Time’s running out for Windows NT 4.0-certified IT professionals to upgrade their skills to Windows 2000. While reports indicate many MCSEs will let their accreditation lapse at year’s end, it’s a safe bet that many of these IT pros will pursue a Win2K Server MCP.

If you’re among those studying for Microsoft’s Exam 70-215: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, be sure you know which topics you need to master and study them thoroughly before heading to your favorite exam center. You’ll find help here, beginning this week. This is the first list of four you’ll need to review to ensure that you’re ready on exam day.

System requirements and installation
You should memorize the official system requirements associated with all three Windows 2000 server platforms.

Windows 2000 Server requires, at a minimum:

  • A 133-MHz or faster CPU.
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended, 4 GB maximum).
  • 1 GB of free space on a 2-GB hard disk.

Windows 2000 server operating systems require additional free space if they are being installed over a network. Win2K Server supports a maximum of four CPUs on a single system.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server requires, at a minimum:

  • A 133-MHz or faster CPU.
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended, 8 GB maximum).
  • 1 GB of free space on a 2-GB hard disk.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server supports a maximum of eight CPUs on a single system.

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server requires, at a minimum:

  • A Pentium III Zeon processor or faster.
  • 256 MB RAM recommended (64 GB maximum).
  • 1 GB of free space on a 2-GB hard disk.

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server supports a maximum of 32 processors. It is available only through authorized original equipment manufacturers.

Be sure to check Microsoft’s Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) before installing the operating system on a server so that you don’t encounter problems due to unsupported hardware. You’ll find the list, HCL.txt, in the Support directory on the Windows 2000 Server CD. You can see a more current HCL online.

You can install Windows 2000 server operating systems using these methods:

  • From a CD-ROM
  • Over a network
  • Using an unattended installation

CD-ROM installation
Know how to install Windows 2000 server operating systems from a CD-ROM. Create Win2K’s four setup disks using the makeboot command. Use the following syntax: d:/bootdisk/makeboot a: (assuming d: is your CD-ROM drive).

You can also set compliant systems to boot directly from the CD-ROM drive. Either way, be sure that you know the difference between Winnt.exe and Winnt32.exe. Use Winnt.exe to begin standard installations of Windows 2000 server operating systems. Use Winnt32.exe to trigger upgrade installations. Each command has its own set of switches, shown in Tables A and B. Memorize the functionality of each command switch.

Table A
Switch Description
/a Enables use of accessibility options
/e:command Executes the supplied command before Setup ends
/I:filename Specifies the location of the setup information file
/r:foldername Creates a permanent systemroot folder during setup
/rx:foldername Copies a temporary folder during setup to the systemroot
/s:path Specifies source location of installation files
/t:drive Specifies drive to use for temporary files
/u:path Specifies location of answer file to be used for unattended installation (requires use of the /s switch)
/udf:identifier,filename Specifies the identifier Setup uses to determine how a Uniqueness Database File (UDF) modifies or overrides an answer file
Winnt.exe switches and their descriptions

Table B
Switch Description
/checkupgradeonly Instructs Setup to check only for Windows 2000 compatibility
/cmd:command Executes the supplied command before Setup ends
/cmdcons Adds Recovery Console option to the operating system selection screen
/copydir:foldername Creates a permanent new folder in the systemroot
/copysource Creates a temporary folder in the systemroot
/debug level:filename Creates a debug at the level specified with the provided filename
/m:foldername Instructs Setup to look for setup files in an alternate location before using the default Setup file location
/makelocalsource Specifies that all installation files first be copied locally before Setup proceeds
/noreboot Instructs Setup not to reboot the system after Setup’s first stage completes
/s:path Specifies source location of installation files
/syspart:drive Copies Setup’s startup files to the specified partition and marks the disk active, enabling the drive to be moved to another system before Setup continues (requires /tempdrive switch)
/tempdrive:drive Specifies where Setup should place temporary files
/unattend number:answerfile Specifies an unattended installation and answer file to be used
/udf:identifier,filename Specifies the identifier Setup uses to determine how a Uniqueness Database File (UDF) modifies or overrides an answer file
Winnt32.exe switches and their descriptions

You can upgrade several platforms to a Windows 2000 server. They are:

  • Windows NT Server 3.51
  • Windows NT Server 4.0
  • Windows NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition
  • Windows NT 4.0, Enterprise Edition

Before Windows NT 3.1-3.50 Servers can be upgraded to Windows 2000, they must first be upgraded to Windows 3.51 Server or Windows 4.0 Server.

Windows 2000 server Setup encompasses four stages:

  • Text mode: You specify whether Setup should install Win2K Server or upgrade another Windows platform, accept the licensing agreement, and select an installation partition.
  • GUI phase: You must enter the product key, along with a user and organization name. You specify regional settings and a password in this stage.
  • Networking: Networking settings and components are detected, installed, and configured along with workgroup and domain membership information.
  • Final Setup: Start menu programs are installed, components are registered, and temporary setup files are removed.

After installation is complete, you should run Dcpromo.exe to promote a member server to a domain controller and to install Active Directory services.

Setup errors are logged according to the type of error that occurs. Know what the following log files track:

  • Comsetup.log—Records COM+ information
  • Mmdet.log—Stores multimedia device detection information
  • Netsetup.log—Records workgroup and domain membership information
  • Setupact.log—Logs setup activity chronologically
  • Setupapi.log—Logs .INF file entries
  • Setuperr.log—Records setup errors

Network-based installations
A distribution share is needed to serve Windows 2000 Server installation files when installing a Windows 2000 server operating system over a network. You’ll have to set up a distribution server containing the \i386 directory from the Windows 2000 server CD-ROM.

Disk space is another consideration when installing Win2K servers over a network. Some 1.2 GB of free space is required, possibly more for holding temporary files.

Before you can connect to the distribution server, you’ll need to get the target system up and running using a network client. Once it’s operating, you can connect to the /i386 share and begin Setup.

Run Winnt.exe to create a new installation. Run Winnt32.exe to upgrade an older Windows operating system. Again, ensure you know each command’s switches and its functions.

Unattended installations
You’re sure to see a few questions testing your unattended installation expertise. Remember that unattended installs require the use of answer files. Unlike in Windows NT 4.0, a new Setup Manager Wizard is available for creating answer files. Of course, you could still create answer files manually, but the odds of experiencing syntax errors are much higher if you go the manual route.

Know appropriate answer file-naming conventions. Unattend.txt is the name of the sample answer file included on Windows 2000 server CD-ROMs. Answer files can use different names, as long as you call the correct file from the command line when specifying an unattended installation.

Don’t forget that CD-ROM installations seek Winnt.sif when Winnt.exe executes. If you’ll be using an answer file on a floppy disk and booting from the CD-ROM, your answer file should be named Winnt.sif.

Know the differences between the five user interaction levels. They are:

  • Provide Defaults: Administrator-supplied defaults are accepted or changed by the user.
  • Fully Automated: The entire Setup is automated and cannot be changed by the user.
  • Hide Pages: Users interact with Setup only on screens requesting information not provided by the administrator; all other display information is hidden.
  • Read Only: Users can see, but not change, default settings configured by an administrator.
  • GUI Attended: Automates Setup’s GUI phase.

Know how to use Windows 2000’s System Preparation (Sysprep) Tool. Sysprep prepares a disk image for deployment using a third-party cloning utility, such as Norton Ghost or PowerQuest Drive Image. One of the biggest advantages of Sysprep is it removes a system’s unique security identifiers (SIDs) before it’s cloned, thereby readying the disk for mass duplication.

If you want to automate Sysprep’s mini-Setup program, which runs after a cloned image boots, label the file Sysprep.inf. You can create Sysprep.inf files using the Setup Manager Wizard. Sysprep.inf files should be placed in the systemroot’s Sysprep folder.

You can use four switches, shown in Table C, with Sysprep.

Table C
Switch Description
/nosidgen Instructs Sysprep not to regenerate a SID
/pnp Specifies that Sysprep detect Plug and Play devices
/quiet Specifies that Sysprep run without user interaction
/reboot Specifies that Sysprep automatically reboot the system
Sysprep switches and their descriptions

Service packs
Just as with the Microsoft Professional exam, be sure you are familiar with service pack deployment. Use the Upgrade.exe command to execute service pack installations. You can also direct a service pack to update network installation files. Add the /slip switch to the Upgrade.exe command to “slipstream” service packs.

File systems
Windows 2000 server operating systems support the following file systems:

  • FAT16
  • FAT32
  • NTFS

NTFS is required to support NTFS file-level permissions, implement disk quotas, or use the encrypted file system (EFS). It is also a necessity on machines running Active Directory.

FAT16 and FAT32 file systems can be converted to NTFS using the Convert.exe command. However, NTFS partitions cannot be converted to FAT, at least not without the use of third-party tools such as PowerQuest’s Partition Magic. FAT16 partitions cannot be converted to FAT32 using Convert.exe.

Hardware device administration
You’ll encounter questions concerning hardware configuration and device and driver troubleshooting on your exam. Therefore, make sure that you’re familiar with each of the following.

Hardware device administration
Unlike past Windows NT operating systems, Windows 2000 supports Plug and Play detection of peripherals. Hardware is administered using the Device Manager. You’ll find it is both an MMC snap-in as well as a Control Panel applet.

Computer Management’s System Information console provides detailed Hardware Resources information. You’ll find valuable data needed for troubleshooting hardware difficulties, including:

  • Conflicts and sharing information
  • Direct Memory Address data
  • Forced hardware settings
  • Input/Output information
  • IRQ listings
  • Memory data

Remember that Microsoft recommends adding, removing, and troubleshooting hardware using the Add/Remove Hardware applet, which resides in the Control Panel.

You can use the Windows Report Tool to help diagnose hardware errors too. You execute it by typing Winrep.exe at a command line.

Disk administration
Just as in Windows 2000 Professional, disks are administered using the Disk Management console. The following tasks are configured using the Disk Management console:

  • Administer disk quotas
  • Change drive letters
  • Check drives for errors
  • Create, delete, and format partitions
  • Defragment disks
  • Edit volume labels
  • Share drives
  • Run backups
  • Upgrade basic disks to dynamic disks

You should defragment disks using the Disk Defragmenter console. It resides in the Computer Management MMC snap-in.

Display administration
Use Control Panel’s Display applet to configure video monitors. You can install and update display adapter drivers using a variety of methods:

  • Using the Add/Remove Hardware applet in Control Panel
  • Via Device Manager
  • Using the Display Properties screen

Driver administration
Update device drivers by opening Device Manager, locating the component whose driver you want to upgrade, and clicking the Update Driver button on the Drivers tab.

Understand Driver Signing. Most drivers now receive digital signatures. When drivers are installed, Windows 2000 checks them for authenticity. You can set three levels of protection:

  • Ignore (Level 0): Windows 2000 doesn’t check to ensure that a driver possesses the appropriate digital signature.
  • Warn (Level 1): Windows 2000 displays a warning that the driver about to be installed is an unsigned driver.
  • Block (Level 2): Windows 2000 blocks installation of unsigned drivers.

Windows File Protectiondoes just what it says. It protects digitally signed critical system files from being replaced.

Use Verifier.exe to troubleshoot driver issues. Verifier.exe opens the Driver Verifier Manager. The File Signature Verification tool, opened by typing Sigverif.exe at the command line, verifies driver file signatures.

Use the System File Checker, Sfc.exe, to ensure that appropriate files are being used by Windows 2000. The System File Checker is a command-line utility. You should be familiar with several of its switches, shown in Table D.

Table D
Switch Description
/cachesize=x Specifies cache size
/cancel Cancels all pending protected system file scans
/enable Enables Windows File Protection
/quiet Replaces incorrect file versions without prompting
/purgecache Purges the file cache and scans all protected system files
/scannow Begins a protected system file scan
/scanonce Sets a protected system file scan to start at next reboot
/scanboot Sets a protected system file scan to occur with every boot
Sfc.exe switches and their descriptions

Symmetric multiprocessing
Windows 2000 server supports symmetric multiprocessing (SMP). If one CPU is installed and configured and additional CPUs are installed later, the system’s HAL will require updating. You must update the computer driver using the Device Manager.

Eckel’s take
You shouldn’t approach the Win2K server exam lightly. It’s sure to drill down to specifics quickly and repeatedly. While we reviewed hardware requirements, installation, and hardware device and driver troubleshooting this week, there’s still much work left. Over the next three weeks, I’ll continue building the list to cover such topics as Active Directory, resource administration, storage management, networking, security, and performance monitoring and optimization.

What are your Windows 2000 certification plans?

We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.