Dual boot your network onto Windows 2000

If you're concerned about upgrading from Windows NT, get a feel for Windows 2000 by temporarily setting up a dual boot environment.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted May 3, 2000
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If your network is running primarily on Windows NT, you've probably been tempted to upgrade to Windows 2000. However, implementing a new operating system on production machines can be a little unnerving. A great way to get a feel for Windows 2000 before you begin the upgrade process is to temporarily set up a dual-boot environment on your own computer. By doing so, you'll be able to freely experiment with Windows 2000's new features without fear of accidentally destroying your existing configuration.

Setting up a dual-boot environment is simple: Just install Windows 2000 in a directory other than the one in which Windows NT is currently installed. Windows 2000 will update the boot menu, and you'll be free to switch between the two operating systems. However, you need to consider several issues before going ahead with the dual-boot configuration.

Hard disk issues

The first issue that you'll have to deal with is your hard disk space. Any time you dual boot between two operating systems, you must ensure that you have enough free disk space to support both operating systems.

You must also be sure that your partitions are formatted with a file system that both operating systems can read. Initially, the file system isn't a problem when you add Windows 2000; Windows NT is limited to using the FAT and the NTFS file systems, and Windows 2000 supports both of these file systems natively. However, you have to remember that Windows 2000 is also capable of working with FAT 32, which Windows NT doesn't support. So, if you format a new partition as FAT 32, Windows NT won't be able to access it.

Dynamic disks

"Dynamic disks aren't supported under Windows NT, and once you've converted a hard drive to a dynamic disk, there's no going back. "

Another issue to consider is that of dynamic disks. This new feature in Windows 2000 allows multiple hard drives to function as a single disk. Dynamic disks aren't supported under Windows NT, and once you've converted a hard drive to a dynamic disk, there's no going back. Therefore, this is one feature you shouldn't use until you've decided to completely switch over to Windows 2000.

Plug and play

One final issue to consider is that Windows 2000 supports plug and play, but Windows NT doesn't. Windows NT is very picky when it comes to hardware. If you install any new hardware, it's important to configure that hardware under Windows NT before trying to use it in Windows 2000. This configuration sequence is necessary because Windows 2000 could change the settings for your plug-and-play devices to make room for the new hardware. If this happens, the existing devices will no longer work under Windows NT without being reconfigured.

Of course, some devices will work only under Windows 2000. You take your chances when installing these devices in a dual-boot setting--just be aware of the potential consequences before doing so. //

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer and as the Director of Information Systems for a national chain of health care facilities. His past experience includes working as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. You can contact him via e-mail at Brien_Posey@xpressions.com. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.

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