Expert tackles users' Win2k/XP problems

SearchWindowsManageability expert Serdar Yegulalp answers questions on the little quirks and tricky technical issues that can make or break your Windows systems.

Little things mean a lot when managing Windows NT/2000 and Windows XP servers and clients. They can mess up a lot, too. When little things -- like file formats, logins, and boot partitions -- cause big problems for IT managers, they send an SOS to SearchWindowsManageability's Windows guru Serdar Yegulalp. As publisher of The Windows 2000 Power User newsletter and technology columnist for TechTarget, Yegulalp knows the Windows beat....

Here are his top five answers to some tricky Windows manageability questions submitted by users.

User problem #1: My company is new to Windows XP. How can I use the FAT32 format, so others can copy files back and forth between machines? Every option to format gives me only the choice of NTFS format. I'm also having trouble logging on as administrator. One of the five logons displays administrator rights, but no password is required to logon as that person. Can that be a true administrator? I have NT 4.0 MCP in Workstation and Server.

Yegulalp: If you're formatting a drive in XP with the Format command in Explorer, you're presented with NTFS by default. NTFS is a lot more stable and more secure than FAT32 -- it has better error-correction and recovers from problems more reliably. For that reason NTFS is generally preferred as the file system for new drives.

If you're formatting the drive as FAT32 for backwards compatibility, that's a good reason, though. However, if you're networking out the drive, it doesn't need to be any particular filesystem: both FAT32 and NTFS drives can be read across the network.

If you really want to force a drive to format as FAT32, you can do this through the command line: Type FORMAT [drive] /FS:FAT32 to force formatting a drive in FAT32. To set up logical drives, right-click on My Computer, select Manage, and go to the Disk Management tool, in which you can add, remove, or manipulate partitions and logical drives.

The default user set up in WinXP is always set up as an administrator, and unless a password was explicitly set during setup, there won't be one. If you go into Control Panel | User Accounts, you should be able to see the entire list of accounts and their respective permissions.

User problem #2: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the FAT32 file system? My present file system is FAT16, and I am also using Linux.

Yegulalp: FAT32 is best for cross-compatibility with other platforms. There are NTFS file system drivers for Linux, but not really for Windows Me. FAT32, however, can be read more or less transparently by both operating systems.

There is also a slight speed gain in FAT32, but not enough to justify changing over on that basis alone, since the difference is usually more than made up for by today's hardware.

User problem #3: How do I create an MS-DOS boot partition with HPFS or NTFS?

Yegulalp: One option is to create a new partition on the disk. If you still have room left for a partition, mark that as bootable, and install the boot files there. I'd recommend using a third-party boot manager for this. Also, you can create a bootable MS-DOS floppy disk, which is generally less of a headache. You can download one from www.bootdisk.com.

User problem #4: Should I change the name on the Administrator built-in account on Windows NT/2000 servers and PCs?

Yegulalp: Some people recommend that this be done periodically to heighten security, and in some senses they are correct. It is much more difficult for someone to hack into the machine from the outside if the admin account name changes. However, there's little or no real heightened security if the machine is hacked from within via a trojan or some other form of subterfuge.

In Windows NT/2000/XP, the user's name is actually not as important as the GUID, or globally unique identifier, that is generated for the user account. The GUID is what is used to track permissions and security for an account and not the name per se.

On the server I administer, I periodically change the username and password for the admin account. However, when I do this, I have to manually reset any of the batch jobs that are run with that account name -- such as the automated jobs that run in SQL Server with admin permissions (which are required to perform certain tasks). Bear this in mind if you change the admin account name and suddenly things don't work like they used to -- you may need to re-initialize how the names are handled since they don't synchronize automatically in third-party apps.

User problem #5: I can't get Windows 2000 Professional to permit direct printing from DOS. I tried this on three systems, two networked and one standalone, each with a dedicated printer. Each had a dedicated printer attached. All DOS print jobs appear to be spooling no matter how the printer setup is maintained. In NT there was a command to "DO NOT SPOOL DOS PRINT JOBS."

Yegulalp: You may want to try changing the settings for the printer to print directly to the printer rather than spool jobs. To do this, select the Properties for the printer in question, select the Advanced tab, and then choose "Print directly to the printer."

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