Will Windows 2000 impress IT administrators?

Will Windows 2000 impress IT administrators?

IT administrators choosing a desktop OS have juggled between Windows 9x and Windows NT Workstation. Most users would have preferred NT Workstation, but its hardware requirements and lack of support for lots of laptop-oriented services forced many IT managers to choose Windows 9x.

Windows 2000 Professional is designed to resolve such problems. Although it has its drawbacks - legacies from NT Workstations, decreased hardware support, and increased resource requirements - Professional promises that a single desktop OS may be run across the enterprise without the trade-offs previously experienced.

Professional scored very well. Its support for more hardware and increased usability on desktops and laptops make it a worthwhile upgrade. The integration with Active Directory (AD) makes it easier to deploy and support than Microsoft's previous OSs.

When deploying Professional, the costs of the installation and required hardware upgrades will be the largest deterrent. However, Professional includes features that ease rollout and administration as well as increase users' productivity.

Installing Professional is very similar to installing NT Workstation, and the first noticeable difference is the boot screen - replacing the famous initial blue screen is a colourful splash screen similar to Windows 9x.

More importantly, Professional offers a Safe Boot mode that lets you bring your system up with a minimal set of drivers so you can change the configuration of the machine. This can prevent having to restore from a backup or reinstall NT because of a misconfiguration or a bogus driver.

Also available either from the boot CDs, boot floppies, or the boot menu is the System Recovery Console. With this I was able to access the files on Continued on page 78....

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my NTFS (NT File System) even when the unit was not bootable using the Safe Mode. As a last-ditch effort, you can at least recover files from the drive without having to put the drive in a different NT machine.

Professional also offers a slightly altered desktop UI. Certain configuration items such as printers that used to appear under My Computer have been moved to the control panel, and Internet Explorer 5 features, including the Web Folders and My Network Places, have been added. This should make it easier for users to find their data even if they don't know where it is on the network.

One of Windows' biggest problems has always been what happens to the system when a DLL (Dynamic Link Library) is corrupted or replaced by a different version. In response, Professional offers Windows File Protection, which keeps backups of the correct versions of important system files and replaces them when they become corrupted or overwritten.

To test this, I deleted some important DLL files. It noticed the problem quickly and restored the files from its backup. This feature could save users and administrators great amounts of time troubleshooting application crashes.

In addition, Professional offers new administrative tools to help the rollout, configuration, and maintenance of software on desktops. IntelliMirror lets you install software packages across an enterprise of machines, and Sysprep and the Remote Installation Preparation utilities help prepare machines for local Professional or network rollouts. When they are used with AD and Windows 2000 Server, you can perform desktop maintenance from centralised locations much more easily than with NT Workstation or Windows 9x.

Professional also introduces new laptop features, including advanced power management support. This function kept my laptop running almost one-third longer than it ran under NT Workstation. And I was able to use my removable hard drive for the first time without rebooting. I liked also the addition of the synchronisation manager, which helped keep offline files up-to-date when I was on the road.

Other improvements include a reduced number of necessary reboots plus enhancements to TCP/IP, which helped speed access to Web sites and increased file and print performance while I was connected to my LAN.

Although you still must reboot for some changes, such as adding a video driver, many other devices such as sound cards and removable hard drives can be added and removed without rebooting.

Professional is a definite improvement over Windows 9x and NT Workstation. Because of its improvements in usability plus potential for reducing training and administrative overhead, IT administrators should seriously consider making the upgrade.

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