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Instructions for using NSTL's YMARK2000 utility
FAQs
Using YMARK2000 to test your computer

1. Download Y2000 from CCS's web site.  The file, called Y2000.EXE, is small and it only takes a couple of minutes to download. It is very important to remember the path to the file (where it is saved on your hard drive).

2. Reboot your computer to DOS.  If you are using Windows 95, simply shutdown and click the choice, "Restart the computer in the MS-DOS mode."

3. Y2000.EXE is a self-extracting file that produces two files: 2000.EXE and README. TXT. Execute the file Y2000.EXE by typing the path to the file followed by the file name. For example, if you stored Y2000.EXE in c:\temp you would execute the file by typing at the C prompt: c:\temp\Y2000.exe.

4. Execute the test program by entering 2000.EXE at the DOS prompt.

5. The test results will be displayed on your monitor.

6. You can also copy YMARK2000 to a floppy diskette and run the tests from a floppy:

  • a) Boot to DOS.
    • Put a blank or unused diskette into drive A.
    • From the DOS prompt, type in the command: FORMAT A: /S
    • Copy the file 2000.EXE to drive A.
    • Leave the diskette in the drive and reboot the system.

    b) Execute 2000.EXE

    • At the DOS prompt, type in the command: 2000

    c) Read the results on your monitor.

    • As YMARK2000 executes, watch the test
    • A summary of test results is shown at the end of the test

YMARK2000 performs the following tests:

  • Verify MC146818 RTC compatibility. This test ensures that the date and time indices are compatible to the MC146818 and the data is in packed BCD format. Some non-DOS based operating systems, like UNIX, do not use the BIOS but use drivers to access the clock directly. This test ensures that the clock is a Motorola MC146818 compatible chip. If the chip is not compatible, then these "other" operating systems or programs that read the clock directly may fail.
  • Verify real-time progression from December 31st, 1999 to January 1st, 2000. If real-time support fails, then the ability to set the date manually is checked.
  • Verify recognition and support of leap years from 2000 through 2009.

NSTL considered including a power cycle test to confirm the retention of century information. Although conceivable, it is highly unlikely that a BIOS reporting a correct century in real-time will fail after a power cycle. Nonetheless, a reboot test is an important part of the total Year 2000 test process.

YMARK2000 provides batch file support:

  • YMARK2000 returns an error level that can be used in batch files. The error levels returned are:
  • 0: The system is Year 2000 compliant
    1: The hardware clock is not compatible to the MC146818
    2: Progression to the next century is not supported
    3: Progression to the next century is not supported and the hardware clock is not compatible to the MC146818
    6: The year 2000 is not supported
    7: The year 2000 is not supported and the hardware clock is not compatible to the MC146818
    8: The leap year of 2000 is not supported
    18: A manual year 2000 reboot test is required since the system is using an Award BIOS
    19: Bad Progression & Bad RTC & Award 4.50G BIOS
    22: Bad Y2K & Award 4.50G BIOS
    23: Bad Y2K & Bad RTC & Award 4.50G BIOS
    26: Bad Leap Year & Bad Progression & Award 4.50G BIOS
    27: Bad Leap Year & Bad Progression & Bad RTC & Award 4.50G BIOS
    255: The program failed to execute. Either the license agreement was not accepted, the RTC is not running, or an unknown command line parameter was issued.

An explanation for programmers:

Error levels are indicated by bit fields.  Since multiple errors can be detected, the sum of the error bits are returned.  For example, error level 6 (The Year 2000 is not supported) is a combination of BadProgression and BadManualSet (2+4).

   struct {
     int BadRTC         :1;  // 1, The hardware clock is bad
     int BadProgression :1;  // 2, Progression to 2000 does not occur
     int BadManualSet   :1;  // 4, Cannot manually set 2000
     int BadLeapYear    :1;  // 8, Error in leap year support
     int AwardBIOS      :1;  // 16, An Award BIOS is in use
     };

Definition of YMARK2000 error levels:

Incompatible MC146818: A hardware fix may be required due to an incompatible clock. OR The BIOS is using the clock in an incompatible fashion in which a BIOS upgrade may fix the problem.

Leap year is not supported: A hardware fix may be required due to an incompatible clock.

Progression to Year 2000 not supported: A BIOS upgrade may be required.

The Year 2000 is not supported: A BIOS upgrade may be required.

Award BIOS: An Award BIOS is detected that potentially will fail a reboot test.  A manual reboot test is highly recommended on this system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What platforms does YMARK2000 work with?

A. YMARK2000 can be run on any "IBM compatible" personal computer.  YMARK2000 can only be run from DOS.  If the program detects that Windows or OS/2 is running, it will not perform the test.  If the PC currently does not run DOS, simply boot the PC to DOS vis diskette.

Q. Does NSTL charge for YMARK2000?

A. NSTL provides a free, downloadable version of YMARK2000 on its web site. This version may be used free of charge by anyone that downloads it. NSTL does charge a licensing fee for anyone who distributes YMARK2000. NSTL also has a corporate version of YMARK2000 that can be licensed which does not require user input.

Q. How is the corporate version of YMARK2000 different from the version on the web?

A. The corporate version does not require each individual to execute the software license agreement.  The organization licensing YMARK2000 takes full responsibility for the license on a corporate basis.  Bypassing user input for accepting the license agreement allows YMARK2000 to be automated in a networked environment.  With a little programming, test results can be written to a text file and then gathered.  The annual license is $5,000.

Q. What technical support is available for YMARK2000?

A. NSTL regularly reviews and updates the YMARK2000 README file and FAQs for users who download the utility.  Due to the extreme popularity of YMARK2000 and the nature of NSTL's business, we are no longer able to provide custom support to end-users.  The corporate license described above includes limited technical support.

Q. How does YMARK2000 test for Year 2000 compliance?

A. The program tests a personal computer for its ability to support the year 2000. The program tests only the BIOS and the real-time clock's functionality. Operating systems and applications must be tested separately.  For a more detailed discussion of YMARK2000 and year 2000 compliance issues, please download NSTL's Year 2000 White Paper: Year 2000 and the 'Industry Standard' Personal Computer.

Q. I tried to test for year 2000 compatibility but when the term and conditions sheet appeared and I press the letter "Y", the sheet leaves the monitor screen. Why?

A. YMARK2000 must be run from DOS only. If the program detects that Windows or OS/2 is running, it will not run the test.

Q. Can the output of the 2000.EXE file be directed to a file or a printer instead of being displayed on the monitor?

A. Results can be sent to a file or a printer. Just use DOS redirection. For example, to save the results in a file, issue the following command:

2000.EXE > results

A file called "RESULTS" will be created and will contain the results of the test. The filename can be almost anything you want.

To send the information directly to an attached printer, issue the command:

2000.EXE > PRN

This command will send the results directly to the printer.

Q. My computer does not support the year 2000, what can I do?

A. Contact the system's manufacturer for a BIOS upgrade. (It is the BIOS that is responsible for supporting the next century.) Most vendors have Year 2000 sections on their web sites including BIOS upgrades that can be downloaded. If an upgrade is not available and you are working with date-sensitive data, the next best solution is to replace the system with one that does support the 21st century.

It is possible to install special programs that will fix the problem, but these programs must be executed every time the computer is booted.  Unfortunately, the programs will always be susceptible to unsuspecting persons believing they are not needed and removing them.  If supporting the 21st century is a must, this solution is not desirable.

You can manually set the date every time you turn on the system or have the computer automatically retrieve the date from a network.  With this solution, the drawbacks are that you may forget to set the date, accidentally enter the wrong date, be unable to connect to the network, etc.

Q. Can I just reset the date in January 2000?

A. Your system may maintain the new century if you set the date manually.  Do a manual year 2000 test by setting the date to 1/1/2000 and rebooting the system.  If DOS returns 1/1/2000, then you will need to manually set the date only once when  the next century arrives.

Q. Can I run YMARK2000 from Windows?

A. No.  Windows has the ability to virtualize hardware and the BIOS. In order to ensure that the physical BIOS and hardware is actually being tested, NSTL's YMARK2000 was designed not to run in a Windows environment.  If you try to run YMARK2000 from Windows, or from a DOS box in Windows, an error message will be displayed.

Q. How does Microsoft Windows (95/98/NT) handle Year 2000 problems?

A. Microsoft's web-based Microsoft Year 2000 Resource Center deals with these, and other, issues.

Q. Does Windows NT 4.0 correct the year 2000 problem on systems that fail this test?

A. Yes, but only within the NT operating system. If other operating systems are run on the same system, the problem may still exist.

Q. I have a Macintosh, do I need to worry about the Year 2000?

A. According to Apple Computer, their products have always been Year 2000 ready.

Q. A manual test on my PC shows Year 2000 compliance, but NSTL's test program says my system is non-compliant. Why the discrepancy?

A. NSTL's test requires the date reported by the system's BIOS (which reads the hardware clock) to progress from 1999 to 2000 in real-time. While NSTL's program is running, watch the date being displayed on the failed system. The date and time that is displayed while YMARK2000 is running is the date and time being returned by the BIOS. Watch the date. It most likely goes from 1999 to 1900.

Real-time progression of the system BIOS can only be tested using a program like YMARK2000. It cannot be tested manually.

Q. My computer failed the real time progression to year 2000 test, but passes the rest. Do I just change the date in CMOS after the first of the year?

A. Once the new century arrives, you should only have to set the date once. From then on, the computer should contain a correct date. You should verify this. Perform the steps outlined below.

  • 1. Create a DOS boot diskette and use it to boot the system you want to test.

    2. Set the date into the Year 2000 using the DATE command and reboot the system. LEAVE THE BOOT DISKETTE IN THE DISKETTE DRIVE.

    3. Check the date after the boot. If it is the same as the date set in step 2 then you will need to set the date one time.

    4. Be sure to restore the date to today's date!

Q. Why is real time support important?

A. For the majority of applications it is not important. But for applications that must record the date and time accurately, this is very important. The system clock (DOS's clock) is notoriously inaccurate and most applications, and certainly the operating system, use it. But for accurate time, the hardware clock is far better. Network operating systems, voice messaging systems, automated schedulers, etc. may use the hardware clock since they run 24 hours a day.

Operating systems, such as the many flavors of UNIX, may not use the BIOS but obtain the date directly from the RTC hardware. YMARK2000 makes sure the year in the RTC is located at the standard location.

Q. Why, if the problem with 2000 compliance is in the BIOS, can a piece of software correct it?

A. The hardware clock has a 100 year calendar -- it supports years 00 through 99. It has no knowledge of centuries. The BIOS (a piece of software permanently installed in the computer) has been made responsible for tracking the centuries. The BIOS keeps the century data in the hardware clock in an area called CMOS memory. Since the hardware clock has a battery and never loses power, the CMOS memory will never lose its data. So CMOS memory is a safe place to keep information the system does not want to lose, like the current century.

When an operating system or application asks the BIOS for the date, it will return a full 4 digit year by combining the two digit year in the hardware clock with the century data kept in CMOS. If the 4 digit year happens to be 1900, the BIOS will convert the year to 2000 and change the century in CMOS from 19 to 20.

An external piece of software can correct this problem as well. There are several ways it can accomplish this task. Please note, however, that NSTL does not recommend using an external piece of software to correct Year 2000 problems unless there are no other alternatives.

Q. Is 2000 a leap year?

A. Yes, the year 2000 is a leap year.  Century years (like 1900 and 2000) are leap years only if they are evenly divisible by 400.  Therefore, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 is.

Q. Can the failure to support the 21st century be corrected via a software patch?

A. Not reliably. To correct this problem, the patch software must be loaded and executed each time the computer is started and before date sensitive applications are run. Unfortunately, device drivers and TSRs are loaded after the operating system and can easily be bypassed. Also, the patch software must be loaded every time the system is booted for the life of the computer which could extend well into the next century. Unsuspecting individuals, not knowing what the patch software is, could easily remove the patch software from CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT files.

Q. How does YMARK2000 interact with DOS and the BIOS?

A.  NSTL's Y2K test does not examine DOS's time/date functions. The test interfaces solely with BIOS interrupt 0x1A, functions 2, 3, 4 and 5. The methodology is simple. The RTC date and time is set via the BIOS and allowed to roll over to the next day. The date is read via the BIOS and is examined and reported. The date and time being displayed by the program is what the BIOS is reporting in real time.

Q. YMARK2000 recommends a reboot test.  How do I do that?

A.  If YMARK2000 recommends a manual reboot test, perform the following steps:

1. Create a DOS boot diskette and use it to boot the system you want to test.   Be sure you are using DOS version 3.2 or higher.

2. Set the date into the Year 2000 using the DATE command and reboot the system.  LEAVE THE BOOT DISKETTE IN THE DISKETTE DRIVE. 

3. Check the date after the boot.  If it is the same as the date set in step 2, then you will need to set the date only once.

4. Be sure to restore the computer's date to today's date!

Q. Why doesn't YMARK2000 include a reboot test?

A. Simply put, cost. Implementing a reboot test in a free product would be prohibitively expensive.

Q. Does NSTL have any other Year 2000 services?

A. Yes. NSTL has a Year 2000 System Compliance Program for PC vendors. Using YMARK2000, NSTL will determine if a system is Year 2000 compliant. Systems meeting test standards will receive the NSTL Tested Year 2000 System Compliant logo and are posted on NSTL's web site. System vendors and marketers use this seal in advertising, packaging, sales materials and other promotional materials. NSTL also offers consulting services and can recommend workarounds and solutions for software that does not support year 2000.

While NSTL has made YMARK2000 available free of charge, NSTL's other services are all fee-based. For more information on NSTL's commercial testing services e-mail info@nstl.com or call 610-941-9600.

Q. Who is NSTL?

A. NSTL, a CMP Media Inc. company, is the leading independent testing facility for the computer industry. Founded in 1983, NSTL pioneered the use of objective, comparative testing of PC and LAN hardware and software. NSTL offers custom compatibility, certification, performance, usability, BIOS and comparison testing services to hardware developers, software publishers, government agencies and corporations throughout the world. NSTL also conducts testing for business and trade publications worldwide, including Business Week, Data Communications and BYTE.

NSTL does not guarantee accuracy, adequacy or completeness of the services provided in connection with this program. NSTL MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO RESULTS TO BE OBTAINED BY ANY PERSON OR ENTITY FROM USE OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS PROGRAM. NSTL MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OF ANY PRODUCT MENTIONED IN THIS PROGRAM.

Copyright 1998 NSTL, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.