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Happy Birthday, Windows 2000!

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Windows 2000 turns 20

On December 15th, 1999, Microsoft released Windows 2000 to the public. Today, with fewer than twenty days remaining until 2020, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of this venerable operating system.

Windows 2000 was special for Microsoft and continues to be special today. It lives perpetually in the shadow of its slightly younger brother, Windows XP, never quite getting the credit it truly deserves, largely because Microsoft considered W2K a stepping stone to Windows XP, which was released less than two years afterwards, and thus quickly downplayed the awesomeness of Windows 2000 as soon as XP became available. Windows 2000 was one of Microsoft's most revolutionary releases of all time, and is considered by many modern and retrocomputing experts alike to be the best version of Windows ever released and it is, objectively, of course.

It's not hard to see why Windows 2000 continues to be celebrated and used here and there twenty years after its debut, a title that will probably only also be claimed by its younger sibling, Windows XP (it's a bit early to say much definitively about Windows 7 ten years from now, when it will celebrate its 20th birthday). As you take time out of your day to give thanks to Microsoft and bask in the supremacy of this almighty OS, you might wonder why Windows 2000, in particular, is anything special?

In more ways than one, the year 2000 was a big turning point, for the world and for Microsoft. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another: the end of the DOS era and the beginning of Windows NT for everyone — including consumers. Strictly speaking, Windows 2000 was a business operating system, with its close cousin, Windows ME, destined for consumers. In retrospect, it's ironic how different the two OSes proved to be: Windows 2000 proved to be about the most stable version of Windows ever released, while Windows ME quickly became infamous for being the, uh, least stable.

Windows 2000 was (and is) more than just stable, however. It's fast, clean, and extremely easy to use. The OS contains no bloat, whatsoever. Period. It's easy to look at the disaster known as Windows 10 today and think of bloated Windows as a recent phenomenon, but it hardly is. While the bloat only became intrusive, annoying, and downright unacceptable starting with Windows 8, and peaking with Windows 10, such bloat and excess has existed here and there since Windows XP. That's why Windows 2000 is a bridge OS not just in architecture, but in design.

Today, you might be far pressed to see Windows 2000 in use out in the wild, but as with any OS, it has its fans, and Windows 2000's fans may be more dedicated to it than ever. Thanks to kernel modifications that make it possible to run recent software on Windows 2000, it's completely usable as a modern operating system, and it's a great choice to be your daily driver! Indeed, now is a better time than ever to downgrade upgrade to the latest greatest Windows ever: Windows 2000! With Microsoft nagging people off of Windows 7 approaching end of extended support next month, people are (many reluctantly, understandably) jumping ship. However, the migration off Windows 7 is different than previous versions. A lot of people have had enough from Microsoft this time, and are simply not willing to use Windows 10, even if Microsoft basically is giving it away for free. Indeed, adopting of Linux at present is soaring like never before. Some people are jumping the Windows ecosystem altogether.

While this is, unfortunately, understandable, we think it's unfortunate, as, despite the many perks of Linux, Windows is by far the best client operating system just maybe not the recent ones. So, rather than torture yourself with Windows 10, why not take a step back in time? A step back to a time when Microsoft gave its software their all and truly listened to consumers? A step back to a great operating system that's been unsupported for years?

The debate about security in Windows 2000 vs. Windows XP rages on today. On the one hand, Windows XP is more recent and has a much higher install base, making it a much more likely target for malware and hackers. On the other hand, Windows XP has been supported by Microsoft for much, much longer, with updates for critical security vulnerabilities patched in Windows XP as recently as earlier this year. On the one hand, a bit of common sense and a decent firewall should really preempt any concerns about security. Windows 2000, after all, certainly doesn't send all of your data to Microsoft. Designed in an era when dial-up connections were the norm, Windows 2000 is extremely conservative about communications, and as Windows Activation didn't debut until Windows XP, it's entirely possible to use without ever connecting to the Internet. But of course, should you choose to, there's no real reason to be worried. As long as your computer is behind NAT and you watch what you click, Windows 2000 is perfectly usable online, even without any antivirus software. (Disclaimer: This viewpoint has not been endorsed by the antivirus industry, who would prefer you believe that using unsupported Windows is more dangerous than driving backwards on the freeway).

While security with Windows 2000 today isn't such a shut and closed case, its usability certainly is. Although you'll find various conflicting claims online, Windows 2000 is, without a doubt, the fastest modern version of Windows ever released. Much of this is due to the way it was designed: it contains no bloat, and as a result, it's extremely snappy and responsive. Got an old computer with only 256 MB of RAM? No problem. W2K's not a resource hog, so computers that might crawl with newer OSes will be blazing with Win2K.

Tired of the infinite number of group policies, registry edits, preference changes, and so forth to restore lost functionality to newer versions of Windows, especially Windows 10? No problem! Windows 2000 is more or less usable out of the box. Although it's a little bit of work to get the kernel modifications to make Windows 2000 much more compatible with later software, it's not overly difficult. The thrill and joy of using such an intuitive, responsive, and clean operating system, particularly when that seems to be "out" in Redmond these days, is extremely rewarding.

You don't need to jump to Linux to take control of your computing again. In fact, in many ways, you can't, since most software won't be supported anyways. However, it's possible to get Office 2007 fully working (mostly) on Windows 2000, as well as several up-to-date web browsers. So, given the choice, sticking with a tried and true operating system like Windows 2000 can really make a lot of sense.

Of course, if you're running some kind of an organization or business, it may be awkward to explain to the auditors why your clients are running software that's now more than two decades old. But the rationale is simple: Windows 2000 allows you to be more productive than on any version of Windows since. Windows 2000 doesn't ever "get in your way", as it does now, nor does it do anything you don't want it doing behind your back.

As the kernel modifications available for Windows 2000 demonstrate, there is a rich, vibrant community of people out there dedicating to continuing to make Windows 2000 usable in the modern era. So, if you're fed up with the pain that Windows has become of late, trouble yourself no longer. Windows 2000 does not cause pain. It only causes unbridled joy, as you realize that you are no longer beholden to shell out large sums of cash every couple years for a new operating system and new office suite that does less than the last one.

So, take a moment today — or maybe the whole day — to appreciate just how much easier Windows 2000 can make anyone's life. Fire up that old rig, and experience Windows and it has never been experienced since the golden age of Windows! Are you noticeably mourning the lack of an old Windows 2000 rig in the corner? Don't be; Microsoft has basically said it doesn't care to enforce its copyright on Windows older than Windows XP, so if you need to grab a copy of Windows 2000, head over to WinWorld and download a fresh ISO today. Better yet, continue following our guide to set up your ultimate Windows 2000 rig for the modern era. If you're still on Windows 7 and asking yourself the imperative question, consider: why compromise with Windows 2000 when you can use Windows 2000, the operating system that makes no compromises?

Happy 20th Birthday, Windows 2000 may you have many happy returns! You are a dear friend to all upon whom you have cast your timeless spell! Today, Windows 2000, tomorrow, Windows 2000; Windows 2000, for now and always!

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