Purpose: To explain the Year 2000 computer problem and demonstrate how to test a computer to see if it is Y2K-compliant.

Situation and audience: For this oral report, pretend you work in an office that is trying to become Y2K compliant the cheap way. Your managers have hired a computer security company to guide you and your fellow employees through the process of testing whether your work computers are Y2K compliant. That will minimize the amount of consulting time that your company must pay for.

Visuals:

  1. Changing the date at the DOS prompt
  2. BIOS start-up screen
  3. BIOS screen for changing date and time


Testing Your Office PC for Y2K Compliance

Hi! I'm Julie Brady. I work for Business Computer Security Systems, Inc., which is a systems security business here in town. I'm hear to talk to you about the Year 2000, or Y2K problem.Working in a high-tech environment as you do, I'm sure you've heard plenty of buzz about the impact it may have. Your management has asked me to visit with you today to discuss just what the Y2K problem is and how to test your system.

First, let's talk about the Y2K problem and get it straight what it is. The Y2K problem exists because many computer systems track years using only the last two digits, assuming that the first two are "19." On January 1, 2000, noncompliant systems will think it is 1900 (or 1980, for Microsoft systems), potentially causing a variety of annoyances such as a stock market crash, loss of utilities, massive looting, nuclear war—little stuff like that.

Well, now that you are sufficiently frightened about the Millenium Bug, let's move on to discuss what you can do about it on your own. The good news is, if you know how to boot your computer up to the DOS (C:\) prompt, you can test your system for hardware and operating system compliance problems. You can then do a relatively simple 5-step test for hardware and operating system compliance involving your computer's operating system, operating system/basic input-output system (BIOS) combination, BIOS, BIOS/Real Time Clock combination, and combined systems. Be aware that problems involving application software and the Internet are more complex—that's where consultants from my company come in, along with fixing any Y2K-compliance problems you discover in these tests I'm about to describe.

Before we get into the details of testing your machine, let's first talk about how your computer keeps time. One reason you must perform all five tests is that your computer keeps time in several different ways. If you do not test all layers in the system, you can get a false positive result—in other words, you can be falsely reassured your machine is Y2K compliant. On one level, your PC keeps time using a real-time clock (RTC), a battery- powered timepiece that tracks time even when your system is off. When you start your PC, the BIOS (code on your computer's read-only-memory that provides basic instructions for controlling system hardware) retrieves the date and time from your RTC and passes it to the operating system and applications. Your PC's operating system has a software-based system clock that works only when the computer is on: after getting its initial information from the RTC via the BIOS when you start your computer, this clock runs independently. And, Windows does some timekeeping of its own.

Now, let's get right into the instructions on testing your system's hardware and operating system. Don't worryyou don't need to be a registered rocket scientist to perform this procedure, and you don't need any special equipment or supplies, but you might want to keep your owner's manual handy. Also, you don't need to remember everything that comes out of my mouth—I'm handing out a written version of these instructions right now.

To get ready, print or copy your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. These are located in the root directory of your C: drive. If your computer loads time-triggered files or other software in, you may want to temporarily rename these files to ensure you do not trigger an event or application.

Okay, step 1! We'll start by testing your system's operating system. Boot up your system to the DOS command prompt (C:\) the way you see me doing it right now. Do not perform any of these steps while in Windows. When you get to a place that looks like this slide, at the C:\ prompt, type date and press Enter. Next, type 12-31-1999 and press Enter. With me so far? Not many people know how to do things in DOS any more! Okay, next type time and press Enter. Then type 23:59:30 and press Enter. Wait about over a minute, then type "date" and press Enter. If the date displayed is January 1, 2000, then your operating system is Y2K compliant, and you can go on to step 2. If the date displayed is not January 1, 2000, you've got a Y2K problem, my friend.

Okay, onward to step 2! In this one, we test whether your PC's operating system and BIOS work together. Without changing anything you did in the preceding step, reboot to the DOS prompt. At the C:\ prompt, type date and press Enter. If the date shown is January 1, 2000, then your operating system/BIOS combination is Y2K compliant and you can go on to step 3. If the date is different than what you saw in step 2, you have a Y2K problem in the BIOS or RTC.

Now for step 3—testing to see whether the BIOS works alone. To start, reboot and enter your BIOS setup program. To do this, watch the screen at start-up and look for a special key or key combination that you press to enter the setup program. If you can't read it, check your owner's manual. When you've done that, set the BIOS date to December 31, 1999, and the time to 23:59:50, just as I'm showing you here. Don't worry—you're not going to kill your computer! Wait until the BIOS's time display moves past midnight and see if the date and time change properly. If they do, your BIOS is Y2K compliant also, and you can go on to step 4. If the date and time don't change correctly, you too have a Y2K problem.

Now for step 4. In this one, we test the BIOS/RTC combination. While you are still in the BIOS setup program, reset the date to December 31, 1999, and set the time to 23:56:00. After that, reboot to the DOS prompt, and turn off your computer. Wait those four minutes, or more, reboot your computer again, and immediately enter the BIOS setup program, as you did in step 3. If the January 1, 2000, date and time are shown correctly, your BIOS and RTC are Y2K compliant, and you can go on to step 5. If not—well, you know the drill.

Now for our last step, step 5. Here we go full circle back to what we did in step 1 and determine whether these combined systems are "go" on your PC. Without changing anything from step 4, exit the BIOS setup program and reboot to DOS. At the C:\ prompt, type date and press Enter. If the January 1, 2000, date shows correctly, your PC is Y2K compliant and you have completed this procedure. If the date reads differently, call us—we'll fix it!

Well, that's it! Your management is hoping that if you guys take these steps on your own, it will drive down the overall cost for getting your operations Y2K-compliant. And of course if you get hopelessly messed up, just call us or send us e-mail. We'll try walking you through the process or getting you unstuck over the phone. Or we'll just come right out. Good luck everyone!

Information and programs provided by hcexres@prismnet.com.