Windows 2000 is coming and Microsoft is retiring its Windows NT 4 certifications. What do I do now? Do I get re-certified? Will Microsoft reconsider its retirement dates? TechRepublic Community Editor Erik Eckel, himself an MCSE, led a discussion about your options. Read the highlights of the Guild Meeting from Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999. If you couldn’t join us then, we hope to see you on our next weekly live Guild Meeting .

Windows 2000 is coming and Microsoft is retiring its Windows NT 4 certifications. What do I do now? Do I get re-certified? Will Microsoft reconsider its retirement dates? TechRepublic Community Editor Erik Eckel, himself an MCSE, led a discussion about your options. Read the highlights of the Guild Meeting from Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999. If you couldn’t join us then, check this issue’s Bookmarks page for future meeting dates and topics. We hope to see you soon on our weekly live chat.

Windows 2000 is coming. So what does it mean for MCSEs?
Moderator: Welcome to tonight’s meeting. While we wait for our speaker to arrive, I’ll introduce tonight’s topic—MCSE Windows NT Certification. Windows 2000 is coming. So what does it mean for MCSEs? Tonight, we’ll hear from one of our resident experts, Erik Eckel.

EE: Welcome to tonight’s chat! Windows 2000 is due Feb. 17, 2000, and the announcement of a new MCSE track has raised many questions. Anyone have a specific concern we should begin with this evening?

Q: I will probably get certified on 4.0. That’s what we use at work.

EE: That sounds like a plan. The NT 4 cert will save you much time with the Win2K track. In fact, an NT 4 MCSE can save you from having to pass five other Win2K exams. If your electives qualify (which they will for most candidates, I expect), you’ll probably only need to pass two Win2K exams to earn the Win2K MCSE.

Q: I will be certified next year. What should I take: NT4 or Win2K?

EE: What time next year?

Q: June maybe.

EE: If it’s any later than March and you have no NT 4 certs, you’d probably want to go with the Win2K program. Unless, of course, you have significant experience with NT 4; then you may want to certify on that track.

Q: I am a programmer with some little experience in NT4.

EE: Have you ever thought about the MCSD track?

Q: Yes, but not sure.

EE: If your experience (and interest) points more toward programming, then that’d probably be the route to pursue.

Q: I am currently not certified. If I certify in NT 2000, will it enable me to handle legacy NT 4 systems (or what will eventually be legacy systems)? 😉

Give them a gold watch—they’re retiring
EE: Several major NT 4 exams are being retired soon. That’s one reason IT pros without considerable NT 4 experience might want to consider the Win2K program on its own. If you certify in Win2K, you’ll have expertise with Windows 2000. There’s a Win2K cert that applies to working with NT 4. It’s Exam 70-222: Upgrading from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000. It would serve as an elective.

Q: I have a question for you. How is the new Win2K cert going to affect the old certs?

EE: It will replace them.

Toughen up—the exams are getting tougher
Q: How different will it be than NT 4?

EE: It’ll be much different than NT 4. The Active Directory will have a big impact on the way administrators approach the new OS. TechRepublic has a free Windows 2000 White Paper, which provides much more information on the new features of the OS (including the Active Directory). You can download it for free . It also includes more information on what we believe will happen with NT 4 skills. Here’s a hint: they’re still going to be important for awhile because not everyone is going to move to the new platform immediately. By the way, you can find more information on which exams are retiring, and when, at Microsoft’s site. We’ve also got an article on TechRepublic’s site that describes changes to the certification track.

Q: I hope they make the test harder to get rid of the ‘fluff’ I have seen lately with certs.

EE: I don’t know. It could be the emphasis is on the newest OS from here on out. My understanding is the exams are going to become harder. I haven’t seen a beta test for Win2K, so I’m not sure. I expect they’ll be similar to the NT 4 exams.

Windows 2000, dual booting, and other operating systems
Q: What about running Win2K along with other OSs like NetWare or Unix, or maybe even Linux, if that ever catches on?

EE: Win2K reportedly plays nice with other OSs, including UNIX and Novell. I think there’s trouble interfacing with Macs, though, unless they’re running TCP/IP.

Q: Wait a minute. You’re saying that Win2K is going to play well with other OSs? Does this mean they are going to be dealing with these issues in the cert training?

EE: I can tell you plenty about Novell and other OSs, just from my MCSE experience!

Q: What I mean is, are they going to be training the MCSEs to deal with the issues of Win2K playing with other OSs (i.e. dual booting and reading other file systems)?

EE: Not dual-booting per se, but integrating different platforms within the same enterprise computing environment, you betcha. Dual-boot = bad. You don’t want regular users trying to sort through dual-booting issues. Trust me.

Q: No, but as an IT or sys admin you will more than likely need to.

EE: Admin and support people are taught to minimize the things that can go wrong.

Q: They tend to shy away from dual boots because of security issues.

EE: The only people I know that dual-boot are Linux users. They need the Win9x platform for gaming and proprietary technologies. Everyone else swaps out hard drives.

Q: Well, you might consider NT workstation and Win 98 a dual boot, no?

EE: I don’t know anyone running both NT workstation and Win9x on the same unit. I’ve always seen one or the other, but yes, it’d be a dual-boot.

Q: I have a machine here with Linux/98/NT for testing purposes. Mostly used for games, though. 🙂

EE: Keep in mind that I’m talking about typical corporate users. Marketing folks, accountants, etc.

Q: Linux users who happen to be sys admins and Web devs and so on and so on.

Q: But are good sys admins and ITs ‘typical corps’?

EE: The Win2K certification track will ensure you’re up to speed on the OS features, though, including its interoperation with different file storage formats.

Q: Typical corporate users should be kept away from sharp objects. 🙂

EE: I don’t believe knowledge of dual-booting will be a big issue with a Win2K cert, though.

Q: But if you say they are making it an issue, won’t they want to train it?

Is Microsoft forcing exams into early retirement?
EE: Does anyone have concerns about the timeframe for the NT 4 exam expirations (Dec. 31, 2000)?

Q: Does anyone think it is odd for Microsoft to retire these exams so soon? The 3.51 exams are also just retiring.

EE: NT 3.51 is being phased out, with the retirement of its exams in June 2000.

Q: Why the early certification retirements? There are still many companies using Windows NT 3.51 that I have worked with and also many more using NT 4.0? Why get rid of something that is going to be out there for maybe another 10 years?

Q: So you are saying that the Win2K cert is going to make the old certs obsolete? Typical of MS.

EE: Yes, the old are obsolete (if they are being retired). I’m not sure why Microsoft has chosen its retirement dates. Possibly to hasten the migration to Win2K?

Q: Are these the first certs being retired?

EE: No, they’re not the first exams to retire. NT 3.51 exams are being retired in June 2000. NT 4 exams are retiring in December 2000.

Q: They only hasten the loss of MCSE people, as I see it. Most companies aren’t going to jump on the bandwagon for some time.

EE: I’ve heard this sentiment often. Lately, I hear, too, that Microsoft may consider postponing its retirement dates. Postponement would be due to the use of legacy systems, presumably.

Q: Hmm, I don’t understand how you can no longer claim to be certified in NT 4. Doesn’t it mean to be certified in a legacy program, if that’s what your company runs?

EE: Check out the new MCP magazine, and you’ll see others would like to see the older certs “hang around” a little longer, too.

Q: I plan to ‘upgrade’ my MCSE to the 2000 track. I just don’t think NT 4.0 is going to be out the door when 2000 arrives.

EE: NT 4 will be here for quite awhile, if you ask me. I know folks still using Win 3.1!

Q: Microsoft is being way too fast in retiring the MSCE for NT 4, though. Even Novell held on to CNE 4 for well after a year after NetWare 5 shipped.

EE: Any opinions on whether the old NT 4 certs should be retired later than 12/31/2000?

Q: Easy one—yeah.

EE: Or is the sentiment that Microsoft needs to push IT pros toward the new OS? As it is, NT 4 MCSEs can claim their MCSE title until 12/31/2001. Redmond’s giving the grace period in order to allow MCSEs to migrate to the new track.

Q: I don’t think this is the way to push them.

Q: I think it should be later than 12/2000. Because companies still will be using 4.0 probably for a couple of years to come.

EE: Do you feel that IT pros need more time to migrate?

Q: Microsoft should not push the new OS until all the kinks are worked out. They should also maintain the NT 4 cert for at least 24 months, so companies and IT professionals have more time to migrate.

EE: Sounds like you do.

Q: I think they would want more time for bugs to be worked out.

EE: Well, it’s close to 24 months, right? You can still claim the NT 4 MCSE until 12/31/2001 (if you’ve earned it, of course).

Q: That’s true. They are asking for a lot without the shipped program.

EE: That’s a great point, by the way. The product is yet to ship.

Q: Definitely. 2000 isn’t even out yet!

EE: I’ve heard many people say, “OK, let’s get started then.” But they can’t—not until Feb. 17. And then, exams may not be ready until the second quarter.

Q: That’s what makes the retirement seem premature to me.

EE: It’s a good argument, making this a decision Microsoft might reconsider. But somehow I doubt it. Two years is a long time to take two tests (if you’re an NT MCSE).

Q: You can’t do all your practicing on Release Candidate 2.

EE: True. I’ve yet to see any definitive texts.

Q: RC3 is released to certain people. But it still isn’t the final version that everyone would need to work on for experience for the tests.

EE: Microsoft Press sent Win2K Pro and Win2K Server books through, but they’re awfully thin. They contain introductions only.

Q: For someone just getting into this I feel like I’m being put on hold.

EE: Now is probably not the best time to begin MCSE NT 4 training. And you can’t really begin Win2K training.

Q: We are in a no man’s land between the two OSes.

EE: The no man’s land will end soon enough, though.

Q: Why doesn’t MS give a time of, let’s say, 36 months on every cert, even if they have a new OS?

EE: I’d like to see 36 months. But in Microsoft’s defense, the NT 4 exams have been around for what, four years now?

Q: I purchased 2 books from MS called Introducing Win 2000 Prof and 2000 Server, and they have about 400 pages each.

EE: Those are the same books I was referencing. They’re helpful, but much more information is needed.

Q: But isn’t that the way MS markets its products? It keeps people in the dark until the very last moment?

EE: I think that’s what they’re trying to avoid here. Microsoft is trying to tip its certified engineers off that they need to get thinking about the new OS now.

Q: How are they avoiding that?

EE: Microsoft is avoiding keeping folks in the dark by saying: OK, if you’re an NT 4 MCSE, you’ve got two years to move to Win2K (and take your two tests).

Q: But how is that keeping the public out of the dark?

EE: Much of the public will never see a Win2K server screen. All the public wants to know is if an OS will work well with a scanner and let them get their pictures from AOL.

Q: Well, of course, I guess we’re talking about two different issues.

EE: It appears that maybe we are, indeed.

Q: Yes, the unwashed masses couldn’t care less what a server is.

EE: Although there are now 188,000 MCSEs and 412,000 MCPs.

Q: Almost as many as people with a Ph.D.

What does an expired cert mean?
Q: What, exactly, does it mean to have an expired cert? Does it affect the career at all right away?

EE: An expired cert means, presumably, that you can no longer claim the certification.

Q: Novell has done the same thing with CNE certification. If you don’t keep current on the tests, they revoke your certification status. So I can understand Microsoft’s (and Novell’s) point.

Q: Let me get this clear—needing clarification here—someone who was certified in NT 4 will no longer be able to claim they are certified? That makes no sense!

Q: Yes, it does. It is like CEU’s for other professionals. People can’t expect their certification to last forever with the change in technology.

Q: So why aren’t they just compartmentalizing the certifications? “Hello, I’m certified in NT 4 and Win2K.”

EE: You’ve got two years to take two tests, if you’re already certified in NT 4. That’s a fair deal, no?

Q: I didn’t say it wasn’t fair. I just wish the certifications would be kept active for a longer time. I have been working on other certs, but now I am going back to pick up the Win2K status.

So what’s this going to cost?
Q: Let’s talk about $$$. Which is more expensive?

EE: I think they’re about the same. I’m not sure. The MCSE runs about $8K (counting classes).

Q: Self study and experience pays off. I spent $600 for the tests and about $200 for reading materials. I’ve been using NT for over 5 years, though.

Q: How much is it going to cost for existing certs to recert (with retsin!)?

EE: It’s going to cost a minimum of $700, if you haven’t certified before with Microsoft.

Employment advice for the certified
Q: What advice about new/old certs and what they mean would you give to an IT manager who had to hire at this point?

Q: Always look for experience with the certifications. You may have a good for nothing “boot camp” boy running your show, if not.

EE: My advice? Maintain skills on old systems and develop expertise with new OSs. It’s important that folks don’t present themselves as MCSEs at a company needing Win2K help when their cert is in NT 3.51. Experience is critical. If it’s combined with certification, you’ve probably got a winner.

Q: I believe that standards are a good start when looking for employees. That is all, though. I am going to get my CNE soon because I also do a lot of Novell work.

Q: I just started to become interested in going for my MCSE and have taken a Net Essentials class, but I haven’t taken the exam because of the retirement of this exam in a year. For someone thinking of changing careers and just beginning to get into this field, is it worth starting to learn about NT 4, or should I just start concentrating on 2000? I have been using Win 2000 Professional for 5 months now, and I was surprised how well the plug and play works. I find it to be a quite solid OS for my purposes so far.

Q: I believe that, for the next few years, the work for NT 4.0 people will still be higher than the need for Win2K people.

What about these “other” certifications?
Q: As an MSCE, what do you think of the ‘other’ certifications?

EE: Which other certs?


EE: Red Hat has an excellent certification program. A CNE is a strong cert. Are you thinking about MCSE certification?

Q: I’m thinking about Red Hat cert, yeah.

EE: I imagine that an IT pro with both Red Hat and MCSE certs under his/her belt would do quite well in today’s mixed environments.

Q: Heck yeah, a Red Hat and MSCE cert could bring a high cut of gravy, I’d imagine.

Active Directory—Is it enough to go through all this?
Q: I’ve read a little about active directory. Do you think all the hype about it is worth an entire new release, certs, and so on?

EE: Yes, the Active Directory changes the way IT pros will administer services and users.

Q: I have a non-certs related question. It’s actually related to Active Directories. I saw a graphical floor plan of an office in Windows 2000 where the admin could drag and drop users from one group to another. After the user was dropped on the new group, all default security properties from the group were assigned to the user. Is this built into Windows 2000 server, or was it really a 3rd party tool? If it’s built into Windows 2000, can I assume it comes with the proper design tool to lay out off?

EE: I’m not sure about the drag-and-drop. (I’ve got test machines coming in a week.) It sounds like it’d be native, though, from what I’ve heard.

Q: How many exams must I take for the Win 2000 track? And what are they?

EE: Seven exams, unless you’re NT 4 certified. Then it’s two (unless your electives retire).

Q: So the Win2K track is the only Windows 2000 cert?

EE: I’m sure there will be a few certs. However, I haven’t yet seen the requirements for an MCSE+I. It makes me think that expertise will be included with the Win2K track, which now requires an additional exam, compared to the NT 4 program.

Q: I noticed they actually have a security-focused cert now. Good step.

EE: Yes, several exams target security with Windows 2000. They would fall under the electives area.

Windows 2000 Miscellany
Q: This may be a silly question, but will Win2K have a workstation version and a server version, as with WinNT?

EE: Yes, the workstation is Windows 2000 Professional. The server platform is Windows 2000 server. There will also be other versions (data center is among them).

Q: Advanced Server is known as Enterprise now.

Q: What will be the upgrade costs for each version, do you know?

EE: Actually, I do have those costs, but they’re not near me. You can get it in our White Paper (which is free). You can download it .

Q: Tell me this: what is the ideal method of getting an MS certification?

EE: It depends upon which certification one is pursuing. A mix of real-world experience and classroom instruction is probably best. And if you lean toward real-world experience, that’s best.

Q: Are you saying that for different certs there are better ways of going about certifying?

EE: Well, if you’re pursuing an MCSD, you’ll want to spend much time programming. Classroom instruction might not be as beneficial.

Last words?
EE: Does anyone have any other questions regarding the Windows 2000 certification track? If so, feel free to e-mail me at . I’ll be sure to get back to you.Good night!

Moderator: Thanks to everyone for joining. See you back here next time. I look forward to seeing each of you next week.