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Maintaining Your Computer

Story of Y2K failure on your computer is just a rumor

By Gordon Black

Y2K Laptop The Internet speeds the flow of information. Sometimes, it hastens the spread of rumors and untruths. Maybe you have received an e-mail message warning that the Microsoft Windows operating system running on your computer will fail on January 1, 2000 unless you take certain action. The pessimistic e-mail message predicts that Windows® 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT® operating systems will crash when the clock ticks past midnight on December 31, 1999.

The computer industry, government, and corporations have been addressing the so-called "millennium bug" or Y2K issue for many months, and even years, and the publicity surrounding it has generated some concerns.  So, like the best rumors, this one plays into people's fears.

Economize on software code
In the relative dark ages of computing, say about 20 years ago,  when computers held much less memory than today's machines, programmers had to economize on lines of software code. They did so by shortening the code used to represent years. Thus, "78" represented 1978. Under this system, with the change to a new century next year, computers could misinterpret the year 2000 for 1900, since both would be denoted by "00." This could throw off calculations and files dependent on dates.

My computer is only six months old so what's that got to do with me, you might ask? A reasonable answer is "not much." The greatest areas of concern surrounding the year 2000 are large computer systems that may operate on old software or embedded microprocessors that are not equipped to handle the new century.

Don't believe the rumors
The rumor circulating on the Internet, suggesting users have to reset "regional settings" inside the Windows Control Panel is just plain wrong.

Regional settings allow you to customize your computer based on where you live in the world or the type of language you speak. For example, you can set your computer so that it displays English spoken in South Africa or Ireland. You can also configure your computer to observe the custom of writing dates used in other parts of the world--day/month/year instead of month/day/year--and select your preference for displaying time (such as the 24 hour clock).

Windows 98 is automatically configured to interpret two digit dates as falling between 1930 and 2029. For example, if you used 02 to represent 2002, Windows 98 will process those two digits as representing the intended century and not 1902. If you wish, you can reset the span of years that your computer uses to process two digit numbers but Microsoft does not recommend it.

Rumors about Year 2000 issues will probably increase as December 31 draws nearer. Get your information from reliable sources, like the Microsoft Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure and Resource Center Web site, so you can relax and enjoy the turn of the century.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black's
home computer is fully Y2K ready, but he's laying in extra food, just in case.


Year 2000 Resources

For additional background on issues related to the millennium, take a look at a previous Using Windows article.

Unquestionably, Y2K is a complex issue. You can help put your mind at rest by using the guide for home computer users or visit the Microsoft Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure and Resource Center Web site.

If all the talk of 2000 gloom is wearing you down, enjoy a little mirth at our earlier article on Millennium-inspired gifts.