Remembering Windows 2000, Microsoft’s Forgotten Masterpiece
Twenty years ago, Microsoft released Windows 2000. A rock-solid, 32-bit business-oriented alternative to Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition, it paved the way for future consumer versions, including Windows 10. Here’s why we remember it so fondly. It Was Based on Windows NT, Not MS-DOS Released worldwide on February 17, 2000, Windows 2000 started as Windows NT 5.0, the latest in the Windows NT line of professional Microsoft operating systems. Microsoft created Windows NT from scratch in the early 1990s as part of a fundamental shift away from MS-DOS-based versions like Windows 3.x. Throughout the ’90s, Microsoft maintained DOS-based Windows along with NT to serve those who were still dependent on legacy MS-DOS and 16-bit Windows software. Microsoft was eager to transition to NT for all, but the system requirements for a reasonably useful Windows NT machine far exceeded what most consumers had at home. By the late ’90s, many consumer PCs were finally powerful enough to run Windows NT, so they became ripe targets for potential Windows 2000 installations. Some at Microsoft hoped Windows 2000 would be the transition point for consumer Windows to become NT. However, Microsoft decided to hold off until Windows XP in 2001. This made many who used Windows 2000 feel that much cooler for getting a taste of a stable Windows operating system ahead of time. It Was Rock-Solid Stable, Unlike Windows Me Microsoft If you used a PC in the late ’90s, you were quite familiar with the frequent crashes, lockups, and reboots that were common on MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, and Windows 9x. The DOS-based PC ecosystem was a house of cards built on an ancient patchwork of code that ran on endless variations of hardware. As DOS-based Windows became more complex and feature-laden, more people began to rely on their PCs for serious work, and the instability issues came to a head. Windows 98 frequently required reboots and reinstallation to fix puzzling, recurrent issues with applications that conflicted with each other and the OS. Critics widely panned Windows Me (released in September 2000), the last in the line of MS-DOS-based Windows, for being bloated and unstable. Enter Windows 2000, which ran with rock-solid stability on the very same hardware most people used with Windows 98. At the time, being able to leave a computer running without it crashing, and not having to reboot after installing software seemed like a miracle. In fact, Microsoft included “Dramatically Reduced Reboot Scenarios” as one of the primary selling features of Windows 2000 on its website back in 2000. Some people were delighted to hear about the stability possible with an NT-based operating system. In December 2000, someone called DAEtrader posted the following about Windows 2000: “I assumed the weird lockups, or freezes, or erratic error messages were to be expected from any platform. But I’m encouraged to hear there is a more stable platform than Win98.” It Was Full of Useful New Features Windows 2000 shipped in four different editions: Professional, Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server. Windows 2000 Professional was aimed squarely at enterprise desktop customers and was the version used the most. All of them included advanced new features that made Windows 2000 an attractive upgrade for both Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 98. The new OS also introduced interface changes designed to align Windows NT with Windows 98. It also supported technologies like Active Desktop, » Read More
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