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Last Updated December 10, 2003

Windows 2000 Preinstallation Checklist icon

Windows 2000 Pre-Installation Checklist

Windows 2000 is suppose to be easier to learn and work with than Windows NT, and the bulk of our experience has been that this true. But we find a lot of people having trouble with the installation. Here's our pre-installation guide to help ensure a smooth and successful migration.
 Before you start....
If you're already familiar with NT 4.0, most of the Windows 2000 installation procedures won't be difficult for you at all. There are a few installation tricks, but a little bit of forethought and preplanning will go a long way if you're installing Windows 2000 for the first time.

A few tips to keep in mind if you are upgrading existing hardware:

Windows 2000 preinstallation checklist icon Make sure you meet the minimum system requirements. 
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens all the time. Sure, you can squeak Windows 2000 on a system that has less than the minimum hardware requirements, but you won't be happy with the performance. You'll want at least a Pentium 133 with 64Mb of RAM and 1GB of free disk space for Windows 2000 Professional. For Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server you'll want 256Mb of RAM. Remember: Windows 2000 was built for tomorrow's hardware, not today's. If you can afford it, you'll be much happier if you upgrade to a new workstation or server with a +500Mhz processor and all the RAM you can afford.
Document your Hardware and see if an updated Windows 2000 driver exists. 
If you don't already know every inch of your workstation or server, it's much easier to figure out your exact hardware configuration when Windows NT/95/98 is still installed. Do this first, and download the new Windows 2000 drivers before you start your installation. At the very least, download your SCSI, Video, Network Interface Card, and Modem drivers so you'll be able to get the rest later.
Check the Hardware Compatibility List
Many people skip this step and just proceed anyway, but you could be making a big mistake. Windows NT and Windows 2000 are a lot less flexible when it comes to hardware than Windows 95/98. The HCL exists for a reason. Check it first.
Go for a clean install instead of an upgrade. 
Although Microsoft supports upgrading Windows 95/98 and Windows NT Workstations installations to Windows 2000 Professional, you're better off doing a fresh install and reinstalling your critical applications afterwards. Upgrading Windows NT 4.0 is the smoothest path. Upgrading Windows 95/98 is a two step process that's a bit bumpier. Check the side bar for links to our Windows 2000 BugWatch. 
Buy a new hard drive. 
Hard Drives are cheap and Windows 2000 likes plenty of breathing room. So if you can - take the plunge and buy a new 10-30 GB drive. This will immediately solve 2 problems for you. If you remove your current drive and install Windows 2000 on the new drive, you'll have a fresh installation on clean hardware. If your installation happens to fail, you can reinstall your old drive (with your old operating system and applications intact) and you're back in business. Cheap insurance considering you can get a 40GB drive for around $150.00 
Test your hardware and applications if you can. 
If you can't afford a new drive and happen to have an old hard drive laying around that's over 2GB, it's perfect for doing some test installations. Pull out your old hard drive, install the test hard drive and see how the installation works on your hardware. Now install your applications one by one. Everything working okay? No? Aren't you glad you did it this way first?
Uninstall Anti-Virus software and Third party Utilities
Anti-Virus programs and Disk/System Utilities (like Norton) can cause a number of issues during the upgrade process. Don't assume that utilities built for Windows 95/98 and older versions of Windows NT will work with Windows 2000. Uninstall them, check with the vendor, and be careful when your reinstall.
Be careful when upgrading laptops
Windows 2000 Professional is being touted by some as being the ultimate OS for laptops, however laptops computers frequently have proprietary drivers and can be a bit finicky when using a different Operating System. Check with your laptop manufacturer, or check the Microsoft support online database. 
If you must upgrade, backup your data first. 
I know it sounds like common sense, but I've heard lots of stories from people who have tried to upgrade their Operating Systems without a backup. Sad but true. 
To Dual Boot, or not to Dual Boot...
Don't forget that Windows 2000 supports dual boot. We've tested it on both Windows NT and Windows 98 systems (running the FAT file system, not FAT32) and all went well. Something to consider if you're not ready to take the full time plunge to Windows 2000, and you don't have a spare test workstation. Just make sure to install Windows 2000 on its own partition, and keep in mind that uninstalling it in this configuration can be tricky. If are currently Dual Booting Windows 95/98 and Windows NT, DO NOT try to upgrade the Windows 95/98 partition to Windows 2000. For additional information check out our Dual-Boot Resource Center
If you're dual booting Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, load SP4 first
NT 4.0 can't access NTFS 5 partitions natively, so if you plan to dual boot Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, make sure you have upgraded your NT 4.0 installation to Service Pack 4 or higher. When Windows 2000 installs on the system (or anytime it boots) and detects an older version of NTFS on any disk in your system, it will convert the file system to NTFS 5. If  you've already upgraded and need to fix this problem, copy the NTFS40.SYS file from the \i386 folder on Windows 2000 CD to the %systemroot%\system32\drivers folder on your NT 4.0 installation partition. For more information see TechNet article Q184299
Check Service Pack Requirements for BackOffice Products
If you're upgrading NT Server to Windows 2000, and you have Microsoft BackOffice products loaded (SMS, SQL, Exchange, Site Server, Small Business Server, etc.,) make sure you load the recommended service pack for that product before you upgrade.
Choose your File System 
When upgrading your Operating System, you have a few choices to make and some pre-configuration to do. First off, try to choose which file system you'll want installed. Microsoft recommends NTFS over FAT or FAT32, but that's up to you. If you choose FAT or FAT32 initially, you can upgrade to NTFS after the installation using NT's CONVERT utility. But you can't go back.
Uncompress your drives. 
Before installing Windows 2000, check to see if your drives are compressed using DriveSpace or DoubleSpace. Drives compressed with the NTFS File compression system are supported by Microsoft.
Disable Disk Mirroring. 
If your running NT Server, disable any mirroring during the installation. You can re-enable it after the installation is complete.
Disconnect Uninterruptible Power Supplies. 
Windows 2000 features plug and play which will attempt to discover the function of any hardware connected to the system. If your UPS connects to your Workstation or Server using a serial cable, disconnect it before starting your installation.
Other configuration options.
Don't forget about the usual NT configuration options. Networking protocols, TCP/IP settings, License options (per server or per seat), drive partitions, etc.,
Give Windows 2000 its own separate partition
Experienced NT Admins swear by this. Give Windows 2000 its own partition of at least 2 GB, or 4GB if you can afford it. If you install Windows 2000 on C:\, then install your applications on D:\ with data and other file storage on subsequent drives. This will simplify some backup strategies, give the registry and system files some breathing room, and leaves room for Service Packs and updates. It also leaves room for larger crash dump files, since your dump file will equal your physical memory + 1Mb.
Beware when re-installing your applications. 
Another source of sad tales from the trenches. "The Windows 2000 installation went great until I installed...." Don't assume that every application that runs on NT will run on Windows 2000. Be very careful with applications that may overwrite your Windows 2000 video, CD-ROM or SCSI drivers with older ones. Known issues exist with CD-R software, PC Anywhere, and Zip Drives.

Related Links:

Windows 2000 Installation and Configuration Resource Center
Dual Boot Resources

Known Windows 2000 installation issues

Known Win9x - Win2000 Upgrade Issues

Known WinNT - Win2000 Upgrade Issues

Additional Resources

Windows 2000 HCL
The Windows 2000 Hardware Compatibility List.

Win2000 System Requirements
Make sure you meet the minimums before you start.

Product Compatibility Search
Find out if your applications are compatible with Windows 2000 before you install them.

Microsoft's Windows 2000 Installation Checklists.
Most of its covered here, but you may want to take a look.

Installation Hints and Tips  
Windows NT Magazine Columnist Paula Sharick shares a sampling of the hazards you'll face when you install or upgrade to Windows 2000. Source: Windows & .NET Magazine (Nov 1999)

Readiness Analyzer
The Windows 2000 Readiness Analyzer tool analyzes your system and reports potentially incompatible hardware devices and software applications. The tool compares the devices and applications on your system against a list of known issues. Although this check also occurs during Windows 2000 Setup, you can download and run the tool before installing Windows 2000 to help ensure your installation will succeed.

Choosing between FAT, FAT32, and NTFS.
You can choose between three file systems for disk partitions on a computer running Windows 2000 Server: NTFS . NTFS is the recommended system

Windows 2000 Installation and Configuration Resources
Our collection of articles and links related to installing and configuring Windows NT/2000

Windows 2000 BugWatch

NT 4.0 Upgrade Issues
Win95/98 Upgrade Issues


Well, that should about cover the pre-planning phase of your installation. We hope this article was useful to you and saved you a few headaches. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to write the author at

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