Let's face reality here: Despite the fact that Windows 2000 Professional is aimed squarely at corporate desktops and mobile users, all kinds of people are going to want to upgrade to the latest and greatest when it arrives late this year. Based on almost two years of experience with Windows 2000, I can say that most of these people are going to be disappointed:  Very disappointed. But that doesn't mean the upgrade won't be a good move for some people. Mobile users, the so-called power users, programmers, and anyone else that likes to get the most from their system are good candidates for the upgrade.

Will it work?

To find out, I've upgraded three Windows 98 machines to Windows 2000 Professional Release Candidate 1 (RC1): A Toshiba 490XCDT Satellite Pro laptop with a 266 MHz Pentium II and 160 MB of RAM, a Dell Dimension XPS-R400 with a 400 MHz Pentium II and 128 MB of RAM (since upgraded to 256 MHz of RAM), and an old Dell Dimension XPS-P166c with a 166 MHz Pentium and 128 MB of RAM. The screenshots you see to the left are from the Toshiba upgrade, which occurred most recently and presented the fewest problems. However, I'll be talking about all three upgrades in this review.

First things first: Don't even attempt this upgrade unless you've got a kicking system: Windows 2000 drowns in anything less than a Pentium II with 128 MB of RAM, which should be considered the most bare-bones install. I recommend more RAM (way more for Server) and more processing power if you can spring for it. Also, most people shouldn't currently be upgrading their day-to-day OS with a Beta, even one that's as stable as Windows 2000. A dual-boot install is preferred until you're sure that Windows 2000 is going to be everything you want it to be.


First things first: Preparing for the Upgrade
Each of my Windows 98 installs were fairly typical: I use a variety of applications regularly, such as Microsoft Word 2000, Visual Studio 6.0, and Outlook Express (Figure 1) . For each installation, Windows 98 SE (build 2222) was upgraded (note: Windows 2000 Beta 3 does not support Windows 98 Second Edition as an upgrade. Only RC1 and later will upgrade 98 SE). And each of these installs had a clean Device Manager with no "unknown devices" listed. All of the software worked perfectly. Plus! for Windows 98 was installed on each machine as well; I figured that might prove interesting, since none of the Plus!98 applications will otherwise install on Windows 2000.

After agreeing to install Windows 2000 RC1, the setup program informed me that my McAfee VirusScan program needed to be shutdown (Figure 2) . Then the full-screen graphical setup began (Figure 3) . I chose "Upgrade to Windows 2000," crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best. Before Windows 2000 will upgrade Windows 98, it explains the steps it needs to go through (Figure 4) and then asks you whether you have any "upgrade service packs," (Figure 5) which will presumably begin appearing when Windows 2000 is actually released.


Then, I was prompted to "upgrade" my file system to NTFS 5.0, the new file system introduced in Windows 2000 (Figure 6) . On the laptop install, I chose not upgrade since FAT32 is faster and lighter, but I did choose NTFS on the two desktop systems. 

Then setup prepared an upgrade report (Figure 7) , which is designed to explain any incompatibilities you may have with Windows 2000. Each system had at least one hardware device that wasn't found, though in the laptop's case it seemed innocuous: an "unknown device" (Figure 8) was found to be incompatible, and this later revealed to be a game port, no biggie. But the two desktops were another story altogether: Windows 2000 wouldn't work with the Connectix Web cam or the parallel port scanner on my Pentium II system and it refused to even see the sound card (a Creative Labs model, no less) on the P166.

When the upgrade report was completed (Figure 9) , I was given the option to view, save, or print it. I actually saved a copy of the laptop's install report (which you can view here) and wasn't too shocked by the news: A couple of things would need to be reinstalled, but nothing serious. Other upgrade reports had mentioned that some software wouldn't work, but in most cases, the software actually did work after install.

At this point, setup tells you that it's ready to upgrade (Figure 10) . It also notes that the process will take 30-45 minutes, which is a gross understatement. Setup copies the files it needs (Figure 11) and then reboots your system (Figure 12) .  It will never be the same again...


DOS mode and GUI Windows 2000 Setup
Once the machine reboots, it goes through two distinct Setup phases: A DOS-mode file copy sequence that's eerily similar to the old Windows NT 4.0 Setup and a gross-looking VGA-mode GUI Setup. The DOS portion of Setup takes only five minutes or so, but the GUI portion requires almost an hour (more like 75 minutes on the P166). During this time, it does through a similar series of steps as the fresh install, adding components, setting up the Start Menu, and whatnot. One particularly nice feature is that you don't have to touch the keyboard even once: Windows 2000 will simply grab your settings from Windows 98. Nice.

And then it rebooted to start Windows 2000.  Dear God.


Frankenstein monster or elegant upgrade?
After rebooting, Windows 2000 started up. The first dialog I was presented with required me to create a password for all of the user accounts that were created during Setup. In my case, I had two in each case, "Administrator" and "paul" (which is the account I had created in Windows 98).  I entered the password (which apparently is used for both accounts, odd) and was presented with the standard Windows 2000 "Log On to Windows" dialog, which I found odd since I had configured TweakUI to auto-login.

After about thirty seconds of furious disk whirring, the Windows 2000 desktop appeared (Figure 13) . Windows 2000 had replaced my Windows 98 Active Desktop wallpaper (Figure 1) with its own, new, Windows 2000 wallpaper (Figure 14) . I removed this and noticed that it also replaced the default Windows 98 teal background with the newer medium blue used in Windows 2000. 

Then I started milling around, to see what had changed. Here's what I discovered:

  • Display Properties - Numerous wallpaper was added, despite the fact that I had installed none in Windows 98. Power management went from a wonderfully featured-filled applet in Windows 98 to a rather underwhelmingly simple applet in Windows 2000. The Windows 2000 color scheme had completely replaced my stock Windows 98 scheme, but that is still available as "Classic Windows." Hmm. All of my effects--font smoothing and the like--were retained, nice.
  • My Computer - My previous toolbar display style (Large icons, no text) was wiped out and replaced with Small icons, no text. I had some mixed reactions to the lack of icons in My Computer: In Windows 98, I had quick access to Web Folders, Printers, the Control Panel, the IR applet (laptop only),  Dial-Up Networking, and the like from My Computer. In Windows 2000, this was replaced by a single Control Panel folder. It took a while of rooting around to find the other tools.
  • Documents and Settings - Because I had a single user profile in Windows 98, my Documents were stored in C:\My Documents and my desktop was found in C:\Windows\Desktop. Windows 2000 moved the Desktop folder into an appropriate subfolder in C:\Documents and Settings, in keeping with the Windows 2000 style. But My Documents remained right in the root of C:, an odd decision given that a My Documents folder was also created under my profile in C:\Documents and Settings.
  • My Network Places - In Windows 2000, My Network Places replaced Network Neighborhood. The Web Folders I had setup in Windows 98 were brought over intact, and each computer was correctly connected to the local network.  And my shared drives carried over intact.
  • Applications - This is where I was expecting the most problems, but I was pleasantly surprised overall. Office 2000 applications started and ran properly, even retaining their MRU lists from before the upgrade. Visual Basic, however, crapped out with a "Can't find file DAO350.DLL" error. I reinstalled that one later (see below). MSDN Library 6.0 and Visual InterDev 6.0 appear to run properly. Outlook Express and Internet Explorer 5.0 run great, of course, though I had to reinstall the Microsoft Proxy Server 2.0 client before I could access the Internet (to be fair, this was mentioned in the setup report). As for Plus!98, most of the icons for the applications I was using were removed. Windows 2000 includes a version of the Deluxe CD Player anyway, and it has its own Maintenance Wizard. Oddly enough, it left a program group for McAfee VirusScan, which isn't compatible with Windows 2000 and no longer runs on startup. Windows 2000 setup its own version of IIS because I had previously setup Personal Web Server 4.0, nice.
  • Add/Remove Programs - With all the changes that had happened to my configuration, I wanted to take a look and see how these were reflected in Add/Remove Programs. Plus!98 was nowhere to be seen, prompting me to delete the Start Menu program group it left behind. This also caused me to notice that the Recycle Bin had been reset to its default values, despite the fact that I had explicitly set it up to not move delete files to the Bin (Figure 15) . I fixed that quickly. And despite the fact that Windows 2000 had wiped out my IntelliPoint 3.0 install with its own built-in mouse applet, IntelliPoint still showed up in Add/Remove Programs. It did, however, allow me to remove the software (Figure 16) . The entry for Personal Web Server, unfortunately, threw up several error messages when I tried to remove that. For the heck of it, I went into the Visual Studio setup from Add/Remove Programs to see whether simply reinstalling the suite would get Visual Basic working again. And guess what, it worked great!  I'm still shaking my head over that one.


Conclusion
The upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows 2000 Professional is surprisingly painless, though it still has a few quirks. From a perfectionist's standpoint, some of the glaring file system differences between an upgrade and a fresh install of Windows 2000 will be irritating. And depending on what software you had installed, you're bound to have leftover junk on your system after the upgrade, not working but taking up space. Remember that your mileage will vary, depending on the hardware and software you're using.

On the other hand, assuming you can live with these issues and the performance differences (or you're just lucky enough to have a screaming fast system), the upgrade works and it works well. You're given enough information before you commit to the upgrade to back out, so it's nothing to worry about until you let the system copy the files it needs and reboot that first time.


So I'm surprised to say that I recommend this upgrade to Windows 98 power users that just have to have the latest and greatest. I'm still a bit nervous about the quality of the upgraded systems, but this will become clearer over time. For right now, however, the Windows 98 to Windows 2000 works.