the results. If you want the results in text file or Excel spreadsheet format, click the custom button and select the desired output format.

When I ran this utility on my BDC, it failed to even identify NT Server. I might have downloaded an older version, or maybe the Product Analyzer gets confused when there are incomplete multiple roots on one or more disk drives. I recommend you test the utility carefully before you rely on the accuracy of its analysis.

Microsoft updates the compliance database every 2 weeks, and the Product Analyzer will download the most recent version of the database before it runs. Be warned that if you rename executables to hide them from users, the Product Analyzer will not recognize the product. The analyzer is available in English and 12 other languages, and you can download it at http://www.microsoft.com/ technet/year2k/pca/pca.htm.

For More Information
Microsoft's Year 2000 Resource Center has a large collection of Y2K documentation. The Product Guide provides information about all Microsoft products, including international editions. If you're running a product that does not appear in the list under Other NT-Related Required Product Updates or in Table 1, I recommend you research the Y2K problems at the Year 2000 product page, http://www.microsoft.com/ technet/year2k/product/ product.asp. Remember, this article is only valid as of August 20, 1999, and some of the updates might be replaced or superceded later this year.

The amount of data at the Microsoft Web site is overwhelming, but it's a big job to document all the versions and components of each product, and cross-product interaction. For example, at the product page, you can search for a specific product such as Outlook Express and see a list of 121 versions. You can also search by release date for recently issued updates. When I searched for all updates released since June 1, 1999, the search returned 1348 matches, primarily because every international version is listed separately. Whew! So, get a fresh cup of coffee or the caffeine of your choice and be prepared to do some serious reading.