We're only 2 weeks into the new year, and already I've made a goof that quite a few readers pointed out. The build number for the release to manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows 2000 (Win2K) is 2195, not 1295 as I wrote last week. I transposed the numbers and apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused.

Thanks to those same readers, I'm now able to report how to distinguish between the time-bombed 120-day preview code and final RTM versions. To determine which version you're running, go to the command prompt and type
winver
If you're running the preview code version, you'll see the text "evaluation copy" and the date and time when the software will expire. I'm told that 2195.2 is a special Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) version for programmers; it has no time limit and doesn't require you to enter a product code number. Build 2195.3 is the full version that Microsoft is now supplying to OEMs that will go on general sale next month.

Microsoft Delivers Upgrade Check
For some time, I've recommended that users with access to Microsoft's Windows 2000 (Win2K) beta site at http:\\ntbeta.microsoft.com download and keep a copy of the beta Win2K compatibility test tool (chkupgrd1.exe). I wasn't sure whether that tool would continue to be available after Win2K shipped. I'm delighted to report that Microsoft has seen the light and made available a free, fully supported version of the compatibility tool. You can download the tool here.

I have three reservations about the new version of the compatibility tool. The new version is too large (2.6MB) to fit on a disk, and it expands to more than 6MB; it doesn't support command-line arguments and isn't scriptable—so although administrators can mail it to users so they can perform a self-test, the tool won't run automatically; and finally, this version of the tool won't run from Windows 9x in a dual-boot configuration.

Nonetheless, I applaud Microsoft for making this tool available. Downloading and running a 2.6MB executable file to find out whether your system is Win2K compatible beats buying the preview code and finding out the OS won't install. Microsoft also has a BIOS-compatibility guide and an online product-compatibility search. Both tools can simplify upgrading to Win2K, particularly for Win9x users. Click here for more information.

Free Upgrade Applies to More Vendors than Compaq
Last week, I reported that people buying Compaq PCs preloaded with Windows NT 4.0 between January 1 and February 17 would receive a free (aside from shipping charges) upgrade to Win2K. This offer applies to all NT Server vendors—not just Compaq. The offer does not apply to desktop systems; however, it does apply to standalone versions of NT 4.0 Workstation or Server that you purchase at retail price. Confused? So am I. For Microsoft's view (including how to get a coupon for Win2K), click here.

I've queried Microsoft on whether this offer applies to buyers of Win2K-ready desktop systems, and I'll pass the word when I receive an answer. In the meantime, keep those emails coming!