Ready or not, here comes Windows 2000. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me. For the past 18 months, I’ve been pounding the beta versions of Windows 2000 on a roomful of PCs in a production environment. Trusting your data to a beta OS is thrilling (yes, I’m a fanatic about backups), but I’m ready for the comforting consistency of knowing I won’t have to install a new build next week.

Don’t get me wrong—the final build of Windows 2000 isn’t bug-free, but at least it’s public. If you run into hassles, you can check the Knowledge Base or call for tech support. You should start seeing collections of Windows 2000 tips and workarounds on the Web and in print. You’ll be able to read reviews from other users to see whether it’s worth upgrading.

Soon enough, we’ll all be on the same page—at least when it comes to Windows 2000. Shrink-wrapped copies will be available on Feb. 17 to coincide with the official Microsoft launch party in San Francisco. But some vendors are jumping the gun. Beginning Monday, Jan. 24, you’ll be able to buy brand-new Windows 2000 Ready PCs from leading PC makers, including Dell, IBM, Gateway, and HP. Microsoft’s contract restrictions won’t allow these PC makers to publicize the new offerings extensively or to talk with the press about them, but they’ll be happy to sell you the software on a new machine if you ask. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve decided to make this week’s challenge a three-part quiz covering aspects of the Windows 2000 Setup process.

Setting up Windows 2000 is deceptively easy, and dramatically less complex than in NT4. But that doesn’t mean that the default settings get it right. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll devote each new challenge to topics that can help spell the difference between a smooth setup and administrative headaches.

Here’s Ed’s new Challenge
Ready or not, here comes Windows 2000. Do you know how to keep from falling into three common Setup traps? I’m looking for the correct solution to these three problems:

1. You want your users to set strong passwords that can’t be cracked through dictionary attacks. What’s the undocumented command-line option that lets you automatically assign a strong password to a given user account?

2. Inaccurate time settings can wreak havoc on a network. What’s the best way to guarantee that all Windows 2000 PCs on a domain are set to the correct time?

3. How big is Windows 2000’s default swap file? How do you change its size?

Think you’re a Windows 2000 master? Prove it by sharing the right answers with your fellow TechRepublic members. I’ll award 500 TechPoints—and maybe even a cool TechRepublic T-shirt—for each correct answer, and a bonus 500 points to the first reader who gets all three questions right. Click here to get started. But don’t delay—this challenge closes at the end of the day on Thursday, Jan. 27.