Windows 2000 - why do we still provide it?

Windows 2000 Logo

At a IT conference last year, we discussed if an older operating system such as Windows 2000 was still an option as a reliable desktop operating system for business today. Many IT professionals argued (quite rightly in my opinion) that Windows 2000 Professional certainly would be. Others added that Windows 2000 Pro was their favourite version of Windows.

Our team discussed this exact point and came to a similar conclusion - Windows 2000 Professional might have been the best desktop operating system that Microsoft produced, up until Windows XP Service Pack 2 came out.

That leaves Windows Vista and XP. There is no reason really to explain where Vista is concerned, why Windows 2000 and XP are better, more stable operating systems. Although on good specification systems Vista is reasonable, everyone now knows how it has turned out *Opens a new browser window and many technical support organisations such as ourselves are hesitant to recommend to our clients it as a result. While the current XP Professional is, in our opinion, the best Microsoft operating system currently available, when XP first shipped, it was slower than Windows 2000 Professional and more unstable. Until Microsoft shipped Service Pack 2, XP really wasn't that great.

What makes Windows 2000 Pro so great?

Windows 2000 Pro first went on sale in 2000. It was a direct descendant of Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and overcame many of NT's limitations by having a wider hardware compatibility list. It added Windows 9x features such as USB and Plug And Play support. Its minimum hardware requirements of 64MB of RAM and a 133 Mhz CPU were well below hardware that was being shipped at the time, so it ran really well on just about any machine you threw at it. There was no heavy GUI sitting on top of it, so response times were usually very fast. It also included an Application Compatibility kit that allowed more DOS and Windows 9x software to run on it than could run on NT Workstation.

One nice thing 2000 Pro lacked which showed up in XP was Windows Authentication. This makes installing and reinstalling Windows 2000 Pro much less of a headache than XP.

Microsoft stopped mainstream support of Windows 2000 Pro with Service Pack 4 and one Security Rollup Package. You can't get new software from Microsoft such as IE 7. That's not to say that you're stuck if you decide to use Windows 2000 Pro. You can still put a modern Web browser such as Firefox on it. You can also patch some of the security holes in 2000 Pro by putting a virus scanner and firewall such as ZoneAlarm on it. Microsoft will also continue Extended Support on Windows 2000 Pro until July 2010 which means that it will continue to create security patches for 2000 Pro until then.

The best there is, the best there was...

Windows 2000 Professional may be long in the tooth, but it's still a good choice for older equipment. It does infinitely more things than DOS. It overcame the hardware limitations of NT Workstation. It was way more stable than Windows 9x and could run almost all of the same software. It wasn't encumbered by the restrictions or the hardware requirements of Windows XP and Vista. With some added software and configuration changes, it's relatively secure. In short, Windows 2000 Professional may be the best desktop OS Microsoft ever shipped.

What about everything else Microsoft made before Windows 2000?

Arguably, MS-DOS 5.0 was probably the most stable and efficient operating system Microsoft ever made, but DOS's usefulness is long past. Any version of Windows before 3.1 was an interesting toy, but not very useful. Windows 3.1x was usable, but if you looked at it cross-eyed it crashed. Windows 9x was built on an architectural house of cards as the final version, Windows ME, proved beyond a doubt. The various versions of NT Workstation, from NT Workstation 3.1 (really 1.0) through 4.0 (really 3.0) were OK but limited by hardware restrictions and software incompatibility.


Windows XP (and 98 before it) has a utility called msconfig which can “tweak” your start up. We discovered that you can copy msconfig.exe from Windows XP and place it in the system32 folder on a Windows 2000 system (usually C:\WINNT\system32). Then just go to your Run command window (windows key + R) and type in msconfig and hit enter.

We would recommend using a newer version copied from XP Service Pack 2 onwards or it can be downloaded from a new browser window

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