Compatibility, system requirements, and ease of upgrading are among the topics you might wonder about before you switch to Windows 2000 Professional. Readers frequently ask me the following Win2K Pro transition-related questions.
Is Win2K Pro Compatible with My Hardware?
Check the Microsoft Windows Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) at http://www.microsoft.com/hcl/default.asp, which the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) maintain and update regularly. You can also find the HCL in the \support folder of the Win2K Pro distribution CD-ROM.
A shortcut can save you the effort of using the HCL. Microsoft offers a standalone compatibility test tool, the Windows 2000 Readiness Analyzer (http://www.microsoft.com/ windows2000/downloads/deployment/readiness/default.asp), that packages most of Win2K Pro Setup's first-phase code into a 2.6MB executable file that you can run on Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 9x systems. On execution, the tool (chkupgrd.exe) unpacks into 6MB of code and data and runs a series of tests to identify whether your system is Win2K Pro compatible, which devices will require updated drivers that the Win2K Pro CD-ROM doesn't include, and which applications you need to upgrade. Win2K Pro runs on most standard PC clone systems, but ask vendors whether your peripherals (e.g., video card, disk controller) support Win2K Pro.
Is Win2K Pro Compatible with My Software?
Microsoft is compiling a list of Win2K Pro-compatible software. The company maintains a compatible-software database (http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/compat/ search), and the Readiness Analyzer contains a database of software that is incompatible with Win2K Pro.
Win2K Pro doesn't support virtual device drivers (VxDs), so most Win9x software that doesn't depend on a private device driver—especially a VxD—is compatible with Win2K Pro. Similarly, most DOS applications will run on Win2K Pro unless they directly access hardware (e.g., fax, antivirus, remote control, scanner, and low-level utility software).
NT software is generally compatible with Win2K Pro. However, most major upgrades, including upgrades to Win2K Pro from NT 4.0, present compatibility problems for drivers and software that interact directly with low-level system structures (e.g., antivirus utilities, disk optimizers).
Does Win2K Pro Replace NT Workstation 4.0 and Win98?
Microsoft designed Win2K Pro as the next version of NT Workstation 4.0, but Win98 remains home users' preferred OS. Win98 is also the best option for business desktop users who use machines that don't have enough RAM or don't have a processor fast enough to run Win2K Pro. Microsoft is developing a Win98 successor, Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), for release later this year. Windows Me will feature several improvements, such as better support for imaging devices and a long overdue rollback feature that acts as a universal undo on changes to the OS.
What Are Win2K Pro's System Requirements?
According to Microsoft, Win2K Pro's minimum system requirements are a 133MHz Pentium processor (or equivalent) with 64MB of RAM (Win2K Pro runs on 32MB of RAM, but Microsoft doesn't recommend this configuration), a 2GB hard disk with 650MB of free disk space, and VGA or better video. To install Win2K Pro from a CD-ROM, you'll also need a CD-ROM or DVD drive and a high-density 3.5" disk (unless your CD-ROM is bootable). To install Win2K Pro over a network, you'll need a Win2K Pro-compatible network card and access to the shared network directory that contains the setup files.
Experience tells me that 64MB isn't enough RAM to run Win2K Pro—I use 96MB on my system and recommend 128MB if you're buying a new computer to run Win2K Pro. Your system will need more than 128MB of RAM if it's running a memory-intensive application such as a high-end CAD, computer-aided engineering (CAE), or desktop publishing program. I'm satisfied running Win2K Pro on a 200MHz system, although the speed you need in your system depends on what you use your system for.
What Do I Need to Know About Upgrading to Win2K Pro from NT Workstation 4.0?
Most people won't have a problem upgrading to Win2K Pro from NT Workstation 4.0. But to reduce your chance of experiencing upgrade problems, you need to check Win2K Pro's system requirements and perhaps consider a memory upgrade. Be aware of compatibility problems; Win2K Pro is an Intel-only OS and doesn't support the Compaq/Digital Alpha or other RISC CPUs. It also doesn't support Intel-based systems that use EISA buses or IBM Micro Channel Architecture (MCA).
If you have an ISA bus system with a fairly modern processor, one or more of your peripherals might not work in Win2K Pro without an add-on driver. Microsoft tightened the testing requirements for drivers in Win2K Pro and added some significant features. For example, new power-management features require that a system can power itself down when idle, which means that all Win2K Pro drivers must be restartable. Drivers that are available on the NT 4.0 CD-ROM but not on the Win2K Pro CD-ROM failed part of the new testing procedure. You can try installing the NT 4.0 drivers from your NT 4.0 CD-ROM to make your peripherals operate in your Win2K Pro system, but the drivers might not work.
Third-party drivers are lagging behind the Win2K Pro release. If you're using a driver from the NT 4.0 CD-ROM, the Win2K Pro CD-ROM will likely provide a replacement driver. However, if you're using a driver from a device manufacturer, you'll need to ask the vendor if a Win2K Pro driver is available. Printer support in Win2K Pro is excellent; the OS includes drivers for all printers that the NT 4.0 and Win98 CD-ROMs support. Driver support for other devices isn't as comprehensive.
What Do I Need to Know About Upgrading to Win2K Pro from Win9x?
Upgrading to Win2K Pro from Win9x is more complicated than upgrading from NT 4.0. Win2K Pro and Win9x are 32-bit OSs, but Win9x's main goal is backward compatibility for older hardware and software. Win9x sacrifices security (and reliability, to some extent) to achieve backward compatibility.
The VxD model that Microsoft introduced in Win95 has caused long-term trouble with compatibility across the spectrum of 32-bit Windows OSs. VxDs operate at the privileged Ring 0 execution level and have systemwide access to all memory regions. VxDs are common in Win9x, and device drivers and other programs that accommodate VxDs need upgrades before they'll run on Win2K Pro.
Win2K Pro's Plug and Play (PnP) features rely on the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) standard. Win2K Pro has limited support for pre-ACPI forms of PnP and power management, and early versions of the ACPI BIOS designed to work only with Win95 might need an upgrade—or in some cases might not work properly at all with Win2K Pro.
Can You Dual-Boot Between Win2K Pro and Win98?
Yes. You can also dual-boot between Win2K Pro and NT 4.0, though you have fewer reasons to do so. To set up a dual-boot with either NT 4.0 or Win98, run Win2K Pro Setup and decline the option to upgrade from your existing OS. Setup then installs a copy of Win2K Pro and leaves the original system alone. Microsoft recommends installing Win2K Pro in a separate partition to keep the OSs from interfering with each other. Win98 doesn't support NTFS, so to format the Win98 partition, you need to use either 16- or 32-bit FAT. To create a dual boot with NT 4.0, you'll need to install Service Pack 3 (SP3) or later; if you're using NTFS, you'll want SP5 or later for compatibility with NTFS 5.0 (NTFS5—which Win2K Setup automatically installs).
In a dual-boot system, each OS operates unaware of the other OS, so you need to install all your applications twice. Applications can share data and, in most cases, directory structures; I use the same \msoffice directory for Win2K and Win98. One side effect of dual booting is that uninstall won't work. Some applications might install different .exe files for each OS; in such cases, you need to create separate directory structures. Only experience will tell you which applications install different .exe files for each OS. Adding an NT 4.0 or Win98 dual boot to a Win2K Pro system is more difficult, but still possible. (For more information about dual booting, see Windows 2000 Pro, "Dual-Boot Blues," April 2000, and Sean Daily, "Multibooting Windows 2000 Systems," Summer 2000.)
What Changes Occurred to the Telnet Feature in Win2K Pro?
In Win2K Pro, a new console-based version of Telnet replaces the GUI-based Telnet that NT Workstation 4.0 and Win98 used. The new Telnet version lacks one major feature—session logging—that many Telnet users enjoy. You can achieve equivalent functionality in Win2K Pro by selecting Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. Then select Properties from the menu in the upper-left corner of the Command Prompt window. You'll see a "Command Prompt" Properties dialog box. The Layout tab in the dialog box contains separate entries for the screen buffer size and window size (I've bumped my screen buffer up to 999 lines). Click OK. The system asks you if you want to apply the new properties only to the current window or to the shortcut that started it. To save the settings, choose the shortcut option.
Now you can launch Telnet from the command line. Telnet will start and can use the buffer size that you set for the Command Prompt window in which you launched Telnet. After you perform the action that you want to log, choose Select All from the Command Prompt window's Edit menu. Then, from the Edit menu, choose Copy. To create your log, paste the results into a Notebook file. Alternatively, you can use HyperTerminal, which ships with Win2K Pro and provides Telnet support and logging functionality. You can find HyperTerminal in Start, Programs, Accessories, Communications