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Special Report - Windows 2000 Review: Say Hello to Win2000

Our tests show the successor to NT 4.0 is everything we hoped it would be. Of course, it isn't perfect either.
Should you move up to Windows 2000? By and large, that depends on who you are and what you're doing. There are many users who'll benefit hugely from having Win2000's features. But there are many others who'll get no real benefit -- and some who'll wind up only hobbling themselves with it. Here's a breakdown of who would benefit, who would not, and why:

Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional - Built on NT Technology

Business users, some of whom may already have 64MB or better computers, stand to gain big from Win2000. It is far more stable than Win98 for equivalent workloads, and allows a broader range of applications than NT 4.0. Also, it's built to handle new and exotic types of hardware, including thumbprint scanners, smart cards, and so on, which make business machines more secure.

Systems administrators who are contemplating implementing Win2000 on their servers or clusters should definitely look before they leap. Advanced server features like Active Directory are enticing but untested. Admins may appreciate the stability of the system, but will also want to test Win2000 Server in a controlled fashion before deploying it.

Laptop users are going to experience either very good or very bad results. Win2000 boasts better features for laptop users than NT 4.0, but doesn't support as wide a range of hardware for laptops as Win98, and often requires an up-to-the-second BIOS revision to be truly usable. Nowhere is the 64MB minimum for RAM any more clear than on a laptop PC. Take that requirement seriously. And remember to try enabling APM support in the Power Options Control Panel, because setup may not turn that on automatically. The best Win2000 notebook PC experience will be had by those who purchase a new portable PC with Win2000 pre-installed.

Hobbyists and enthusiasts who love to tinker, experiment, juice up their systems, and just plain mess around will have nothing but fun with Win2000. On well-equipped systems, Win2000 will outperform Win98 handily, match WinNT 4.0, and provide features that neither has. For power users, Win2000 is the way to go.

If you're a game enthusiast, upgrading to Win2000 is something of a toss-up. Win2000 offers better stability than Win98, and with support for DirectX 7.0 can run many of the same games as Win98 -- but those who play primarily DOS-based games may have problems, and users with less than 64MB of RAM or a 200MHz processor won't see much benefit. Choose based on your needs and your hardware configuration. Don't assume that adding Win2000 to your mega-game machine is going to fix everything. However, if you're looking to do more serious work in addition to gaming, Win2K might just be the ticket you need without setting up a dual-boot.

Casual home users who don't get much more out of their PCs than a well-processed letter and a balanced checkbook are not likely to get much out of Win2000. It demands far more resources than most casual home users may have to spare, and may in fact make a system perform worse, not better, at that level.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Greg Douglass, Global Lead for Technology Strategy & Advisory, Accenture
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter