y2kcomputerY2K and Your Personal Computer
by Rich Deem

The year 2000 problem could affect your personal computer and its applications. The year 2000 problem results from hardware and software not properly recognizing the four digits in the year 2000 date and the year 2000 leap year date. You should check your computer's hardware and software to determine if it will continue to run properly after 1999.

Hardware Inventory

First you need to take an inventory of your computer's hardware. If you use a Macintosh, your hardware is automatically Y2K compliant (you still need to check the software!). If your Windows¨/DOS-based PC is less than two years old, then it is, most likely, hardware compliant. Even if your computer is older than this, there is a good chance that it is hardware compliant. I have tested even 486SX systems and found them to be hardware compliant. Actually, nearly all PC's are not absolutely compliant, since nearly all real time clocks are non-compliant (however, the BIOS usually corrects for the problems).

To test your computer's hardware compliance, you need to determine if the Basic Input/Output Systems (BIOS) will report the 2000 date correctly. This process can be done either manually or by using a program that performs the tests automatically. To automatically check your computer's BIOS, download one of the following programs (external links) and run it according to the directions provided. Further information and links (some involving networked PC's may be found at the MITRE Year 2000 Home Page.

folderTest/Fix PC BIOS


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Vendor Test/Fix

48 KB

Micro Firmware, Inc. Test only

24 KB

National Software Testing Labs Test only

74 KB

 DOSCHK Test only

72 KB

 Right Time Test only

12 KB

 Unicore Software, Inc. Test only

7 KB

 D R Blanks Computer Consultant Test and Fix

2 KB

 SenCom Corporation Test and Fix

1 KB

 SenCom Corporation Fix only

1251 KB

 Viasoft Corporation Test and Fix

1065 KB

 Viasoft Corporation Fix only
9 object(s) 2556 KB


Alternatively, you can do this test manually, using the following procedure:

  1. Set date and time to 12/31/99 11:59:00pm
  2. Turn system off and wait at least 1 minute
  3. Turn system on and enter BIOS setup
  4. Verify date reported by BIOS setup is 1/1/2000
  5. Set date and time to 2/28/2000 11:59:00pm
  6. Turn system off and wait at least 1 minute
  7. Turn system on and enter BIOS setup
  8. Verify date reported by BIOS setup is 2/29/2000
  9. Reset your date and time to the current settings

If your computer passes the BIOS test, congratulations! If not, try to determine if your BIOS is "flash upgradable." Upgradable BIOS is relatively recent, so if you have an older system, it is unlikely you will be able to upgrade in this manner. If your system is Flash upgradable, it is important that you upgrade with the proper patch. Putting the wrong BIOS into your system could render your motherboard unusable, requiring you to send it in for repairs. Links to BIOS vendors can be found at the BIOS upgrades page.

If your system is not year 2000 compliant, in many cases, you can fix it simply by using the DOS "Date" command to enter a four-digit date. This will tell the BIOS to use the correct date, no matter how many times you restart your computer. To do this, push the date ahead to the year 2000 and restart your computer. If the date comes up as 1980 when you restart, enter DOS and enter the "Date" command again and enter a four digit date in the year 2000. If after restarting again, the date is still 1980, you will need to patch or replace your BIOS. If this method works, reset your date to the correct one. After the year rolls over to 2000, you will have to repeat this procedure again (Don't forget!).

Some BIOSs cannot be fixed using the DOS Date command, but can be fixed with a software patch to DOS. The advantage to this is that the price is right (free). The disadvantage is that if the patch is accidentally erased (or you upgrade your hard disk), your system will, most likely, default to the year 1980. If you decide to pursue this course of action, try one of the software patches listed above (under "test and fix"). In rare cases, some computers cannot be fixed by these software patches. In these instances, you can buy a new BIOS board to replace your current BIOS (you must have an open ISA slot). However, if the system is very old, you might consider buying a new PC, since some are only a few hundred dollars at this point.

Software Inventory

You will need to create a list of all the software on your computer. In general, if the software does not allow you to enter a date, it probably will not have a year 2000 problem. Once you have completed the inventory, visit the manufacturer's Web site to check your software's Y2K-compliance status. Be sure to read each manufacturer's specific statement of compliance, as every company can define the term differently. Take a close look at any date-related software you use — especially if you use your own macros and custom-built tools. Be sure your formulas are calculating with four-digit dates.

If you're using software that's categorized as non-compliant by its manufacturer, you may want to upgrade. Be sure to follow the developer's suggestions on how to migrate your old data safely and correctly. Remove any non-compliant programs you don't use. And make sure to re-program any custom macros that don't include four-digit dates, even if the software is fully compliant.

Operating Systems upgrades

Computers running Microsoft¨ Windows¨ 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT¨ Workstation operating systems are nearly compliant, with some minor issues you'll need to fix. Windows¨ 3.1 is not compliant, but some of the major issues can be fixed by visiting Microsoft's web page.

folderMicrosoft OS Updates


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Problem fixed OS

2170 KB

Updates Windows¨ 95 (incl. FM) Windows¨ 95

77 KB

 Updates Windows 3.1 File Manager Windows¨ 3.1

90 KB

 Update Windows for Workgroups FM Windows¨ for Work Groups

484 KB

 Inventory Microsoft Products Windows¨ 9X
3 object(s)

2821 KB


Non-compliant Microsoft Products

My purpose in including this information is not to bash Microsoft, but to point out some of the problems users may experience if they are using older versions of Microsoft products. I do this because Microsoft has the largest software user base of any software vendor. A complete listing of non-compliant Microsoft products can be found at their Year 2000 website.

Microsoft has just com out with a program that wll inventory your Microsoft products and determine which are compliant and which need upgrading. Download y2k.exe and inventory your computer's Microsoft applications for year 2000 compliance.

Product Compliance Issue
Access 2.0/Works 3.0: 1900 assumed for 2 digit date entry. Must enter 4 digit date to get to year 2000+. Once entered as a 4 digit date, it may be formatted to 2 digit date.
Office Professional 4.XX ( Windows) Access 2.0/Works 3.0: 1900 assumed for 2 digit date entry. Must enter 4 digit date to get to year 2000+. Once entered as a 4 digit date, it may be formatted to 2 digit date.
Site Server 2.0 (Windows¨ NT) Bad cookie dates. Recommendations to meet compliance: Upgrade to Site Server 3.0. Apply Site Server 3.0 Service Pack 1.
Visual Basic V1-4 2 digit dates default to 1900's. Use 4 digit dates in all programming.
Internet Explorer 3.XX (Macintosh) Improperly handles dates adhering to the RFC 822 format, converting them to the current system date. * Ratings do not expire after 01/00/00. In JavaScript: 01/01/00 is interpreted as year 100 and 06/17/01 is interpreted as year 101. Recomendations: update to Version 4+.
Word 5.0 DOS If the system clock is set to a date with a year of 2000 or later, the "creation date:" and "revision date:" fields will default to invalid dates the first time the document is saved. If a file that has been saved under these conditions is selected and updated in the Library Document Retrieval menu, the summary information will become corrupted with strange characters, text from other menus, or other filenames (the dates will probably change to 00/00/00). In some cases in which the file has been saved several times, the computer will freeze. Recomendations: Update to Word 5.5 for DOS or Word 6.0 for DOS

For all other software, you must contact the vendor (or go to their website) to determine if your version of the software is Y2K compliant. Many offer discounts for upgrading and/or free patches. Software that is most susceptible to Y2K failure includes databases, spreadsheets, and financial software, although any software can be effected.

Some links to common PC software Y2K vendor sites:

PC Year 2000 Alliance http://www.pcy2000.org/
Overall chart http://www.cnet.com/Content/Reports/Special/Y2K/chart.html
Intuit/quicken http://www.intuit.com/support/year2000.html
Lotus products http://www.lotus.com/home.nsf/tabs/y2k
Borland/Inprise products http://www.borland.com/devsupport/y2000/products.html
Claris/Filemaker http://www.claris.com/about/year2000.html
Corel/Wordperfect products https://livewire.corel.com/cfscripts/y2k/index.cfm
Dbase-related databases http://www.iag.net/~philb/clipy2k.htm

An alternative to replacing software is to use software windowing. This technique involves checking all the code in your programs and applying patches to that part that doesn't use four digit dates. Sutton Designs, Inc. provides free scanner software for Windows 95 (NET2000 Software Scanner) that determines problems you may have in your software. Software problems may be temporarily corrected (good for the next 50 years) by downloading their Standard Version or Total Year 2000 Version (for additional cost).

Last updated March 31, 2000


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