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Windows Pains

Microsoft's newest arrival promises users speed and reliability. But at what price?

If you're still debating whether to upgrade your PC to Windows 98, you may want to hold out until the release of Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft's newest operating system. Built around the Windows NT operating system, a format popular with businesses for its crash resistance, speed and array of security features, Windows 2000 will offer these same features with the familiar desktop interface of Windows 95/98, says Craig Bilinson, product manager for Windows 2000. "[The new system] really brings together the best of both worlds," he says. "You've got all the ease of use of Windows 95 and 98; support for all the new hardware devices people are using, like DVDs and scanners; and the industrial-strength security and reliability that users have come to expect from Windows NT products."

To help users prepare their machines for the migration from Windows 95/98 to Windows 2000, Microsoft is suggesting that users purchase and install the Windows NT 4.0 Open License package, which gives 4.0 users a steep discount on Windows 2000 to use when they decide to upgrade. However, Rob Enderle, an analyst for and vice president of Giga Information Group, believes that although Microsoft may be sincere in its efforts to help users feel more comfortable with upgrading to the new operating system, the time-intensive installation process and the differing hardware requirements of the NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 systems could make migrating in steps (instead of in one giant leap) troublesome and costly.

"The right way to do an NT or Windows 2000 deployment is really to scrub the disk and start clean, which is a major upgrade and requires a lot of resources to do right," says Enderle. "My belief is that it's better to upgrade once rather than do it twice. Plus, with the Windows 2000 system, you're going to be much better off utilizing the most current hardware you can possibly get. If you can stand using Windows 95/98 for the time being, defer upgrading your hardware until you're ready for the migration to Windows 2000."

To run Windows 2000, Microsoft recommends you have at least a 300 MHz Pentium II processor with 64MB RAM. Microsoft has formed partnerships with a number of computer manufacturers, including Compaq, Dell, Gateway and IBM to produce what it calls Windows 2000-ready PCs with these specifications.

According to Enderle, the truly ideal Windows 2000 machine will be one that conforms to PC 99 specifications, an Intel and Microsoft-sponsored design for the next generation of PC workstations that features the 450 MHz Pentium III processor that was released in February of this year. "If you want to get the optimum benefit from Windows 2000, which was designed more like a mainframe operating system than a PC operating system, you really need to have the kind of stable, reliable hardware that's suggested by the PC 99 specifications," says Enderle. Both the Windows 2000 operating system and PC 99-specified computers are expected to be available sometime later this year.

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Windows Pains.

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