Windows 2000 Hardware Compatibility List
I’m getting ready to buy a system to test Windows 2000 (Win2K) Release Candidate 2 (RC2). I’ve been burned repeatedly by hardware incompatibilities over the years, and I now know to research drivers before I buy. I started by reading several Win2K forums dealing with installation problems, the most common of which were problems with video and serial devices and numerous system hangs after the Win2K installation completed. This information reinforced the importance of selecting the right components from the start, a scenario strongly reminiscent of the early days of Windows NT.

Next, I looked at the Knowledge Base, which now searches for Win2K-specific problems. Several of the Win2K articles referred me to http://www.microsoft.com/hcl, so I stopped by this page to research Win2K drivers for video, audio, and network adapter card components. Much to my dismay, I couldn't find a Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) specifically for Win2K. Instead, I had to dig through pages and pages only to find a few video adapters that had a red check mark in the Windows 2000 column, but not the official approved logo. In spite of my desire to build a good system, I don't have the patience to browse hundreds of pages and components supported by all of Microsoft’s platforms.

I finally got lucky when I searched the Win2K RC2 CD-ROMs that showed up last week. Although I didn’t check every CD-ROM, I did find a file called hcl.txt in the Support directory. When I opened the file, which was dated September 10, 1999, I found 25 pages of components and systems. While not ideal, it’s a start.

After preparing this story, I learned that Microsoft provides a Win2K HCL text file on its FTP site. Fortunately, Windows NT Magazine publishes this list in a form that's searchable by manufacturer name, product name, and product category. Click here to visit the Windows 2000 Compatibility Database.

Windows 2000 Knowledge Base
The Microsoft TechNet Search page now searches for Windows 2000-(Win2K) specific information. Unlike the Windows NT 4.0 Knowledge Base, the Win2K version isn't available for public download from Microsoft’s FTP site, which means we have to rely solely on the capabilities of the search engine to locate information. Relying on the search engine frequently translates into conducting multiple queries, chasing links to information we don’t need, and enduring hours of fruitless digging. To avoid wasted hours, I’d like to see Microsoft publish the Win2K Knowledge Base at its public FTP site, and I’d like to hear your opinion on this subject.

Repairing Desktop Icons
Last week, a strange bug added an Eject PC icon to the Start menu on my Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 5 (SP5) server, and I stared at this icon for quite a while before I figured out that it didn’t belong there (it was a late-night session). The Eject PC icon disappeared after I logged off and back on again, and it never returned. Someone mentioned that this icon might appear with a docked notebook, but I’ve never seen it before—and besides, we’re talking about my dual-processor SCSI server.

I researched this behavior at two common virus sites and came up empty handed, and a scan with two different virus utilities failed to turn up a culprit. So, I concluded that an NT bug, not a virus, caused the problem. After this strange new icon disappeared, I found the Microsoft flying flag icon overlaying all my desktop icons (although I could see the correct icons underneath the flying flags), and all attempts to change the icons back to normal failed. In addition, in the Windows Explorer view of my local drive, a PowerPoint 2000 icon replaced the normal folder icon for the C: drive and two directories, one of which was the system root.

It turns out that a hidden file in the system root called ShellIconCache holds a copy of desktop icons. When the cache is corrupt, desktop icons look strange for all users who log on to the problem system. Although I’m not sure exactly what happened, it appears that this bug corrupted the icon cache or corrupted the component that adds icons to the cache file. After I deleted C:\winnt\ShellIconCache, my desktop returned to normal. (You can safely delete the ShellIconCache file because NT automatically recreates the file after you log off and back on again.) But there's still one holdover from this unidentified culprit—each time I log off, NT scans both the CD-ROM and the diskette drives. If you've seen this Eject PC icon somewhere, I’m all ears.

VERITAS BackupExec Update
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed a bug in Seagate Backup Exec 7.19. It turns out that Seagate and VERITAS merged in June of this year and renamed the product VERITAS Backup Exec for Windows NT. VERITAS contacted us with some new information about its backup software. The problem I reported from the Microsoft Knowledge Base is specific to the March 1998 version of Backup Exec (version 7, build 719), and, according to VERITAS, the company corrected the problem in build 719.2, which shipped in April 1998. You shouldn't see the Messenger service problem unless you're running an older version of Backup Exec.