May 09, 2001, 3:48 PM — Finally, more than a year after releasing Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft has shipped the Active Directory Client Extensions for Windows NT 4. This allows NT 4 clients to more fully (but not completely -- more about this in a moment) participate in an Active Directory controlled Windows 2000 network.
For a while during the development of Windows 2000 and Active Directory, Microsoft was dropping hints that there would be no support in Windows 9x and NT 4 clients for Active Directory. Microsoft relented well before the new operating system with the new directory service finally shipped. Windows 9x client extensions were on the Windows 2000 installation media, but NT 4's extensions didn't make the release. Instead, it took until almost the last day in February of this year to get this eagerly awaited add-on to the Microsoft networking client ready for download.
The Windows NT client extensions add functionality similar to that added to Windows 95 and 98 by their respective client extensions, including:
* Site awareness -- the ability to log on to the domain controller that is closest to the client in the network, as well as the ability to change passwords on any Windows 2000-based domain controller;
* Active Directory Service Interfaces -- this allows programs written to the ADSI standard to run on this platform;
* Distributed File System fault tolerance client -- this provides access to Windows 2000 DFS fault tolerant and failover file shares specified in Active Directory;
* Active Directory Windows Address Book property pages -- this allows users (those who have permission) to change properties on user objects (such as phone number and address) through the user object pages. It also adds support for display specifiers for new directory schema elements stored on the user object in Active Directory.
Of course, not all client functionality is added (compared to the functionality available with Windows 2000 Professional). Technologies not supported with the client extensions include Kerberos, Group Policy, IntelliMirror, IP Security, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, Service Principal Name or mutual authentication.
You'll need to do some testing with your Windows NT 4 workstations to see if the functionality is enough to fully participate in your Windows 2000 network. If not, start planning upgrades to Win 2000 Professional as soon as possible.