Win2K Offers Improved USB Device Support

Now that I'm running Windows 2000 on my desktop, I can't just leave well enough alone. First, I installed one of the new NVIDIA-based video cards, and I now find myself running at 1920x1440x32-bit on my 21" monitor. I like this resolution, but some applications seem less than happy with it. So far, I haven't found any unusable applications, but I've had problems with fonts not matching up with dialog boxes, and a consistently odd appearance of certain Web sites in Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0.

Next, I bought a USB scanner. Scanners and Windows NT have always left a sour taste in my mouth because of the spotty support and driver problems that scanners have had during almost the entire NT 4.0 product cycle. Eventually I got SCSI-based mid-to-high-end scanners working under NT, but the process wasn't pleasant. However, I had a pile of photographs I'd been promising myself I'd scan, so buying one of the inexpensive USB scanners that claimed Win2K support seemed to be a good idea. So I stopped by a weekend computer show and picked up a Microtek 3700 USB scanner.

I must admit to a bit of trepidation as I hooked up the scanner. The last time I tried a USB device with Win2K was during the beta cycle, and the results, to be charitable, were mixed. I also had hooked up an IEEE 1394 card (FireWire) on another system that had some problems with Win2K Pro (also beta) and was dual-booting with Windows 98 SE just to be safe. I guess it's time to put the Win2KPro release code on that machine to see whether the FireWire works correctly.

Anyway, I followed the directions with the scanner (install the bundled software applications, plug in the scanner), and much to my surprise, everything worked the first time. The scanner even did a good job of scanning photos, which isn't bad given that the price is well below $150 for a 600x1200 dpi, 42-bit scanner. I guess the next step is to pick up a USB hub and see whether I can keep adding USB devices. I'm always happy when a device such as this inexpensive scanner works well and does what the vendor advertises—especially because the scanner and its bundled software cost less than the SCSI adapter previously required to get a scanner to work with NT.

This week's tip:
One useful Win2K feature is its ability to update itself after you've applied a service pack. Unlike NT, when you update a system-level component after you've applied a service pack, Win2K remembers where you installed the service pack from and returns to that location to get any files it needs to replace or change based on the components you've added. If you need to free up space or you want all of your networked machines to point to the same files, follow these steps:

  1. Open regedit.
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup.
  3. Open the value ServicePackSourcePath (on my system it defaults to C:\winnt\ServicePackFiles).
  4. Enter the path to the service pack files, location, which can be a drive or a network share.

Unlike the tip on changing the default installation path, this change should work in all situations. But I'm sure I'll hear from you if it doesn't.

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