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PC World

What's the deal with Y2K boards?


April 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EDT (1639 GMT)

by David Essex

(IDG) -- Best known as a leading maker of CPU chip upgrades, Evergreen Technologies last week joined a small group of companies selling upgrade boards that fix Y2K compliance problems in PC system BIOSes.

Evergreen's $39.95 Year 2000 Upgrade card, available immediately, fits in ISA or EISA expansion slots. Evergreen says users need only shut down and disconnect power from the PC, open the lid, install the card in an open slot, then reverse these steps. At next power-up, the BIOS message indicates Y2K compliance. No software installation is required, the company claims.

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Most pre-1997 PCs had real-time clock chips ticking off six-digit dates (mm-dd-yy) translated by the BIOS into eight-digit dates indicating the proper century. Most BIOSes aren't programmed to calculate the proper century after January 1, 2000, potentially causing system failure.

The Evergreen card reprograms any PC's BIOS to make the proper translation. It also provides virus protection plus backup and restore functions for the programmable CMOS chip on which the BIOS resides. Because the card fixes hardware Y2K problems at the BIOS level only, the company recommends contacting software vendors separately for software fixes.

Evergreen says noncompliant hardware was being sold until recently. "Well into 1998, many motherboard manufacturers had not made the change," says Steven Johnson, an Evergreen product manager. "It's only in 1999 that we start to see fully updated RTC chips."

Similar cards have long been available from other vendors. BIOS maker American Megatrends sells the Year 2000 BIOS Enabler, while Unicore Software (a division of BIOS vendors Phoenix and Award) sells the Millennium/Pro. Fernlink 2000 has the Millennium BIOS Board, and Micro Firmware has the MFI Flash 2000.

Who needs one?

One analyst says the cards are an overpriced, labor-intensive alternative to software fixes, especially for corporations with huge fleets of PCs to upgrade. "There's actually a very, very small percentage of people who would be able to take advantage of this," says Kevin Knox, senior research analyst at the Gartner Group.

Knox says similar results can be achieved through issuing certain DOS commands, running special utility software, or directing networked PCs to get their dates from Y2K-compliant servers.

"The appeal of these boards would be if you're not running a standard operating system or you've got very, very old hardware that you want to... keep," Knox says.

Looking at the Y2K Bug

Year 2000 bug

Help desks left out of Y2K loop
April 16, 1999
Test your systems for Y2K
April 6, 1999
Important U.S. computer systems likely to miss Y2K deadline
March 31, 1999
Open source guru blames proprietary software for Y2K woes
March 11, 1999

Gartner study warns most vendor software not OK for Y2K
Y2K a tough climb for Oracle ERP users
Test your systems for Y2K
(PC World Online)
Should users have to shell out money for Y2K upgrades?
(InfoWorld Electric)
Microsoft to release Y2K patch for Windows 95
(InfoWorld Electric)

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Year 2000 Information Center
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