If your PC and the software it uses are less than two years old the chances are it will continue to function quite normally on and after the 1st of January 2000 but it's as well to make sure. Some older PCs may experience difficulties but if you go about it in a systematic manner most year 2000 or 'Y2K' can be easily tracked down and fixed; this week we'll show you how to make a start. However, before you attempt anything that could compromise the integrity of your system make sure that all irreplaceable data and critical system files have been backed up, just in case.   

We'll confine ourselves with PCs with 486 and Pentium processors using Windows 95 or 98 and reasonably recent applications. Incidentally, Windows 3.1 is largely Y2K compliant but there are a few points to watch out for, full details are on the Microsoft web site (details in a moment). Those using really ancient 286 and 386-based systems, running date-sensitive applications of uncertain vintage, may well find that hardware and software fixes are either unavailable or uneconomical. However, as we said last week Y2K compliance may not matter if you're only using the PC for word processing or playing games. 

You can start by checking the PCs clock and BIOS program with a Y2K 'Rollover' test. This involves resetting the internal clock to a few minutes before midnight December 31st 1999, and seeing what happens when you switch the computer back on a short while later. There are two ways to access the internal clock: click Start, Control Panel and select Date/Time. Change the settings to 11.55 PM December 31st 1999, click Apply and shut down as normal. Alternatively open a DOS window (Start > Programs > MS DOS Prompt) or restart the PC in DOS mode. At the C: prompt type 'Time' and press return. Enter the new time -- 5 minutes before midnight -- press return then type 'Date', enter the new date, press return, type exit to close the window and shut down the PC.

When you switch back on again a few minutes later check the date in Control Panel (or hold the mouse pointer over the clock on the task bar). If it reads 1st January 2000, congratulations, you have passed the first hurdle. While you are at it you may like check if your PC recognises the year 2000 as a leap year, reset the time and date to 11:55 PM 28th February 2000 and watch what happens. If your PC fails one or both tests you have a problem that needs fixing. However, whatever the result, before you do anything else reset to the PC clock to the correct time and date, don't forget!

If your PC responds with an incorrect date the real time clock or the BIOS program may need upgrading. Your first port of call should be the PC manufacturer or dealer, to find out what provisions they've made for their customers. This may not be possible with older machines or those made by smaller companies that no longer exist, in which case you will have to seek expert assistance or investigate the many and various DIY remedies.

Some PC BIOS's can be upgraded via the manufacturer's Internet web site; you'll find a list of addresses under Contacts below. (The BIOS name and version number appears briefly on the screen when you first boot up your PC). There are numerous software utilities and hardware add-ons that will make sure the PC clock and BIOS reports the correct time and date on January 1st next year. You will find a good selection of year 2000 fixes at most large PC suppliers, but check before you buy anything, that it is suitable for your machine.  

You might also like to try one of the many freebie and shareware test programs that are now appearing on computer magazine cover-mount CD-ROMs (Check 2000, Clock It 2000 etc.) and available from the Internet (see Contacts). There's also a wealth of commercial programs with Norton 2000 the current favourite.  Most go beyond the basic rollover test and carry out a series of extra checks -- including the leap year test – and then go on to identify the cause of the problem. Some of them will even install a fix or upgrade.

When you are happy with the ability of your PC hardware to recognise the year 2000 the next step is to make sure that the operating system – i.e. Windows and DOS – is up to date and ready for the millennium. Everything you need to know about all versions of Windows can be found on the Microsoft web site, . The same site also deals with compliance issues for other Microsoft products. If you are using any Microsoft software, including Word, Office, Works, Excel, Outlook etc., you really should visit this site. In most cases you will find that your software is fine but if there are problems the site contains the necessary downloads, patches and helpful advice. We have included a brief list of web sites for other (non-Windows) operating systems in Contacts.

The final stage is to check the Y2K status of all of your non-Microsoft, date sensitive programs. The simplest, indeed the only way to do this is to contact each company in turn. Telephoning helplines and technical support departments is not a good idea, apart from the frustration involved it's unlikely you'll get a clear-cut answer or solution over the phone. It's usually far better to visit the companies web site where the subject is usually dealt with in much greater detail. The site should also contain links to any resources or downloads you might need.

Next week – Power management and screensavers



BIOS Manufacturers web sites



Award http//

Gigabyte http://www/


Phoenix http//




Y2K Test Software


Operating Systems








PC Manufacturers







Packard Bell







286, 386, 486

Families of Intel microprocessor chips developed during the 1980s and early 1990s, forerunners of the Pentium chips used in the latest PCs


Basic Input Output System, a program stored in a microchip memory on the PC motherboard that checks and configures the hardware, memory and disc drives, before the operating system is loaded


A program or file intended to fix or work around a problem in a software application



On Internet Explorer 4 it is possible to open a second smaller browser window by clicking on a link, so you can still see, and quickly return to the original page without reloading it. Just hold down the shift button before left-clicking on the link. Here are some more IE4 keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl + D adds the current web page to your Favourite list. Ctrl + H opens the History folder, Ctrl + N opens a new browser window, Ctrl + W closes the active browser window and Ctrl + R reloads the page you are viewing.

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