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Be choosy

Jan 13, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

* Microsoft to stop allowing vendors to ship PCs with dual-boot capabilities for operating systems

You may have noticed the stories, but I evidently was too wrapped up in holiday shopping to see reports that Microsoft was going to end the practice of allowing hardware vendors to ship PCs with a dual-boot capability for Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Pro. Under the policy in force up to now, the purchaser, upon first booting the new machine, could choose which of the two operating systems was installed. They would only have that one chance to make the choice.

The new scheme would have vendors selling PCs with Windows XP installed. Purchasers would be able to install Windows 2000 on these machines under the terms of the XP license – but only if they could come up with the media to do the installation. The hardware manufacturers would no longer be allowed to ship machines with Windows 2000 Pro pre-installed.

Before you say “so what, I’ve got Win 2000 Pro CDs in my office,” take another look at that media. Some hardware vendors do ship media with their PCs, even though the operating system is already installed, just in case you need to do a re-install. But that media will only install to that PC. Been there, done that, spent half a day searching for the correct CDs.

There’s also the lost time you spend installing the downgraded operating system. Downgrading is not as simple as upgrading, you know. You need to remove all vestiges of the newer operating system lest a driver that’s not compatible with your operating system of choice be left hanging around just waiting to jump up and bite you when you install a new peripheral. The best way is to wipe the machine (can you say “fdisk” boys and girls?) and do a brand new install. But you would need to then re-install all applications (can’t just restore them, because you need the compatible drivers and libraries for the older operating system). If you foolishly waited until after the PC was issued to a user before thinking to downgrade the operating system, then you’d need to archive and restore any data the user had on the machine (not too difficult) as well as somehow save configuration and preference information for those applications you need to re-install (often very difficult).

Microsoft claims the change is an antipiracy issue. Many users, though, think that it’s just one more effort to move you from Win 2000 to XP. After all, if you continue to run Win 2000 then you won’t want to upgrade your apps to the XP-only versions, will you?

Bottom line: check with your PC vendor to find out exactly what choices you have. If you prefer Win 2000, insist that it be available. Then find a set of CDs that will allow you to do a fresh install over an XP operating system. A little bit of trouble now could save a lot of trouble later.