Windows 2000 FAQ

If you've got other questions about Windows 2000, please send them along and I'll post the answers here. This FAQ is updated regularly, so please ch...

Paul Thurrott

October 6, 2010

24 Min Read
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If you've got other questions about Windows 2000, please send them along and I'll post the answers here. This FAQ is updated regularly, so please check back.

UPDATE: This FAQ is now retired.

Q: What is Windows 2000?
A: Windows 2000 is the next version of Windows NT, previously known as Windows NT 5.0. This means that the name "Windows NT" is dead and that all new versions of Windows going forward will be simply called "Windows." Likewise, all new versions of Windows going forward--with the exception of a new Consumer Windows (code-named "Millennium") that will replace Windows 98 in 2000--will be based on the 32-bit Windows NT kernel, not the 16/32-bit DOS underpinnings of Windows 95/98.

Another way to look at it is this: the Windows family of operating systems will now use dates for version numbers. So Windows 2000 comes after Windows (19)98 (and NT 4.0). Future versions (Windows 2003, etc.) will use the same type of names. The "2000" suffix denotes only the version number, in the same way that cars have model years. The product name is still Windows (not "Windows 2000," which also indicates the version number. There will not be a "Windows 2000 2.0" for example... hopefully. You never can tell when Microsoft marketing is in the driver's seat).

Q: So what happens to Windows NT Workstation (or Server, etc.)?
A: Microsoft is using this release to change the Windows NT/2000 lineup a bit. The Workstation edition, for example, becomes Windows 2000 Professional. Here is the complete list of Windows 2000 editions, courtesy of Microsoft with my own annotations:

  • Windows 2000 Professional (formerly Windows NT Workstation 5.0) will be the mainstream Microsoft desktop operating system for businesses of all sizes. Windows 2000 Professional will deliver the easiest Windows-based environment yet, the highest level of security, state-of-the-art features for mobile users, industrial-strength reliability and better performance (with two-way SMP) while lowering the total cost of ownership through improved manageability. Note that Professional is NOT for consumers: The next Consumer Windows from Microsoft is due in 2000 and will be based on the Windows 9x kernel, not the NT kernel used in Windows 2000. A future release of Windows 2000, code-named "Whistler," will include a Consumer version however. Whistler is due in 2001-2002: See my Whistler FAQ for details.

  • Windows 2000 Server (formerly Windows NT Server 5.0) will offer industry-leading functionality and will support new systems with up to four-way SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing, the ability to use more than one microprocessor). Ideal for small to medium-sized enterprise application deployments, Web servers, workgroups and branch offices, this version of Windows 2000 is expected to be the most popular server version.

  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server (formerly Windows NT Server 5.0 Enterprise Edition) will be a more powerful departmental and application server, and will also provide rich networking operating system and Internet services. Supporting new systems with up to eight-way SMP, this new product offering is ideal for database-intensive work and integrates clustering and load balancing support to provide excellent system and application availability. Existing Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition servers with up to eight-way SMP can install this SKU, which is expected to be priced below today's Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition product.

  • Windows 2000 Datacenter Server (new) will be the most powerful and functional server operating system ever offered by Microsoft. It supports up to 16-way SMP and up to 64 GB of physical memory. Like Windows 2000 Advanced Server, it provides both clustering and load balancing services as standard features. It is optimized for large data warehouses, econometric analysis, large-scale simulations in science and engineering, OLTP, and server consolidation projects.

The name "Workstation" was replaced by "Professional" because this edition of the OS is being used on many business client desktops, and is not relegated to the workstation market.

Q: This name change seems kind of strange. Why did they do this?
A: Microsoft had been planning to change the name of Windows NT for some time, though I don't believe that Northern Telecom's trademark of "NT" has anything to do with it: Rather, the desire to leverage the Windows brand name was likely the guiding force. They couldn't do it before because NT and 9x were too incompatible. I always figured the change would come with the 6.0 release of NT (when a consumer version of NT will replace Windows 9x in 2002 or 2003) but something made them change it early. I don't buy the logic of "NT 5.0 is such a major release, it was the obvious time." That's ridiculous, especially when you consider that the "normal" version of Windows (Windows 98) is not going to be upgraded at this time: That would have been the logical time to change the name.

I stand by my original comment in WinInfo: "This is what happens when you've got an army of marketing dweebs with nothing to do."

On the other hand, one could argue that the brand name "Windows" was more valuable than "NT" or "Windows NT." I like the "NT" separator, however, and reputation the NT name brought to those operating systems. Windows isn't exactly known the world 'round for its stability and reliability. Well, it will be now.

Q: Was Windows 2000 released? Is it done?
A: Yes, Windows 2000 was released to manufacturing on December 15, 1999. However, you won't see Windows 2000 in retail stores until February 17, 2000. Companies such as Dell, Compaq, and IBM will have Windows 2000 systems available for sale by January 2000 however.

Q: What are the hardware requirements for Windows 2000?
A: That depends on who you talk to. Microsoft lists the system requirements like so:

  • Windows 2000 Professional: Pentium 133 or better with 64 MB RAM minimum.

  • Windows 2000 Server: Pentium 133 or better with 256 MB RAM minimum recommended, though it will work with 128 MB.

  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server: Pentium 133 or better with 256 MB RAM minimum recommended, though it will work with 128 MB.

However, my recommendations look like this:

  • Windows 2000 Professional: Pentium II 300 or better with 128 MB RAM minimum.

  • Windows 2000 Server: Pentium II 300 or better with 128 MB RAM minimum (only on a member server with minimal services). If you're running Active Directory, I recommend at least 384 MB RAM to start.

  • Pentium II 300 or better with 256 MB RAM minimum (only on a member server with minimal services). If you're running Active Directory, I recommend at least 384 MB RAM to start.

These things vary from machine to machine, of course. For desktop machines that are used solely for Web and email access, 64 MB of RAM might be acceptable. However, anyone that uses Office 2000 applications, software development tools, games, or image-editing/multimedia applications will need at least 128 MB of RAM.

For servers, memory requirements will vary significantly, depending on the number of clients, the number and type of services running, and how the server is used. Member ("standalone") servers have less overhead than Active Directory domain controllers, for example. You'll need more RAM to handle more clients, obviously. And if you're running top-heavy server services such as SQL Server, Exchange Server, or the other BackOffice apps, you'll need to plan accordingly.

In all cases, the more RAM the better: Unlike Windows 98, Windows 2000 will take advantage of any RAM you can throw at it.

Q: What is the final build number of Windows 2000?
A: 2195. Not 2195.1. Not 2195.2. Just 2195.

Q: Now that the Windows 2000 beta is over, are you going to keep updating this Web site?
A: Yup. I plan to use Windows 2000 for some time to come, so I'll be updating the FAQ and Technology Showcases continuously for the next few years at least. Also, I'll have reviews of Windows 2000 Professional and Server Family up sometime in early 2000. So if you have any Windows 2000 questions, please send them to me!

Q: It seems like Windows 2000 was in beta for a loooonnngggg time? What took so long?
A: A variety of things. Microsoft tried to do too much with Windows 2000 and, as a result, ended up with a mammoth product that tries to be all things to all people. I've written an extensive examination of the development of Windows 2000 in my reviews section called The Road to Gold: A look at the development of Windows 2000.

Q: I've got Windows 98. Can I upgrade to Windows 2000?
A: This question is extremely complex, believe it or not. In this specific case, you can upgrade to Windows 2000 Professional. However, you should check out my technology showcase Upgrading to Windows 2000: What upgrades what? to find out the details. This showcase discusses the various products that will upgrade to various versions of Windows 2000.

Q: I've heard that Windows 2000 is more reliable and stable than Windows 98. Should I upgrade?  NEW!
A: This question is much more complex than it appears at first glance, so I've written a technology showcase that should help you make that decision. Check out Which Windows? and make an informed decision!

Q: I have a . Will it work with Windows 2000 (or, more commonly, how come it doesn't work in Windows 2000)?
A: Windows 2000 is much more picky about hardware devices that Windows 9x, though the list of hardware that runs on this operating system grows daily. You must check out the Windows 2000 Hardware Compatibility List (FTP) before installing Windows 2000. DO NOT INSTALL WINDOWS 2000 WITHOUT FIRST CHECKING THE HCL! I will not respond to requests about hardware that isn't on the HCL.

Microsoft also has an excellent Windows Hardware Compatibility List Web site that's worth visiting. To search for Windows 2000-specific hardware and software, please visit Microsoft's Hardware and Software Compatibility Web site.

Q: OK, I tried the HCL and the hardware isn't supported. Can I use a Windows 9x or NT driver instead?
A: For the most part no: Some Windows 9x and NT 4.0 drivers will actually work in Windows 2000, but most will not. Unless the hardware you own is out of date, it will probably have a Windows 2000 driver soon. Remember, this operating system isn't even widely available yet: Give it some time.

The other thing you might try is the excellent NT Compatible Web site. This resource has information about getting finicky hardware working in Windows 2000. 

Q: I own a software package called . Will this run on Windows 2000?
A: Most Windows (9x and NT) software will run fine on Windows 2000, including games. However, you should check to make sure this is the case. Microsoft has a great upgrade Web site that lists all of the software that works on Windows 2000.

Q: I'm positive my machine supports ACPI power management because it works under Windows 98, but when I install Windows 2000, I can only use the older APM power management. What gives?
A: Windows 2000 is far more stringent when it comes to adhering to the ACPI power management specification. As a result, you need to make sure you have the most up-to-date system BIOS before you install Windows 2000 (you can't add the BIOS update after the installation; Windows 2000 determines the power management scheme it uses only when you first install). Thankfully, Microsoft has created an excellent  Hardware Update Web site for people with mainstream machines such as Dell, IBM, and the like. This site will connect you directly to manufacturers' BIOS and other system updates that you'll need for Windows 2000.

If you're using a home-built or other custom system, check with the Web site for your motherboard manufacturer for up-to-date BIOS updates.

Q: How do I install Active Directory?
A: Seriously? OK, that's a big topic. I'll be writing a series of Active Directory technology showcases in January 2000. Keep checking Technology Showcases for details.

Q: I'm trying to do the right thing and use my Windows 2000 as a non-administrator. But occasionally, I run into problems where I can't do something because I don't have the appropriate permissions. Do I really have to log out and then log in as Administrator?
A: No, you can use the excellent Run As functionality to do this. Let's say you want to perform some sort of admin functionality from the command line. Drop a shortcut to the Command Prompt on the desktop, shift right-click it (that is, hold down the SHIFT key while you right-click it) and choose Run As. This will allow you to run that process as a certain user. Choose Administrator, type in the password, and you're good to go.

Q: I've got an application that runs fine under Windows 9x, but it actually detects the operating system during Setup and won't install on Windows 2000. I'm positive this application would run fine if it could just install. Is there any way to fool Setup into thinking I'm running Windows 9x?
A: Actually, yes, there is. Microsoft is shipping an application called the Application Compatibility Program (apcompat.exe) that allows you to fool applications into thinking that they're installing or running on any other version of Windows. So, if you know that an application works on Windows 95, you can use this tool to fool that application into thinking that you are actually using Windows 95.

Like all things in life, the Application Compatibility Program isn't without its issues: It's not a magic bullet that will simply let every application run properly. Some programs literally require certain DLLs that just don't exist on a Windows 2000 system. If you try this program and it fails, then you'll probably need to wait for an update to the program you're trying to run.

This Application Compatibility Program is available in the /support directory of the final Windows 2000 CD-ROM and in the Windows 2000 Resource Kits. These will both be widely available in early 2000.

Q: What are "Odyssey" and "Asteroid"? Are these future versions of Windows 2000?
A: Yes. "Asteroid" is the code-name for the first Service Pack (SP1) to Windows 2000, which is due out in mid-2000. "Odyssey" is the code-name for the next major version of Windows 2000, which would have been called Windows NT 6.0 had Microsoft not messed with the naming in late 1998.

Q: How do I remove the build number from the Windows 2000 desktop?
A: That depends on which build you're running. The final RTM version of Windows 2000 won't display a build number on the desktop, though the evaluation versions will, as did all of the beta builds. If you've got a beta or RC build of Windows 2000, find the key HKEY_CURRENT_USERCONTROL PANELDESKTOPPaintDesktopVersion and change its value to 0 (zero). For the evaluation version of the final build, Mark Romeo tells me that you can simply delete the PaintDesktopVersion key to achieve the same effect: Changing its value seems to have no effect. In each case, a reboot is needed to see the change.

Q: How can I run PC Anywhere on Windows 2000?
A: You need to be running PC Anywhere 9 and Windows 2000 RC1 or later. Then, visit the Symantec Web site to download a patch. Thanks to Symantec's Alan Feldman for the tip!

Q: I heard that Microsoft dropped features from Windows 2000 during its development. Is this true?
A: Two features were dropped from Windows 2000 RC2, Component Load Balancing (CLB) and the In-Memory Database (IMDB). CLB is a COM+ feature that barely worked and was admittedly lacking anyway; it was shelved in lieu of Microsoft's upcoming AppCenter Server, a Windows 2000 add-on which will be released in mid-2000. AppCenter Server will provide "virtually unlimited capacity" for Windows servers by providing idiot-proof fault tolerance, load balancing, cluster management, replication, and synchronization across any number of machines. The COM+ "In-Memory Database" (IMDB) feature was dropped post-RC2 and will not appear in the final release of Windows 2000. However, this technology, like the component load balancing feature mentioned above, was of limited usefulness and will see the light of day in the future.

Q: How come Windows 2000 can't detect my Iomega parallel port ZIP drive? How do I install this?
A: You need to tell Windows 2000 to use the parallel port in legacy PnP mode. To do so, open Device Manager (right-click My Computer -> Properties -> Hardware tab) and expand the Ports (COM & LPT) entry. Right-click the Printer Port (LPT1) entry and select Properties. In the Port Settings tab, select the Enable legacy Plug and Play detection option. When you reboot your system, the ZIP drive should be detected automatically.

If this doesn't work, you'll need to do some Registry editing. Run regedit and locate the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesParallelParameters key. Create a new DWORD value called ParEnableLegacyZip and give it a value of 1. Exit from regedit and run the Hardware Wizard (Control Panel -> Add/Remove Hardware) and your ZIP drive should show up.

Q: How do you disable the Windows 2000 splash screen? 
A: Thanks to Andrej Budja for the answer:  To disable the Windows 2000 splash screen, you need to add the text add /noguiboot to the entry in BOOT.INI that launches Windows 2000. For example, if you use the following BOOT.INI entry to boot:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)WINNT="Windows 2000" /fastdetect

Change this to:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)WINNT="Windows 2000" /fastdetect /noguiboot

Q: I'm currently running Windows 9x for games. Will I be able to upgrade to Windows 2000?  Will all my games work?  What about DirectX?
A: This is probably the question I get asked the most often, but the answer isn't very clear-cut: Basically, Windows 2000 will include the very latest version of DirectX/Direct3D (version 7.0a), complete with full hardware acceleration. So, yes, you should be able to play your Windows 9x games on Windows 2000.

However, there are two things that could mess this up for you, depending on your configuration. The list of 3D accelerators that is currently supported by Windows 2000 is quite small when compared with the list that is compatible with Windows 98.  So even though Windows 2000 can technically play the DirectX games you're used to, your card may not be supported under the new OS. This will improve over time, of course.

The other issue is games that look, specifically, for Windows 9x. Currently, I don't know of any way to circumvent this, other than a software upgrade from the game maker.

Q: Will Corporate Preview Program (CPP) customers be receiving the final version of Windows 2000 for free?
A: Sorry, no.

Q: Will the Microsoft Network (MSN) client software work with Windows 2000?
A: No, but Microsoft is working on a Windows 2000 version of the MSN client. Unfortunately, this will not be available in time for the initial release of Windows 2000, however. It is expected sometime in 2000. You can, of course, setup Outlook Express for MSN email in Windows 2000.

Q: Every time a print job, completes, I get this annoying dialog box announcing that the job printed successfully. I never got this under Windows 9x or NT 4. How do I turn this off?
A: You can turn this annoying dialog off at the print server or on a client-by-client basis. Either way, the process is the same: Open Control Panel -> Printers and choose Server Properties from the File menu. On the Advanced tab, uncheck the option Notify when remote documents are printed.

Q: What's up with DVD support in Windows 2000? Prior to Beta 3, there was a DVD player included in the base install, but it's not in the final release.
A: DVD support in Windows 2000 is roughly identical to that in Windows 98, with the exception that, as of now, there are fewer compatible hardware devices. If you have a Creative Labs DVD accelerator card or certain models of Toshiba laptops, you'll still get the DVD player in Windows 2000, and that will be true of the final release as well (older builds were hard-coded to just install the player, but that doesn't make sense for most people).

Basically, there is no support for software-only DVD playing directly in Windows 2000. You'd need to find a compatible player (impossible as this time, as I think you're discovering, though that will change), get a compatible DVD accelerator card, or get a DVD accelerator card that has Windows 2000 compatible drivers in the box (again, impossible at this exact moment, but that will change over time).

UPDATE: Rich Williams wrote in with news of a software DVD player that does work with Windows 2000: It's called WinDVD and you can find out more information here. Unfortunately, there's no freeware or shareware version; WinDVD costs about $50.

UPDATE 2: Stefan Borggraefe wrote in with news of another software DVD player for Windows 2000, called PowerDVD. This one offers a 30-day trial version so you can check it out before purchasing.

Q: My BOOT.INI file (used to display the Windows 2000 start-up menu, where you can choose which OS to load) uses a weird SIGNATURE() syntax that I've never seen before. In Windows NT 4.0, this always said SCSI() instead. What gives?
A: Beginning with Windows 2000, Microsoft has updated the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) syntax in BOOT.INI to support the SIGNATURE() syntax, which offers a more accurate method for Windows 2000 to boot up in certain conditions. You will see this syntax, which is otherwise identical to SCSI(), if you install Windows 2000 on a hard drive that is larger than 7.77 GB, or if the installation occurs past cylinder 1024 on that drive. You can also see this syntax if the BIOS on your SCSI controller is disabled.

So what does it do?  On an IDE system where the BIOS doesn't support INT13, the SIGNATURE() syntax allows Windows 2000 to find the correct drive mappings, regardless of how your SCSI controller numbers the drives. This is required for Windows 2000 because it is a Plug and Play operating system that must interoperate with disk controllers a certain way, so it could conceivably get incorrect information from the BIOS in a SCSI controller.

If you'd like more information, please refer to the Microsoft support article, Windows 2000 May Use Signature() Syntax in the Boot.ini File.

Thanks to Daniel M. Drucker for supplying some additional information.

Q: Will Windows 2000 install and work correctly on a dual Celeron system?
A: Yes, in fact my home Active Directory server is a two-way Celeron 433 system. Though this type of configuration is not directly supported by Microsoft because Intel has disabled it in the chip (though, of course, motherboard manufacturers have figured out how to get around it). The official word from Microsoft reads something like this:

"Dual Celeron processors are not supported by Windows 2000 or Window NT 4 because the processors themselves are designed by Intel not to support multiple processors. Of course, there are some new motherboards that allow you to run these CPUs as multi-processing systems, and in some cases, the systems work, but the CPU's are not designed to support this, so you will most likely encounter problems running this type of configuration. However, Windows 2000 does not block or prevent operations based on the type or number of CPU's that are installed."

In other words, it works fine, though Microsoft won't provide any support for such a system.

Q: I heard that Microsoft changed the SMP (Symmetrical Multiprocessing) feature in Windows 2000 during the beta. What changed?
A: Microsoft announced on August 16, 1999 that the final release version of Windows 2000 would provide better multiprocessing support that was previously announced. Specifically, the Server Edition was bumped from 2 to 4 four processor support, the Advanced Server Edition was bumped from 4 to 8 processor support, and the DataCenter Server Edition was bumped to 32 processor capability. Professional Edition, with support for up to two processors, is unchanged.

Q: I'm running Beta 3 or RCx. Can I upgrade to the final release?
A: Yes, Microsoft supports upgrading Beta 3 or newer to the final release of  Windows 2000.

Q: Can I upgrade Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) to Windows 2000? 
A: Yes, Microsoft supports this upgrade. In fact, I wrote a review of the process during the RC1 timeframe and it works great.

Q: What's the difference between Terminal Services in Windows 2000 and Windows NT Terminal Server 4.0?
A: Terminal Services are now integrated into Server and Advanced Server, rather than released as a separate SKU (product) as it was in Windows NT 4.0. This means that you can optionally install Terminal Services on any Windows 2000 Server machine and provide remote access to Windows-based clients without any additional software.

Interestingly, Microsoft has responded to my recommendation that Terminal Services be advertised as an excellent tool for remote administration and they are now using that feature as a major bullet point for this excellent technology.

Q: What about Citrix MetaFrame? What's the difference between Terminal Services and the Citrix offerings?
A: Microsoft's RDP-based Terminal Services can be thought of as the entry level, while Citrix's value-added ICA-based MetaFrame products offer more features, such as application publishing and advanced management features. Citrix will continue to add features to their products to differentiate them from Terminal Services. See the Citrix Web site for details.

Q: I have a newer system and I'm having trouble installing Windows 2000. The setup hangs or when the desktop finally does appear, many of my devices aren't working.
A: The problem may be ACPI power management. Windows 2000 tries to install ACPI on any system with a BIOS dated January 1, 1999 or newer and there's no way to disable it after Setup. To prevent ACPI from being installed, run the installation program and hit the F5 key when you see the text "Setup is inspecting your computer." Then, choose Standard PC as your system type.

Incidentally, if you've already installed Windows 2000 and you're wondering whether you're using APM or ACPI power management, open the Device Manager (alternate-click My Computer-->Properties-->Hardware tab-->Device Manager) and view devices by type. If you see "Standard PC" under Computer, you've got APM. ACPI systems will show a few ACPI entries instead.

Q: What happened to custom install?  Is there anyway I can tell Windows 2000 which components I'd installed?
A: Custom install is dead, but the good news is that you can, indeed, tell Windows 2000 which components to install, both before and after you set it up. To perform a custom install of Windows 2000, you'll need to write an unattended installation script, similar to the way you'd do this in Windows NT. I will be covering this in detail in a future Technology Showcase. If you'd like to remove components (such as Accessories, Communications, etc.) after installing Windows 2000, you can do it, but there's a trick to it: I've described this in my latest Tech showcase, "Removing Windows components after installation."

Q: What will the successor to Windows 98 be called?
A: That depends on which successor you're talking about. Microsoft is working on a minor revision to Windows 9x that will ship in 2000, code-named Millennium (think "Windows 98 Third Edition"). This "Consumer Windows" (or whatever it's called) will be based on the Windows 9x kernel, not the NT kernel used in Windows 2000. A future version of Windows 2000, code-named "Whistler," will include a consumer edition. Whistler is due in 2001-2002. 

It's worth noting here, incidentally, that only the name "NT" is gone in Windows 2000. What was the entire 9x/NT line is now simply called "Windows" (not including current versions, which will retain their old names). This means that future versions of Windows, which will all be based on what was the NT kernel, will be known simply as Windows. The "Professional," "Server," and other suffixes are used to denote the "edition" of Windows and the year ("2000" in this case) denotes the version (we can assume that version numbers like 5.0 and 6.0 will also be used, though not in marketing literature).

Q: Will Windows 2000 work on my laptop computer?
A: Yes. Windows 2000 works with APM and ACPI power management. Since most laptops support the older APM standard, Windows 2000 should work on most portable systems that meet minimum hardware requirements. But that's another problem: Precious few laptops have the horsepower to run Windows 2000. Even the mightiest 366 MHz Pentium II portable with 128 MB of RAM should be considered a bare minimum.

Q: Will Windows Update work with Windows 2000?
A: Yes, Windows Update is an integral feature of Windows 2000.

About the Author(s)

Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott is senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. He writes the SuperSite for Windows, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE.

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