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Keeping Track of Microsoft's NT Hardware Compatibility List

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Published in TechRepublic's Windows NT Help Desk Report

Every time you set up a Microsoft NT workstation or install NT Server 4.0, you're certain to find a copy of Microsoft's Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) included with the software. As you probably know, this list designates which manufacturers' products are compatible with NT 4.0 in Microsoft's Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL) or an affiliated lab approved by Microsoft. In other words, this list includes the names of every manufacturers' product that meets the Microsoft's compatibility qualifications. By passing these tests, manufacturers earn the right to display the Designed for Microsoft Windows NT Compatible logo on product packaging and marketing material.

Unfortunately, the list inside your software package could be up to a year old. Most likely, you won't want to base any of your future hardware purchases on such outdated information. You need the most recently updated HCL. In this article, we'll describe how to keep your HCL information up-to-the-minute and detail some important information you can garner from the list.

Getting the right stuff!

You can access the most recent HCL on Microsoft's Web site at
click here to view on a separate page.

Figure A: You'll easily navigate the HCL by using Microsoft's search engine.

Using Microsoft's HCL search engine

As you can see, this page offers two search levels, Basic and Advanced. Using the Basic options, let's choose a company name from the pull-down menu. For example, we chose (3Com) and retrieved the appropriate section of the HCL. In Figure B, you can see the information the HCL contained on 3Com and its related products.

Cc750539.hclb(en-us,TechNet.10).gif

Figure B: This listing provides access information for any and all 3Com products tested by Microsoft labs.

The HCL also provides extra information whenever possible about available device drivers (the little floppy disk icon) and additional notes (the paper page icon). You'll find that these notes can include information about specific procedures for installing, product limitations, and specifications. Even if you're not experiencing any problems, you'll want to read through any available notes for possible undocumented configuration options that may improve your network's performance. You can simply click on the appropriate icon to download or view this material. You might also note that Microsoft labels each product at these specific levels of compliance:

  • Compatible: Hardware is known to operate correctly with Microsoft operating systems, but hasn't met Microsoft's logo requirements.

  • Designed for Windows NT (DFWNT): Hardware is known to be compatible with Microsoft NT and meets Microsoft's Designed for Windows NT requirements.

  • PC 95: Hardware is known to be compatible with Microsoft Windows 95, including plug and play, and must be easy to configure and use.

  • PC 97: Hardware is known to be compatible with Microsoft Windows 95, Windows NT, and Windows 98. Also meets the DFWNT standards.

  • PC98: Hardware is known to be compatible with Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 SP3, and Windows NT 5.0. (For complete details on this newly adopted standard, point your browser to
    click here to view on a separate page.

Figure C: The Advanced level of the search engine provides you with additional options.

Next, you need to select Network>ATM from the Category pull-down menu. When you do, you'll notice that the page begins reloading. This is because it's narrowing your options on the fly as you make selections. Once it finishes, you can pull down the Company menu and select from the list of available companies or accept the default [All] setting. Then, click the appropriate check boxes beside the Logo levels you're interested in and the operating systems you're using on your NT network. You can be as specific or as general as you wish at this point. Finally, click the search button to view the known network cards included in the HCL.

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