U.S. daylight-saving time will start on March 11 this year -- three weeks earlier than usual. The change was authorized by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, but Microsoft says its Y2K-like implications mean computer users need to parry like it's 1999.
"Unless certain updates are applied to your computer, it is possible that the time zone settings for your computer's system clock may be incorrect during this four-week period," the software maker said in a statement issued Tuesday.
That could lead to all kinds of problems, from calendaring applications not working properly to key, automated processes not taking place on time.
Microsoft said the fix is already built into Windows Vista and Office 2007, but that earlier operating systems and applications could be hit by the problem. As of Tuesday, the company had released an update for Windows XP SP2 users via its Automatic Updates service. Users need to ensure they have Auto Update enabled.
Most of Microsoft's other major products, including Outlook 2007 and its predecessors, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Visual Studio, Windows CE, and a number of others, need to be updated, meaning some long nights may be in store for IT staffers leading up to the time switch.
Microsoft also warned that the problem isn't limited to its software. Consumer appliances such as VCRs and digital radios may not automatically adjust to the early start of daylight-saving time. Many systems on the business technology side also could be affected. IBM, for instance, has issued updates for some of its disk storage products and other systems.
In a research report, IT advisory firm Gartner is advising businesses to establish company-wide communications programs informing employees about possible effects of the early time changeover and to ensure that their tech departments are fully staffed on March 11 and 12.