You may be wondering whether you should do a new installation of Windows 2000 from scratch or simply upgrade. For individual users, the question is whether they should upgrade to Windows 2000 or wait for Windows ME (Millennium), which is less expensive. In this Daily Feature, I’ll take a look at some of the major issues surrounding Windows 2000 and the upcoming Windows ME.

A brief overview of Windows 2000
Microsoft has introduced at least six versions of Windows since Windows 95 was released. This doesn’t include all the upgrades, fixes, and service packs. Windows NT has been Microsoft’s answer to the business-line platform for many years, while the DOS-based Windows series of releases has served the small business and home-consumer market. Microsoft has attempted repeatedly to unify the NT system with Windows to create a single Windows operating system environment.

Microsoft hoped to create a stable, reliable, secure, and consumer-friendly product that would be one environment, one product, but it has failed to do this so far. Microsoft also wanted DOS to be a transparent part of the new operating system, but DOS is still there, although less noticeable than it has been in the past. Personally, I’ve always liked DOS and don’t have a problem with it. However, there are good, sound technical reasons for having an operating system that can operate at faster bus speeds.

From what I’ve seen of Windows 2000, it’s a very stable, reliable, and user-friendly system when installed and configured correctly. The best installation seems to be from scratch—that is, installed on a new or existing system that doesn’t have an operating system. The reason for this is that probably when you install or upgrade from an existing system, Windows 2000 has to deal with .dll files from older system installations. I recommend that you back up your needed files and wipe everything from your hard drive. Then do a completely new install.

Besides being stable, Windows 2000 protects itself against user error with the Windows File Protection feature, which completely replaces any deleted or damaged system files. Windows 2000 Professional not only replaces damaged or deleted systems files, but it also has the familiar Windows 98 feel, along with new features to help users stay productive.

Windows 2000 Professional will work with your current PCs and network. It works with UNIX, Windows 2000 Server, Windows NT Server, and Novell NetWare. In addition, it has built-in peer-to-peer support for Windows 3x, Windows 9x, and NT. This means that you can network earlier versions of Windows on existing PCs and networks.

For the business owner, Windows 2000 Professional is probably a good bet. You can connect to it from just about anywhere, using a laptop or other small-scale device. The Synchronization Manager feature automatically synchronizes your files when you connect. The Plug and Play feature allows you to link to printers and other hardware without having to configure the hardware every time you lose your settings. Working from home should be easier now with USB features, simpler dial-up connections, and improved Web access.

Who should use Windows 2000?
Windows 2000 Professional is clearly targeted for the corporate IT, big-business environment. For the individual home or small office (fewer than ten computers), it’s just not practical because of the cost of the product. In addition, there are few features that the home or small business user can take advantage of. In fact, most people won’t even be able to tell the difference between 2000 and Windows 98.

Here are some factors to consider before you purchase:

  • Expense—It will cost you from $150 to $350 to purchase and install Windows 2000 Professional on an individual PC, depending on whether you upgrade or do a new installation using the Professional full-install version for systems without an operating system. For this price, you can purchase a nice RAM or other hardware upgrade that will enhance your system.
  • Design considerations—Windows 2000 Professional is designed for big hardware systems running on Internets and networks. You may pay all that money only to find that your modem, hard drive, and motherboard are not supported.
  • Hardware and peripherals compatibility—The system requirements for Windows 2000 Professional are much higher than for Windows 95/98. What this means, in general, is that it just won’t run on any system. If you’re going to buy, install, and run it, you’ll need a good system. Microsoft recommends at least 32 MB, and at that, it is slow.

I discourage home users from using Windows 2000 Professional because the average home user is more likely to have all of the older software, shareware, freeware, games, and other non-standard applications that may cause problems. Since Windows 2000 is designed for business use, Microsoft has made sure that it includes support for all the services business users need while the needs of the average home user are generally ignored.

The first thing you should do before any upgrade or install is check out both your hardware and software compatibility with Windows 2000 Professional. Visit Microsoft’s Web site to view a hardware and software compatibility list.

Windows ME: Will it be for you?
Exactly what is Windows 2000 ME? According to Microsoft press releases, Windows 2000 ME is the final upgrade to Windows 98. There are some attributes in Windows ME that you won’t find in Windows 98, such as improvements in digital media and digital music technologies.

The Windows 2000 Millennium beta 2 release looks like a complete, fully operational product. It installs easily as an upgrade to Windows 98. After several weeks of running it continuously, I haven’t found any major problems with it.

If you run a small business, with 100 or fewer computers in your business, then this product is probably for you. If you are a home PC user, Windows ME is definitely for you.

Windows ME is very easy to install, and the process takes only about 30 minutes. If you’ve installed Windows 95 or 98 before, you probably won’t have any problems. Any problems you do experience will probably be hardware related.

When should you upgrade? My advice is to wait a while. As with all new products—automobiles, dishwashers, or computer software—there are generally bugs. Let others do all the testing for you, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. You also need to do a lot of research to see what’s compatible and what isn’t.

Dallas G. Releford has worked in the computer field as a programmer, MIS manager, PC specialist, and in other related positions. In addition, he has written a novel, which was published on the Internet and led him to an interest in the electronic publishing field. He also writes articles, electronic books, and just about anything else that involves the written word. To learn more about Dallas’ business, visit his Web site, which is called The Editor’s Eye .

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