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Look Out! Here Comes Year 2000

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Testing Your Home Computer

Written on January 1, 1999 by Robert & Karen Vanderzweerde

Appeared in Greenmaster Magazine on February/March 1999

Want to know how to test your home computer to see if it is ready for the Year 2000. Here’s some information that should help you.

Before You Begin

Testing your computer for Year 2000 can be potentially dangerous to your data and software.

Back up all of your data files before you begin testing.  There have been instances where someone has run a Year 2000 test, started up their calendar or e-mail, and instantly lost all of their data as it was purged or archived because the computer thought it was old and no longer required.

Any software with an expiry date may stop working after the test (e.g. demo software).

Again, create a back up before your test!

Testing the Computer

There are two ways to test the computer’s hardware and BIOS chip (basic input/output system) -- manually or using a software tool.

Hardware Testing- Manual Method

To set the date and/or time, you will be using either the DATE or TIME commands in DOS or the DATE/TIME function in the Control Panel in Windows.

Test 1 - Can the Computer see Year 2000?

  1. Set the date to January 1, 2000.
  2. Verify that the date shows the year as 2000.
  3. If the year is 2000, turn the computer off and on and verify the date again.

If the computer cannot maintain the Year 2000, you can live with the error, reset the date every time you turn on your computer, look at a BIOS upgrade, or think about a new machine.  You’ll need to check the computer manufacturer’s Internet web site to see what alternatives are available to you.

Test 2 - Is Rollover Automatic?

  1. Set the date/time to December 31, 1999 at 11:58 p.m. (or 23:58 military time).
  2. Power the computer off.
  3. Wait 5 minutes and power the computer on.
  4. Verify that the date/time is January 1, 2000 at 00:03 a.m.

In many cases the computer will show the date as January 1, 1900.  Don’t worry.  It the computer passed Test 1, then the first time you use the computer in the year 2000, simply reset the date/time before you do anything else.

Test 3 - How About the Leap Year?

Yes, the Year 2000 is a leap year but many computers may not be programmed properly to recognize it.

  1. Set the date/time to February 28, 2000 at 11:58 p.m. (or 23:58 military time).
  2. Power the computer off.
  3. Wait 5 minutes and power the computer on.
  4. Verify that the date/time is February 29, 2000 at 00:03 a.m.

Hardware Testing - Using a Tool

There are many free tools available.  The tool that we use is YMark2000 from the National Standards Testing Laboratory (NSTL).

Computer companies, such as Dell and Compaq use this software to verify the Year 2000 readiness of their machines at the factory.

The best news is that it’s free for personal use. You can download your own copy of the testing tool from the NSTL web site at The file, called Y2000.EXE, is small and it only takes a couple of minutes to download.

After the file has been stored on your computer:

  1. Get to the DOS prompt.  If you are using Windows 95, simply shutdown and click the choice, "Restart the computer in the MS-DOS mode".  For Windows 3.1, simply shut Windows to get to the DOS prompt.

  2. Run the Y2000.EXE program:

    Change to the directory where you downloaded the file. For example, if it’s stored at c:\temp, type cd c:\temp

    Run the program by typing y2000.exe

    Y2000.EXE is a self-extracting file that produces two other files, namely 2000.EXE and README.TXT.

  3. Run the tests by typing 2000.exe

The tests will run automatically and the results will be displayed on your monitor, including the actions you need to take to remedy any problems found.

The tests performed include verifying that the computer can hold a year 2000 date, the rollover to year 2000, and all leap years from 2000 to 2009.  Further explanations of the tests, error messages, and frequently asked questions can be found at the NSTL web site.

Verifying the Operating System

The above tests only checked the hardware and BIOS chip.  They do not verify the operating system (i.e. DOS, Windows, Windows 95, etc).

The best way to verify the operating system is to visit the web site of the company that created the operating system.  For example, DOS and Windows information can be found at

Here is information on the more popular operating systems:

  • DOS versions 5.0a and higher are compliant
  • Windows 3.1, 95, and 98 are compliant but some minor problems may exist
  • MAC OS is compliant

How About Applications?

Even after all of this, you need to verify that your applications are Year 2000 compliant as well.  This will include your financial software, income tax programs, spreadsheets, etc.

Again, the best way to verify the applications is to visit the web site of the company that created the application.  For example:

Finally, Checking the Data

Finally, you need to check your data in spreadsheets, income tax, and financial applications.  If you’ve been lax and only used two-digit years, you may find some surprises.  The software will either set the year for you based on its rules (e.g. a year of 29 will become 2029 but a year of 30 may become 1930) or simply fail.

Check the data that you use most frequently, and expand those two-digit years into four digits.  Then, get into the habit and always enter four digits for the year.

In a later article, we’ll explore other aspects of getting ready for the Year 2000.

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