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Windows NT opening screen

Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0

Windows on steroids?

Microsoft, with little fanfare, has released the next generation of its heavyweight operating system, Windows NT.

NT Workstation 4.0 is to Windows 95 as a gas barbecue is to a hibachi: it’s more robust and powerful, an "industrial strength" version of Win 95. It has many advantages over its little brother but, despite NT’s strengths, Windows 95 still does some things better.

NT, ("New Technology"), doesn’t crash as much as Windows 95 (not that "95" crashes a lot), though it doesn’t seem as stable as the last version, either. You won’t need a crash helmet, with either operating system. NT multitasks better than '95,' too - "virtually walking and chewing gum at the same time" - and it exploits your hardware better, though it also expects more hardware and will be miffed if it isn’t there.

One big advantage of NT is the "NTFS" file system, which doesn’t waste hard drive space like DOS/Windows 95’s "FAT" (file allocation table) does. Under FAT, the larger your hard disk the more wasted space, but NTFS is a workhorse of a different color. And NT lets you use NTFS, FAT, or both - which is great if you want to keep your old Windows/DOS software, though it means rebooting from one system to the other. For another look at "FAT," read our PartitionMagic review.

NT’s security aspects are top notch, including a "multi-user design" that lets each user have his own setup - which no one can get at without that user’s blessing - and its utilities make system maintenance - well, if not a breeze then at least not as nasty as before.

On the downside, NT isn’t really "mainstream," so you may have trouble finding drivers for it - though it does come with plenty built in. Its multimedia performance isn’t up to "95’s" snuff, either, and it may not run all your existing software; even "Windows 95" on a box doesn’t mean NT will like it. Some applications can be "fudged" into working on NT, but it isn’t wise to fool Mother Cyber unless you know what you’re doing.

We noticed a few "out of memory" problems that didn’t make any sense, but who hasn’t had bizarre things happen to a computer? And I got tired of NT’s incessant demand that you log in on bootup. We used it on a standalone system with no secret stuff, so logins weren’t necessary - except to NT.

Fortunately our resident Computer Science expert was able to beat some sense into it.

We like NT’s power and potential and - except for the software incompatibilities - we’d convert to it completely. Because of them, however (and because we have to review lots of DOS/WIndows 95 stuff), we're sticking with Windows 95. For now.

NT is more for the small business/corporate user rather than the personal/home desktop, but if you have the hardware, the inclination (and the software!), it’s lovely.


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January 31, 2006