Microsoft

Windows 2000 Pro: Microsoft's best desktop OS ever?

What was the best operating system Microsoft ever produced? Windows 98? Windows XP? MS-DOS 5.0? After doing some thinking and some looking back, Microsoft's best desktop operating system just might have been Windows 2000 Professional. Check out the reasons why.

When I asked if a 10 year old operating system such as Windows 98 was still an option as a desktop operating system for business today, many TechRepublic members argued (quite rightly) that although Windows 98 wasn't a viable choice, Windows 2000 Professional certainly could be. Others added that Windows 2000 Pro was their favorite version of Windows.

Jason Hiner and I were discussing this exact point yesterday and came to a similar conclusion- Windows 2000 Professional might have been the best desktop operating system that Microsoft produced, up until XP SP2 shipped.

What about everything else Microsoft made?

Arguably MS-DOS 5.0 was probably the most stable and efficient operating system Microsoft ever made, but DOS's usefulness is long past. Any version of Windows before 3.1 was an interesting toy, but not very useful. Windows 3.1x was usable, but if you looked at it cross-eyed it crashed. Windows 9x was built on an architectural house of cards as the final version, Windows ME, proved beyond a doubt. The various versions of NT Workstation, from NT Workstation 3.1 (really 1.0) through 4.0 (really 3.0) were OK but limited by hardware restrictions and software incompatibility.

That leaves Windows XP and Vista. There's no reason really to pile on where Vista is concerned. Although on new hardware Vista's a half-decent operating system, everyone knows how it has turned out. When XP first shipped, it was slower than Windows 2000 Professional and more unstable. Until Microsoft shipped Service Pack 2, XP really wasn't that great.

What makes Windows 2000 Pro so great?

Windows 2000 Pro shipped February 17, 2000. It was a direct descendant of Windows NT Workstation 4.0. It overcame a lot of NT WS's limitations by having a wider hardware compatibility list. It added Windows 9x features such as USB and Plug And Play support. Its minimum hardware requirements of 64MB of RAM and a 133 Mhz CPU were well below hardware that was being shipped at the time, so it ran really well on just about any machine you threw at it. There was no heavy GUI sitting on top of it, so response times were almost always fast. It also included an Application Compatibility kit that allowed more DOS and Windows 9x software to run on it than could run on NT Workstation.

Windows 2000 Pro isn't perfect of course. There was no built-in firewall, which made Windows 2000 Pro more vulnerable to some viruses and worms such as Code Red. Not all hardware vendors embraced Windows 2000, which meant that older hardware would never run on it. Its default configuration left security as an afterthought.

One nice thing 2000 Pro lacked which showed up in XP was Windows Authentication. This makes installing and reinstalling Windows 2000 Pro much less of a headache than XP.

As I said to one TechRepublic member's chagrin, Windows 2000 Professional never gained a lot of traction in many business environments. In October 2001, when XP shipped and 2000 Pro had already been out a long time, Gartner estimated that Windows 9x still had about 80% of the installed base of PCs. Windows 2000 Pro only lasted 18 months before Microsoft shipped XP. That was too fast of a turnaround for some businesses that were already on Windows 98 and had ultimately decided to sit out 2000 Pro while waiting for XP to ship.

Microsoft stopped mainstream support of Windows 2000 Pro with Service Pack 4 and one Security Rollup Package. You can't get new software from Microsoft such as IE 7. That's not to say that you're stuck if you decide to use Windows 2000 Pro on an old piece of equipment however. You can still put a modern Web browser such as Firefox on it. You can also patch some of the security holes in 2000 Pro by putting a virus scanner and firewall such as ZoneAlarm on it. Microsoft will also continue Extended Support on Windows 2000 Pro until July 2010 which means that it will continue to create security patches for 2000 Pro until then.

The best there is, the best there was...

Windows 2000 Professional may be long in the tooth, but it's still a good choice for older equipment. It does infinitely more things than DOS. It overcame the hardware limitations of NT Workstation. It was way more stable than Windows 9x and could run almost all of the same software. It wasn't encumbered by the restrictions or the hardware overhead of Windows XP and Vista. With some added software and configuration changes, it's relatively secure. In short, Windows 2000 Professional may be the best desktop OS Microsoft ever shipped.

69 comments
public_domain
public_domain

and in the computing world - the smaller the better. xp is decent but bloated. beyond that, whale fat. the problems with msos are; regdat, prefetch, swap/page file. LINUX is the best system but if you must use msoft, w2kpro was the best they ever made; sleek, fast, efficient, stable, simple, user controllable, durable and all that. i still use it. but leave it to msoft to not stick with what works good.

cliebza
cliebza

Yes, I Agree. I have 2 legal copies of Windows XP which I have reinstalled on my own computers numerous times and for various reasons. It has now become a schlepp to have to phone microsoft each time to activate windows XP. So I installed a copy of Windows 2000 Professional including SP4 and Internet Explorer 6.0. It is running Office 2000, Photodraw and ASP.Net version 2.0 without any problems. No need to phone microsoft ever again!!!

jsbg10
jsbg10

Win2k may not be "the BEST," but its better than just about any other M$ OS & its probably the last M$ OS I'll use. While I 'may' consider buying XP before its officially no longer available, I'll probably go back to Linux when I have to give up Win2kPE.

john.jones
john.jones

I still use it just for reliable searches of the file system when I'm looking for files containing some string. I've never succeeded in configuring XP so it would do a reliable search. Is that even possible?

GemAmI
GemAmI

I AGREE, 2000 is so favorable with me that I cannot upgrade to another OS's until it's not longer supported! Then I'll probably go with Linux full force!

mydotnetemail
mydotnetemail

I still run it on one of my computers. Just wish .Net 2008 would install on it.

3heartstechnical
3heartstechnical

Regardless of any minute issues compared to the newer OS releases, W2K Pro is by far, my personal favorite MS OS ever. It loaded up easily and ran solid no matter where I installed it or how I used it. You had more freedom customizing or tweaking drivers and just plain making it work reliably. Security was easier to handle with a choice (emphasize the word "choice") of third-party protection apps, as opposed to working around embedded MS solutions than need constant patching. I'm glad this topic came up, since I have always told everyone how much I thought W2K was the best ever.

cdaaawg
cdaaawg

I have been using and supporting m$ products since DOS 2.0 and I would have to agree with the tenet that w2k is the best OS m$ has released. I still have it running dual boot with Ubuntu on a eight year old laptop. As far is its security issues, this has been a problem with m$ products since day one and continues to this day. XP's security enhancements are far from best of breed - it makes more sense to use freeware products like Zone Alarm and AVG to plug any holes in w2k. Vendor software for configuring and monitoring wireless is, for the most part. better than zero wireless configuration. And don't EVEN get me started on the Genu-Whine Advantage program. I can't speak for Vista as I have decided to leave m$ products where they belong - on the retail shelf.

bewolfe
bewolfe

I am running W2K pro on an AMD dual core 3800, 750 gigs of hd and 3 gigs ram, its newest hardware up grade. The machine runs 24/7, it has for 7 years. In this time, I've had to do 2 re istalls( blown hard drives) and 4 repairs of the os. It works pretty well. I also have installed W2K Pro on 2 IBM servers a 330 and a 320 to see if it would run. The 320 dual processor, 128mb ram, 100mhz is used as a cd tower (6), if you got the material why not use it. The 330 is a dual processor 200 mhz, 96mb. Both are SCSI machines W2K pro has been running on these for quite a while, not 24/7, with only hardwAare crashes, (the gear is old enough to vote). I also have Xp pro sp2 (not bad) Suse 10, very good Redhat 9 Ubuntu 7, I will be switchinh to one of these in the future

gparsons
gparsons

I prefer the stability and ease of XP Pro. I hate the Fisher-Price GUI and all the wasted CPU cycles that go with it, however. I run my XP Pro versions like Win2K Pro; I strip the GUI of all that is XP back to the Windows Classic look and turn off all the animations and effects. My Start menu is Classic too. It's a lot like Win2K, but more stable. After 20 million patches (er, updates), some of my Win2K installs got very flakey.

kmoore
kmoore

I've been developing Windows applications for more than fifteen years and worked with all MS OS since MSDOS 4.0. Windows 2000 is still my favorite and my primary development machine is running 2K.

zage
zage

I think that 2000 was a tool to converge or transition of the two file systems that Microsoft was running (NT and FAT). XP is a more mature NT-based OS, it combines the user-friendly GUI of the home OSs and the strong structure of the NT OSs with a stable Kernel. Vista is a matured XP like but focuses in security and a new fresh, Internet integrated GUI; but is a resource monopolizer.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

I have Windows 2000 Pro on my home desktop and it works perfectly. I have Windows XP on my kids computer and they still manage to screw it up every 6 months.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

You lost all credibility when you said DOS 5.0 was the "most stable and efficient." That version was a memory pig and locked up all the time unless you carefully configured it. 6.22 was the best. Period! I've never trusted ANY M$ security solution and have always used 3rd party firewalls and AV, so W2K is still viable for me.

Ike_C
Ike_C

Windows 2000 SP2 and SP4 are the best as far as I'm concerned. I still use it on my one home system where I do all my serious work. Stable, steady and easy to use. NT4 with GUI.

mjad
mjad

Without a doubt.

JCitizen
JCitizen

computers but don't want to buy a new one and just want something a little more secure than '98. Of course I usually try to get them to buy a boxed set for Mandrake 7.0 but to each his own!

sborsher
sborsher

I agree; still have it on one laptop. I used W2000 Server as long as I could too, but ultimately had to switch to W2003 Server because of file transfer incompatibilites with XP clients. W2003 Server isn't too shabby either; of course, as a server, it doesn't have any crap loaded on it, and no Internet access, and no anti-malware.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"Windows 2000 Pro only lasted 18 months before Microsoft shipped XP." That is true, but it was another year before I saw it even enter the corporate office...

Schuylkill
Schuylkill

I for one am fond of 2000 because it represented such a break from the past for Microsoft products. Before, Microsoft's first product releases were really beta-quality. It is not for nothing that many people will not adopt a Microsoft product until after the first service pack. Windows 2000 was the first major product from Microsoft that worked for most people right out of the box. The RTM version was much more polished than the NT 4 RTM version, or even Office 97. Of course it has had its patches and service packs, but I can remember being stunned by the quality of 2000 when it was brand new. That was definitely a new development from Microsoft. They may have matched this feat with later products on the server side or on Office, but no other Microsoft desktop OS has ever matched this feat.

jcpwiz45
jcpwiz45

I ran a small 100 user WAN spread across 5 states. I was never so glad to switch from an OS as when XP replaced Win2K basically overnight, at least in my shop and in the computing literature. As far as I am concerned Win2K ranks right up there with Win ME. crash prone, would not work well with other networking OSes (yes there are other networks out there) and slow, slow, slow. If you check your records, the switch from Win 2K to XP was applauded almost immediately, and almost universally. thanks, jcp

tom_housden2k8
tom_housden2k8

I still use it on most of my Windows machines, and I prefer it to XP! Some of the preference is because it's not really the target for attacks anymore, but mainly it's because it's so secure and stable

pvp99999
pvp99999

Is a light version of win200 or win98 available to run on an old laptop without usb-connection ? Perhaps connect in a LAN to transfert OS ? Convertor lpt/usb ? Converor COM1/usb ? Convertor PS2mouse/usb ? (1997-Compaq Contura 4-25cx (architecure=80486N4, mem=4Mb, cpu=SL-25Mhz, hd=118Mb, fat-16bit, bus=isa/pc-at ) http://www.tablix.org/~avian/contura/inside.html

ilitchie
ilitchie

Fully agree that Windows 2000 Pro has been far away and absolutely the "smoothest", most stable, and overall the best operating system. What we needed instead of (XP) & Vista, was 2000 SPxx.

john3347
john3347

Windows 2000 Pro has been far away and absolutely the "smoothest", most stable, and overall the best operating system ever to come out of Redmond!!!! XP was, and still is full of frustrating bugs, many of which are designed in. I was looking forward to Vista in hopes that it would fix the many problems that XP presented regardless of which version; but it has only gone farther off the deep end than XP was. What we needed instead of Vista, was 2000 SPxx.

bluelight132
bluelight132

Windows Server 2003 is in my opinion the best and most stable of all windows os.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'd say that 2K is solid and dependable with some real flexibility. When XP was released I ordered 2K SP4 on disk and plan to continue running 2K for awhile. Nice to see that you mentioned the Authentication c**p. That one kind of ticked me off. I can see no good reason why I should have to have a distinct XP OS disc for each of my computers. OS's don't come cheap, and to have to spend $600.00 (ish) to run XP and anything that comes after is a bit of a financial stretch for me. And so 2K will be around on my machines as long as there is hardware on which it can run. Hmmm... maybe 2K is the best out of Redmond yet (in spite of the lack of msconfig)! edit typo

j-mart
j-mart

I personally go with DOS 5.0 - 6.2 as they both worked well in the enviroment they were designed for, single user and not connected to the rest of the world. Windows 2000 is an OS for the new age, multi tasking, connected to the rest of the world via the internet. The basic archtecture of this product is not fundimentally taylored for this enviroment, so it has required much after thought and patching to be usable in this enviroment. So DOS was a good design for the hardware and enviroment the PC was used in at the time, Windows 2000 could have been designed with for this multi connected enviroment a lot better, but of course what has followed from Microsoft after Windows 2000 is basically designed the same way, with security in this connected world an add on rather than part of the original concept

neiliss
neiliss

What is good for one person/hardware/organisation/situation may not be good for another. I know this is fairly obvious but with all of the passionate debate of linux vs microsoft vs osx etc. we often forget this fact. I for one have enjoyed in their own way all of Microsoft's and most other vendors operating system efforts and see them as a continuing evolution that has no obvious ending. I currently use Vista on some very nice hardware which I find extremely enjoyable as well as XPSP2 on some lesser hardware for most of my work but I also have a Mac Mini as well as Ubuntu 7.10 and find all of them suitable in their own way.

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