Microsoft delivers a hit with Windows NT 4.0
Despite the appeal of a crash-proof, secure, DOS-free operating system,
the hardware demands of Microsoft's next-generation 32-bit operating system
always seemed outrageous. Windows NT 3.1 and Windows NT 3.5x ran
sluggishly even on the fastest 486. Few people had 70MB of free hard disk
space on which to install the operating system. Fewer still had 16MB of RAM
It looks as if the computing world is catching up with Windows NT. Today,
just about anybody can afford the muscle to run Windows NT Workstation 4.0.
Even entry-level PCs boast 75-MHz Pentium processors, gigabyte-sized hard
drives, and 16MB of RAM. In fact, many people who run Windows 95 could
easily make the leap right now to the more powerful Windows NT--without
giving up the Windows 95 user interface. So what's holding them back? One
possibility is cash: Windows NT Workstation 4.0 costs a hefty $319.
But for power users, it might be a bargain. This new release is
compatible with most popular productivity applications running under Windows
95, Windows 3.1, and DOS. It ekes more speed from your PC--in many cases,
while enhancing stability. Internet access, including ISDN and a personal
Web server, is built in and is more flexible than in Windows 95.
If Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 frequently interrupts your work by crashing
or hanging, Windows NT may be a solution. It can isolate the problem
applications by running them in separate virtual machines and isolating
their address space, which means you can stop and restart them without
crashing or hanging your system, and without leaving garbage in memory that
could cause problems later. Windows NT Workstation 4.0 also eliminates the
low-resources problem that plagues Windows 3.1 and occasionally causes
trouble in Windows 95.
You're not forced to format your hard disk with the NT File System (NTFS),
but you'll probably want to: it's faster and much less prone to damage than
the out-of-date File Allocation Table (FAT) used by DOS and Windows 3.x.
The NTFS allows heavy-duty security to protect sensitive files from
unauthorized access; is able to turn multiple hard drives into
high-performance, fault-tolerant disk arrays without special hardware; and
uses a superior compression scheme that lets you choose which drives,
folders, and even individual files you want to compress. The sole glitch is
that only Windows NT can read NTFS volumes, so if you plan to dual-boot back
to Windows, you'll need to keep at least some files in a FAT partition.
Windows NT Workstation 4.0 isn't for everybody. It isn't 100-percent
compatible with all the software you can run under Windows 3.1 or Windows
95, and it's a lot fussier about hardware. Laptop users and heavy gamers are
particularly likely to find NT Workstation 4.0 unsuitable. If it were less
expensive, upgrading would be a no-brainer for anybody running Windows 95
with an NT-friendly set of applications and equipment. Even at $319, it's an
attractive proposal for people who want a faster or more stable environment
than Windows 95 affords.
Will NT Become the World's Most Popular
prettier, but there are more subtle changes that may affect performance and
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