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Mark Minasi Q&A: NT 4.0 -- Hold 'em or fold 'em?

It's the beginning of the end for Windows NT. But can an operating system as popular as NT 4.0 ever become truly obsolete? Find out what supreme Alpha geek Mark Minasi thinks on this and other important Windows issues.

It's the beginning of the end for Windows NT, says Microsoft. But can an operating system as popular as NT 4.0 ever become truly obsolete? Find out what supreme Alpha geek Mark Minasi thinks on the matter in this lively  webcast and wide-ranging dialog with members. Minasi's replies to questions he didn't answer in the webcast are published below. You can click here to download his webcast PowerPoint presentation. Have you looked at Windows PE and what are your thoughts about the new release of PE in October?
Mark Minasi: PE is a fairly simple product; think of it as a "boot floppy" for the NT world. (Although it's a GUI and it's a book CD, not floppy.) Sysinternal uses it as their platform for ERD Commander; it seems a useful tool. I can understand that Microsoft may not want to fix non-security bugs, but can they really live without fixing security bugs?
Mark Minasi: Well, they seem to think so. What determines the end of life for the OS? Is it support for the product?
Mark Minasi: From the vendor's point of view, yes. And for the client as well. After all, if you need to upgrade to a new application and the server can't support the application and there aren't any more patches, then you're kind of out of luck. What's a good patch management tool?
Mark Minasi: Depends on how much money you want to spend. I like SUS. Others like HFNetChkPro or Update Expert. Some use SMS. This relates to workstations, should you go from NT4.0 to 2000 then XP or NT4.0 to XP?
Mark Minasi: Straight to XP. You'll love it from a support point of view. What is the big difference between Win2k and Win2003? Is it just bug fixes and small enhancements?
Mark Minasi: This is a LONG story (See my 1,800 page book!) I'd say bug fixes and medium-sized enhancements as well as XP enhancements. If possible I'd go to 2003. Do you foresee the same lifespan for 2000 and XP? Or will it simply come down to Microsoft supporting them?
Mark Minasi: Microsoft says seven years. I have no idea what will actually happen. But let's say that they ship Longhorn in 2006; I suspect that people will be using 2000 at least through 2007 and potentially 2008. Any chance of an XP seminar in Seattle?
Mark Minasi: Perhaps spring 2004 -- sometime around May. Are there cases where compatibility is better when you upgrade an older system rather than a clean install? I am thinking of cases where we have obsolete hardware or software that isn't certified for Windows XP.
Mark Minasi: Not really. Either the driver is there, or it isn't. Remember the /checkhardware only option on Setup -- that'll check your drivers. What do you think are the chances of a blaster type problem on NT 4 SP5?
Mark Minasi: Excellent, if you don't patch the system. Please talk about Microsoft's lack of upgrade options for Windows 2003. I can't upgrade to it from any other prior version.
Mark Minasi: I have successfully upgraded 2000 and NT 4 servers to 2003. What's your prediction of a worm/virus attacking NT4 in January 2005?
Mark Minasi: Unlikely. It's more likely it'd look like either a new vulnerability found in, say, April 2005 or a worm exploiting it in June 2005. In between, journalist types like me beat on Microsoft. Then it's up to them to see whether or not they'll do a patch. Should we wait for SP1 for 2003?
Mark Minasi: No. Why use VMware when 2003 includes Virtual Server?
Mark Minasi: I'm not aware that it does. As far as I know, it's still beta and not generally available. I could easily be wrong. Would you recommend Win2k or XP for desktop deployment?
Mark Minasi: Windows XP, hands down. It's far easier to support. I still have NT 4.0, with new server hardware. Should my company upgrade to 2003? My hunch is to skip 2000 in order get the benefits of three added years of AD development work and avoid known pitfalls.
Mark Minasi: Assuming that there are no in-house tools that are incompatible with 2003, I'd use that.

Mark, just curious what happened to the Software Conspiracy book link on your Web site? I'd like to read it but can't get to it.
Mark Minasi: I just tried and it worked fine; give it another shot. I thought you should know that in  KB article 824146, there are separate patches for NT4 server and NT4 Workstation. They are 2K different in size.
Mark Minasi: Thanks for the information! Is my NT4 server behind a NAT (Network Address Translation) router safe from the Port 135 defect?
Mark Minasi: Yes, as long as you do not open the port.

Click to part 2 for more on third-party support, licensing and feature bloat.



Mark Minasi is a best-selling author, popular technology columnist, commentator and keynote speaker. Mark is probably best known for his books Mastering Windows NT Server, Mastering Windows 2000 Server and The Complete PC Upgrade and Maintenance Guide. Mark has also authored 17 other technology books, spoken on technical topics in 20 countries, and written and performed in a dozen technical education videos.

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