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    Windows2000: Tweaking the Installion

Once your PC has rebooted and you feel the glow of success that comes with a good install of an operating system, it's time to bring the operating system's components up to date. This means adding service packs, defragging the system, and updating any "placeholder" device drivers that have been installed by the system, such as the video driver.

Configuring Drivers
The Win2000 CD comes with a fairly large library of drivers, but it doesn't contain everything, and it certainly doesn't contain the most recent versions of everything. One of the first things you need to do once Win2000 is up and running is get the most recent editions of critical drivers, if you didn't do so in preparation for the installation.

Video drivers are typically not up-to-date with the first boot of Windows 2000, and are sometimes a little thorny in the early going. Some manufacturers have an automatic setup program that does all the work for you, while others expect you to do the installation "by hand." Matrox, for instance, has an excellent setup program that also installs useful display-configuration System Tray utilities. They add the ability to switch resolutions and color depths on the fly, and more. Visit your card manufacturer's Web site and find out exactly what you need to do to get your video driver and ancillary software fully installed. It'll help you get the most out of your Windows 2000 system.

In many cases, manufacturer instructions will direct you to update the video driver through the Settings tab in the Display properties box (which you can access by right-clicking the desktop and choosing Properties). If you choose Display Type, then Change, you'll get a list of available drivers for video card makes and models. And clicking Have Disk lets you install a driver from a floppy disk.

Also note that some cards, like those that use the NVidia GeForce 256 chip, don't have Win2000 drivers just yet, but do have Windows NT 4.0 drivers that may at least work. Do not use a Windows NT 4.0 graphics driver unless you've got no other choice. It would also be smart to make a separate Hardware Profile to do this and boot up the system in it. That way, if your new driver doesn't work or turns out to be criminally unstable, you can always boot back into the original profile with no harm done. In fact, making a new Hardware Profile is a good rule of thumb prior to installing any device or driver you're not sure of...


Disk Defragmentation
Fragmentation of the file system is one of the most common problems with any computer, especially after a file system change, an operating system installation, or both. Win2000 isn't immune to a reduction of performance from a highly fragmented disk either. Once you're finished installing Win2000, even on a perfectly clean system, you're going to have a fragmented file system, and you need to defrag.

There are two ways to do this: The first is to use the defrag utility included with Win2000, and the second is to get a third-party defragmenter for Windows 2000.

The built-in defragmenter is actually derived from the source code of an excellent third-party defrag program, Executive Software's Diskeeper. Since Win2000 features kernel-level hooks for defragging file systems, that made it all the easier for the product to be written. (NT required the defrag program to replace the kernel, which is never a great idea.) To fire up any disk defragmenter, right-click the drive you want to defragment, select Properties, Tools, then click the Defragment Now button. If you've installed a third-party defragger, it'll run in lieu of the built-in one.

Just in case you haven't heard this before: Defragging after installation isn't a one-time thing. If your system gets a lot of use...  especially if you're working with a lot of large files, such as multimedia formats, defragging regularly will help speed things considerably.


Service Packs and Post-install Patches
At this writing, it isn't clear whether Microsoft will rely more on Windows Update to distribute Win2000 patches, as it has done for the most part with Windows 98, or whether it will issue regular collections of patches, or service packs, as it has done with Windows NT. This section covers both types of system updates.

A service pack is a collection of files that upgrade components in Windows. Service Packs are usually released to address security issues, fix bugs, provide new functions, and enhance performance -- or all of the above. There have been six NT Service Packs to date. And even before Win2000 was officially released, Microsoft had issued a minor Win2000 patch to address security problems with the Indexing Service. Anyone running Win2000 Server should learn about, download, and install that patch right after installing Windows 2000. 

Service packs incorporate all the fixes from all previous service packs, making each a little bit larger than the last. You should always apply service packs as late as possible in your system setup. They should be re-applied after any major software upgrade (like installing Office or Explorer, or even Netscape), or after any changes to system components like device drivers or network configuration.

You have several options for getting Service Packs. It's a safe bet that you'll be able to order any service packs that become available directly from Microsoft on CD, or if you have a fast enough network connection, download them directly from Microsoft.

Service packs are available in two different editions: standard and high-encryption. The high-encryption service pack is only for distribution in the USA (although this may change at some point for new service packs), while the standard version can be downloaded worldwide. Pick an encryption level and stick with it. In other words, if you patch with high-encryption, make sure all subsequent patches are also high-encryption, when there's a choice between the two. Don't mix and match.

The best way to get interim patches and updates for Win2000 is through Windows Update. Originally developed to help keep Windows 98 up to speed with new components, this Web-based service has been significantly expanded to support Win2000. A word to the wise: Just because there's a patch available in Windows Update doesn't mean you should install it. Other than major service packs, unless you have a specific reason to install a patch, hang back and let others jump in first to test the waters. An icon installed on the Start Menu takes you there, but this link works just as well:

Note: You won't see the Windows 2000 Windows Update site unless you have Win2000 installed.

Most Windows Update patches download and install automatically. Hopefully, though, you'll be able to download Win2000 service packs and install them separately. The actual process of installing a service pack isn't difficult. Once it's downloaded, close all running applications and double click the service pack's icon. It's a self-extracting archive that sets up in a couple of moments.


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