Planning is the first step to a successful installation.
Installing Windows 2000, Part 1
Planning is the first step to a successful installation.
- By Harry Brelsford
- January 01, 2000
A hearty online welcome to you. This is the first installment
of a new column that presents Windows 2000 (better known
on this site as "Win2K") topics for people who
aren't network gurus. My research shows that most articles
written about Win2K these days are intended for advanced
audiences, those who are incredibly comfortable with network
concepts, terminology, and activities. But, surprisingly,
in my day-to-day world of consulting as an MCSE, I'm far
more likely to run into and work alongside those less
experienced technical professionals yearning to improve
their Win2K skills. People after my own heart!
You'll probably also notice that I speak more towards
the small and medium-sized offices (SOMO) than I do the
enterprise organization in this column. Perusing the common
body of Win2K literature will show you that much of the
published works on this technology are aimed squarely
at the enterprise.
In this first session we're going to look at installing
Win2K and, more specifically, planning your installation.
Don't Break That Shrink-wrap Yet!
A significant amount of planning must occur before you
actually start swapping floppies or CDs. This section
will cover several critical planning areas: hardware,
software, and the always-important miscellaneous to-do
Two is Better Than One
Let me share a few insights regarding Win2K-specific
hardware needs beyond just advising the obvious (yes,
you need a computer or two).
I'd stick to name brands; Dell or Compaq come quickly
to mind. While working with Win2K in the final stages
of its development, I never did get it to install on my
reliable clone server; this clone, built by an MCSE-type
friend of mine, had sufficient Pentium-class processor
speed, memory (128M of RAM), and more than enough hard
disk space (over 4G). OK, I finally did get it to install,
but first I had to install Windows NT Workstation 4.0
and then upgrade to Win2K. What a pain!
On the other hand, installing Win2K on my testbed of
name brand computers (a Dell PowerEdge 1300 server and
a Compaq Professional Workstation 5100) was pleasantly
uneventful. Hardware components were detected, the operating
system was successfully installed, and so on. But far
from being bored by the process, I've learned a thing
or two relating to hardware planning, even with my best
Insist on a dual processor or better machine for running
any flavor of Win2K. Admittedly, much of my experience
to date with Win2K is based on versions distributed late
in the Win2K development cycle. This is typically code
that contains debugging symbols, resulting in significantly
higher overhead and less robust performance than you would
expect with the shipping version. And even with my dual
processor machines, Win2K had its slow moments. The lesson
I learned was this: Win2K is huge and really requires
a dual processor machine (otherwise, you'll be tapping
your fingers waiting for various Win2K components, such
as the Microsoft Management Console, a administration
tool, to start). The good news is that adequately-configured
dual processor machines are relatively cheap and can be
acquired for under US$3,000.
Regarding other hardware, I was pleased to see that,
to date, Win2K has offered a hardware driver for every
hardware component I've introduced into my network. These
hardware components include Hewlett Packard (HP) printers
using an HP JetDirect card, a DAT tape drive, and Sound
Blaster sound card.
Be sure to step back from your Win2K installation project
for a moment and ask yourself why you're installing Win2K.
Is it to be the first on your block (the cool factor)
to run Win2K? Are there compelling business factors? (Read
Anil Desai's article, "Getting Down to Business:
Selling Management on Windows 2000," in the November
1999 issue and my article, "Amazing Feast: Windows
2000 on the Table," in the December 1999 issue for
some insights on this.) Is it because you're determined
to become an MCSE and you want to start out with the latest
and shiniest technology? Don't shy away from exploring
your reasons for the installation. It could drive your
decisions in many areas: investment for test equipment,
timeframe, other resources you'll require, training options.
At some point in the future, you may discover that you've
got to install the software because your application vendor
demands it. Look for application vendors pushing accounting
and database management products to require Win2K upgrades.
Speaking of applications, it's critical to have a definite
answer as to whether your existing applications will run
on Win2K. Is your existing accounting system Win2K OK?
Planning and testing are important here; you don't want
to find out this vital information after the rollout is
scheduled; determine it up front. At the same time learn
all you can about whether your current applications will
take advantage of Win2K-isms such as Active Directory
(AD). That's the best of all worlds: an existing application
that's Win2K OK and exploits the Win2K strengths such
More Words to the Wise
Make sure you've taken a few minutes to acquire an Internet
domain name. This domain name will come in handy when
you install Win2K Server and want to name your internal
network domain the same as your Internet domain. And be
sure to order your Internet domain name several weeks
in advance of your Win2K installation. The organization
that assigns Internet domain names, Networking Solutions
sometimes has a significant backlog resulting in surprisingly
long fulfillment delays.
Likewise, make sure you've also selected an Internet
Service Provider (ISP) prior to jumping into a Win2K installation
(you'll need information from your ISP in order to reserve
your domain name). Call it a best practice, but it's much
more pleasant to have your ISP service ready when your
Win2K server is ready. Win2K, at many turns, assumes you're
ready to hop on the Internet (something you'll discover
in future columns).
Finally, remember, your first installation of Win2K should
take place in a test lab environment, a machine that won't
make your network come crashing down.
Let The Installation Begin
The installation process can be divided into three stages,
as seen in Figure 1: character-based setup, GUI setup,
|Figure 1. Win2K's three configuration
phases are similar in nature to the legacy NT Server
configuration phases, if you're familiar with those.
Starting with the Win2K Server boot disk (assuming a
Win2K Server installation), you'll swap out a total of
four floppy disks.
Shortly after inserting the first disk, the Win2K Server
boot disk, note that you can hit the F6 key to install
third-party storage device drivers such as RAID arrays.
This will be an important option as new storage devices
are introduced ahead of future Win2K releases. Why? Because
Win2K, while reasonably well equipped to detect nearly
all storage devices today, won't be able to keep this
edge as hardware manufacturers release new storage devices
never anticipated by Win2K.
I've counted 19 discrete steps in the character-based
setup, so understand that this is a fairly lengthy and
A few words about these 19 steps. It's here that the
foundation for your installation of Win2K is being laid.
That is, the storage devices, I/O cards and so on are
being detected. Needless to say, this is an important
stage, and I'd encourage you to watch it with interest.
A few extra minutes of attention during the character-based
setup phase will in all likelihood prevent hours of frustration
later. One example is your ability to confirm the hardware
devices you know to be installed on your system and detected
Be advised that if Win2K somehow misdetects a component,
you must be ready to step in and provide the component
manufacturer's driver disk; so be sure to organize and
have available the software that came with your workstation
(such as the SCSI card driver disk) before you start your
Another suggestion: You'll select between the NTFS or
FAT file system. Do yourself a big favor and select NTFS;
as the native file system for Win2K; it supports quotas,
advanced security, and compression.
Upon reboot, you'll enter the GUI setup phase, where
you'll provide the following information after device
detection (using a service called Device Manager):
- Name. Your given name is fine although many
organizations have naming conventions such as simply
entering the name "User".
- Licensing mode. Per Server or Per Seat. Per
seat is the most complete licensing method; it allows
the user to legally access all Win2K Server resources
on a network but tends to be more expensive. Contrast
that with per server, which lets you typically buy fewer
licenses so that only selected users can access specific
servers. An example of per server licensing is having
the accounting staff access only the accounting server.
- Computer name. The shorter the name the better;
you'll often have to type the computer name when mapping
a drive or during other maintenance chores. Naming conventions
vary. Kinko's, the chain of photocopy stores, is know
for naming its computers after Hollywood icons such
as Marilyn Monroe. Many sites incorporate a geographic
reference into the computer names such as SW1 for Southwest
- Administrator password.
- Win2K Components ranging from Certificate Services
to Terminal Services Licensing. For now, unless
you have compelling reasons to the contrary, just install
the suggested components. Once your Win2K machine is
up, running, fat and sassy, you can add additional components
on an as-needed basis. In future columns I'll discuss
optional Win2K components and how you'd install such
- Network Settings. Typical or Custom. The typical
setting will allow you to install basic networking based
on the default TCP/IP protocol. The custom setting allows
you to add more network functionality, such as the NWLink
IPX protocol to "talk" with NetWare servers.
Oh, and about the default TCP/IP protocol. It's the protocol
that forms the communication standard for most computers
running today on Planet Earth. Why? Because it's the protocol
for Internet-based communications.
Another reboot and you enter the configuration phase.
I dedicate next month's column to configuring Win2K above
and beyond the initial installation; but in this phase
you make basic configuration settings, including:
- Elect whether your machine is attached to a network
or not. You should know in advance whether your computer
will participate on a network or not.
- Answer whether your machine will operate as a domain
controller or not. Typically, the first computer running
Win2K Server on a network is a domain controller. A
machine running Win2K Professional isn't a domain controller.
The domain controller provides housekeeping functions
such as providing security for user logons.
- Configure Active Directory, DHCP, and DNS. This is
the land of future columns, but a Win2K Server machine
acting as a domain controller may well be asked to manage
the Active Directory, DHCP, and DNS functions. A Win2K
Professional machine will use Active Directory, act
as a DHCP client to get its TCP/IP network address,
and use DNS to resolve host names (such as finding that
new Web auction site!).
You now have a Win2K server machine. In all likelihood,
the process took 60 to 90 minutes. But don't be fooled.
Your Win2K journey has just started, and countless hours
of work await you. Next month you'll spend a few of those
hours configuring Win2K Server. Please join me back here,
same time, same place.