It may be frozen across much of the world, but here in my home state of Arizona, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and spring training is just around the corner. To celebrate the return of the great American pastime, I threw two hard sliders and a curve in my three-part Jan. 20 Microsoft Challenge. TechRepublic readers stepped up to the plate and took some mighty cuts, but one question stumped everyone.

I asked three questions:

1. What’s the undocumented command-line option that lets you automatically assign a strong password to a given user account?

Most readers misinterpreted the question and suggested various ways to set a strong password policy, including NT4’s passprop /complex command. Nice try, but reader Rog42 correctly noted that “the question throws a slight slant, in that it requires a strong password for a ‘given’ user.” Sharp eyes, Rog! The correct answer is to log on as Administrator, open a Command Prompt window, and issue the command NET USER username /RANDOM. (Include the /DOMAIN switch for a domain account rather than a local user.) This undocumented command returns eight-character nonsense passwords that mix upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation—AxJgzsL9, 6#SH1ju6, Wwf0hHY3, and 2b05IVT$, for example.

I’ll give half-credit—250 points—to Grossrf, who suggested: “If a strong password policy is implemented in the active directory users and computers, use the dsmigrate utility to generate random strong passwords for any migrated or new user accounts.” I have no idea whether that works, but it’s worth a try, especially if you have a large number of accounts to migrate.

2. What’s the best way to guarantee that all Windows 2000 PCs on a domain are set to the correct time?

A surprising number of readers suggested the NET TIME command, which is no longer required in Windows 2000. Several readers got the right answer, but Michael.b.simmons earns full credit—500 TechPoints—for his incredibly lucid explanation (which I’ve abbreviated slightly):

“Windows 2000 ships with the W32Time (Windows Time) service. All client desktops and member servers use their authenticating domain controller as their in-bound time partner…To configure the Windows 2000 [domain controller] to use an external time server, use this command: NET TIME /SETSNTP:, [which uses] an external time server at the U.S. Naval Observatory.” Perfect! (Click here to read the full response.)

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

Most readers with Windows 2000 experience know that the default size of the paging file is based on system RAM. Gobbard was first to get all the details right: “Default is 1.5 times physical memory if RAM is less than 2GB, or 2GB if RAM is greater. This can be changed through properties of ‘My Computer’ (Advanced tab – Performance Options.)” Give that man 500 TechPoints!

Here’s Ed’s new Challenge
Ready for a doubleheader? I’m looking for the answers to two more setup questions:

  1. When you insert a CD into a Windows 2000 machine, it plays automatically. Other Windows versions make it relatively easy to disable this feature, but it’s buried in Windows 2000. Where’s the switch that turns off AutoPlay once and for all?
  2. Windows 2000 includes a handy defrag utility. How do you schedule it to perform a defrag session automatically, at regular intervals?

If you think you’ve got the answers, prove it by sharing them with your fellow TechRepublic members. I’ll award 500 TechPoints—and maybe even a cool TechRepublic T-shirt—for each correct answer. Click here to get started. But don’t delay—this challenge closes at the end of the day on Thursday, Feb. 10.