PDQ Library:  Y2K for PCs

For archival purposes only


Now that it's past January 1, 2000, you should check the "Other" dates that can cause problems with your computer - bet you thought it was over!

  • April 9, 1999 - 99th day of 1999 (?don't ask?)
  • August 21, 1999 - "GPS Rollover Week" begins midnight (7pm EST, 8pm EDT). On August 22, 1999, unless repaired, many GPS receivers will claim that it is 6 January 1980. Some may give location errors.
  • September 9, 1999 - some dufus decided that 9/9/99 was a good date to use as an invalid date field in old systems!
  • January 1, 2000 - the millenium bug may affect any, all, or none of your computer hardware, operating systems, software applications, and data.
  • February 29, 2000 - This is the leap-year bug - really a problem with programmers who don't know that, although years divisible by 100 are not leap years, years divisible by 400 are leap years!
  • 2019 - Some programmers "fixed" the Y2K bug by using the easy fix - setting dates so that "00" read as 1920; "01" as 1921; and so on. Of course, in 2019 these systems will have the problem all over again!
  • January 19, 2038 - The Unix operating system date is based on the number of seconds that have passed since Jan. 1, 1970 using 4 byes (32 bits) of storage. This number hits the maximum on January 19, 2038 - when the date probably rolls over to Jan. 1, 1970, much like the PC's Y2K bug!
  • January 18, 2038 Y2K38 - the 32-bit time bug. Certain operating systems and hardware may think it's 1970 again. (More information)
  • December 31, 1999 J2K - "And last, but certainly not least, is a gentle reminder that this new millenium also marks the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. So go to church, phone your mom, hug your friends, and set off some fireworks!" --Pat D.


Millenium Bug tests for your PC

The Millennium Bug refers to computers (Macs don't have this problem) that will be unable to cope with the year 2000. It's estimated that over 90% of computers in use will show some problem next January. This is because many computers and software programs use only two digits to represent the year and next year could become "00" or 1900! It is reported that 93% of computers built before 1997, and 43% of those built in or after 1997 will have a Year 2000 problem.

I compiled a quick, simple test of your PC for the date problem from information in several books and magazines. Here are some of your choices for testing your PC's hardware, operating system, programs and data:

  1. Buy Y2K compliance testing software.
  2. Take your systems to a computer service business that provides Y2K testing and repair.
  3. Contact the manufacturer for compliance or upgrade information.
  4. test your PC yourself.
  5. When you buy any new hardware, software or even appliances, get Y2K compliance assurance in writing! (Competition Bureau 800-348-5358 handles false Y2K product claims.)

Y2K Software to Test your System

Automatic BIOS fixes and comprehensive software testing is offered in these two recommended software products. If you business cannot survive without working computers, $100 is a good investment.

Free tests and patches:

I've used these tests on both Y2k-complaint and non-compliant computers and can recommend them both.

Note: Disable scheduling software as it may attempt to run everything for the next 6 months at once. Disable the scheduler before running tests!
  • nstl.com/html/nstl_ymark2000.html YMARK2000 - National Software Testing Laroratory (NSTL) offers the free tool to test computer hardware. Very easy to use - just copy it to a floppy disk, boot up to the DOS command line (usually by pressing F8 during startup when you hear a "beep"), and type a:2000 to run the test.
  • Test2000 is another good Y2K compliance test that is a marketing device for their repair software.
  • The microsoft.com/y2k/video/video.htm Microsoft Year 2000 Video is available as a free of charge rental at Blockbuster Stores across the USA and Canada. The video comes with a Microsoft Year 2000 Resource CD, free of charge.


  • BACKUP YOUR FILES! (Look for the Backup utility in your System programs) If you cannot backup everything, backup only your data files. In the event of total loss of your system, you can always reinstall the software, then retrieve the data files from your backup copy.
  • Create a system floppy disk (right click on the floppy disk in "My Computer" and select FORMAT).
  • Stop all applications that might affect testing or might cause problems using your system if testing causes problems (better safe than sorry):
    • Disable all passwords used on the system
    • Any program in your startup folder: C:\Windows\Start Menu\Startup - Move these programs into a temporary folder.
    • Turn off Screen savers if you use them (Start--Settings--Control Panel--Display)
    • Disable schedulers that start applications are a future time.
    • Disable or remove TSR's or background programs (look in AUTOEXEC.BAT, WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI, etc.)
    • Disable Virus checkers (i.e. VShield)


Create a system floppy disk (do not add any startup files). Power up your computer with the basic system disk in the drive (most systems will boot from a system floppy). You should get a DOS prompt.

2a. Basic Clock Test:

  • At the DOS prompt, type "DATE" and change it to "12-31-1999"
  • At the DOS prompt, type TIME and change it to "11:59p".
  • After a minute, the clock should change to 00:00 on January 1, 2000 - does it?

2b. Power-down Clock Test:

  • At the DOS prompt, type "DATE" and change it to "12-31-1999"
  • At the DOS prompt, type TIME and change it to "11:58p".
  • Power down your computer and wait several minutes for "midnight" to pass.
  • Power up again using the system floppy disk and check the date.  (type "DATE" followed with the RETURN key will exit without changing the date).

If the date and time do not say "01-01-2000" and a time like "00:02a", your computer BIOS has the millenium bug and cannot handle the date rollover. Unless the manufacturer can supply a fix, the solution is likely a transplant at your local computer store.

2c. Leap Year Test:

If you so not wish to spend money just yet, repeat the test with date "02-29-2000" to see if the BIOS can handle the leap year that occurs in 2000. If you can set this date then your computer will report the correct date and time from this point on, but you may have to leave your computer powered on all the time.



Testing and repairing data files is not detailed here, but you should backup all important data files NOW, especially financial data and spreadsheets. Sharing data with other people and organizations may also be a problem.



Windows 95 and 98 use four digits to store and calculate years (1999, 2000). You may choose to display the date as 2 digits, but this is quite independant of the way dates are calculated by your computer. The Y2K problem only affects programs and systems (and hardware) that use two digits to store and calculate years. Ignore the email hoaxes floating around that Windows will fail on January 1, 2000.

There are some minor bugs however. Free Windows patches are listed above - download them from Microsoft. To order, free of charge, a Microsoft Year 2000 Resource CD, call 888-MSFT-Y2K (888-673-8925). Phone 888-287-9755 toll-free to get the updated verson of your operating system mailed on a CD-ROM for a small fee. You can also order Windows 98 SE using this number.

  • Windows 95 Y2K Fix: support.microsoft.com/download/support/mslfiles/Win95y2k.exe Microsoft has an update for date problems in the file manager.
  • microsoft.com/y2k or microsoft.com/canada/year2k - This site is now much clearer and easier to find out about Microsoft updates you can download for many of your programs. Click on the "Microsoft Year 2000 Guide for Home and Small Business Computers" link on the left-hand side of the page.
  • Microsoft Year 2000 Resource Center contains a link to Home and Small Business Computers, with a tutorial and exploration of hardware, software, and personal files and helps users create a plan to address the year 2000 challenge. Millenium countdown screensavers!.
  • Microsoft.com Windows downloads - to get all free Windows updates (all versions) for service packs, updates, system files, device drivers, and security updates. The latest version of 98 is called microsoft.com/windows98/highlights/win98sefs.asp - Windows 98 SE (Second Edition)", recommended for Windows 3 and 95 users.
  • MS Windows Update - Download Windows 98 updates including Service Pack SP1 (consumer version 98/12) The Service Pack includes bug fixes for Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 4.01 (version 5 is out) as well as Year 2000 updates, but does not include any new features.
  • Microsoft "Y2K Product Analyzer v2.0" is a free utility that scans your hard drive for Microsoft products, compares this inventory to the Microsoft year 2000 compliance product guides, identifies products (if any) for which the user should download a free software update, and provides URLs to enable the user to obtain the updates easily. Be sure to get this one! ( Microsoft Computing Central information) You can download Microsoft Product Analyzer v2.0: www.microsoft.com/technet/year2k/pca/y2k_en.exe. You may also order the Microsoft Year 2000 Resource CD from MS Computing Central or by calling (888)MSFT-Y2K (1-888-673-8925). If you ordered the CD several months before January 2000, you should check out the new version 2.0 database upgrade www.microsoft.com/technet/year2k/pca/pca.htm.
  • CNET's Catchup site has an analyzer for non-Microsoft software products. (I haven't tried this.)
  • UPDATES site actually checks your computer's installed software and recommends new versions that are available! Simply click on the links to download the update. This isn't just for Y2K, but it sure is a nice service. I'd recommend backing up your system before installing updates - just in case, but I've used it and like its ease of use.



  • microsoft.com/msoffice/office97/documents/y2k - Microsoft Office and the Year 2000 Issue. Frequently Asked Questions
  • Microsoft TechNet FAQ on Year 2000 www.microsoft.com/technet/topics/year2k/2kfaq/2kfaq01.htm



If your VCR cannot use the programmed advanced recording features next January, here's a neat trick. Set the year as 1972 instead of 2000 -- the calendar for 1972 is the same as the year 2000. I assume 1973 is the same as 2001, but don't shoot me if it isn't!



Industry Canada's Y2K service: Strategis: Canadian business resources.

Year 2000 and You is brochure from the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Cinderella Project deals with Y2K for older software and programs.

vancouver-webpages.com/time/ Test your PC clock; Y2K links

International Organization for Standardization has defined the
ISO8601 date format - start using it now! yyyy/mm/dd (1999-02-24)

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