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Here’s a shocking bit of news for all you IT folks out there- Windows 9x isn’t exactly the most stable OS in the world. And since I needed an operating system that wasn’t likely to crash in the middle of an interview (as it recently did), I decided that it was time to put Windows 2000 Professional on my desktop. And being naturally brave and virile, I would ignore all the conventional wisdom and good advice I’d gotten over the years and try to do an in-place upgrade from Windows 98.

Stop laughing.

Now my box is a relatively new, PIII-800 MHz unit with a 32MB Nvidia GeForce graphics card, 128MB of RAM, and a 30 GB hard drive. For libel purposes, I won’t name the maker (although I can say that their mascot is a big, stupid, cud-chewing farm animal, the likes of which we have many here in east Tennessee).

I popped in the Windows 2000 Professional CD (so far, so good), and the program thoughtfully asked if I wanted to upgrade or clean install. Upgrade! I said, feeling braver by the moment.

The next few moments sapped all my bravery. The CD started loading files. Then it stopped loading files. Then my computer stopped doing anything - anything. Frozen as hard as a bowling ball.

No problem. Little three-fingered salute, and I’d be back up and running ASAP.

Stop laughing.

Ctrl-Alt-Del did nothing. So now my computer wouldn’t load either OS - the new or the old. It just stared darkly at me, feeling nice and smug at having deflated my ego a few points.

Not to worry, I said to myself. After all, I have a system restoration CD! And the fact that I bought the computer from a well-known OEM, which shall remain nameless (but which ships their stuff in white boxes with funny black splotches all over them), gave me confidence that I’d be up and running again in minutes, albeit with Windows 98 instead of 2000.

I placed the CD gingerly in the tray and closed it. Nothing happened. Nada. Zippo.

Reboot. Nothing. The system wouldn’t even recognize the CD/DVD player. My system restoration CD, I learned, is really a system Rest-In-Peace CD, suitable for placing coffee mugs on top of. My computer was as dead as the Bengals’ chances of winning the Super Bowl.

I told you before to stop laughing.

Fortunately, I had backed up everything important before beginning this grand adventure, so I had my emergency backup to the emergency backup.

I figured that now would be a good chance to change strategy. After all, everyone knows you can’t do an in-place upgrade from 98 to 2000. So, a little FDISKing and software loading later, I had my machine all set up with the Power and Ease of Windows 2000.

All in 16 glorious colors at 640X480 resolution! Hmmm. It appears that Windows 2000 doesn’t have a driver for my video card. Strange, since it’s a new card, and 2000 is a new OS. Oh well, not to worry. I’ll just check my OEM’s Web site for an updated driver. You know the story by now, don’t you? The manufacturer of my PC didn’t have any drivers, 2000 or otherwise, for my particular card, the card they installed themselves.

So, after a call to Microsoft tech support (some help), I finally found the driver on Nvidia’s Web site (although not for my specific card, but a catch-all driver that did seem to work).

Then I found my big mistake. In the process of napalming my hard drive, I wiped out the software for my Panasonic DVD player. It worked okay as a CD player, but I had no way to watch Groundhog Day in spectacular resolution on my 21-inch monitor. Another trip to my manufacturer’s (who shall remain nameless) Web site.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to contact this particular company for tech support, but there is NO PHONE NUMBER FOR TECH SUPPORT listed in their tech support section. Or anywhere else on their site. Maybe you can find one – I couldn’t. And it’s not like this is Billy Bob’s Down-Home Computer N’ Chitlin Shack (the kind you find here in east Tennessee). We’re talking a large company, with many thousands of customers.

But you can Chat with a Tech. You can’t actually Talk to a Tech, but they love to Chat. Since I was in a Chattin’ mood, I queued up, and after 20 minutes or so, my Chattin’ Tech arrived. We got along fine, my Chattin’ Tech and me. He didn’t help me one iota, but he did have the satisfaction of cutting me off in the middle of our Chat, the cyber equivalent of slamming down the phone in my ear. Here’s the entire raw transcript of our Chat, if you wish to read it (of course, the name of the company has been cleverly disguised, in the interest of not hurting anyone’s feelings).

In the end, I said “the heck with it,” inserted the system Rest-In-Peace CD (which now worked, thanks to the new OS), and loaded the DVD software written for 98 onto my 2000 computer. So far, it works fine. Go figure.

Moral of the story? Be cautious when buying something from a company which resides in a state famous for four stone presidents and dinosaur bones.

And ask someone a lot smarter than me to upgrade your operating system.

- Keith Ward, believe it or not, is an MCSE and staff reporter for ENT. And he really does live in east Tennessee.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.