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Windows NT backup drives
Segment 2: Tape Backup and Power Off after Shutdown

Originally encoded on March 27th, 2016 and published the following day

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The Hardware Abstraction Layer

Compared to Windows 95, Windows NT is much more strict on what you can do with your hardware. Direct access to devices is totally blocked off, and programs must instead go through a layer of abstraction to interact with a device should the operating system allow it. As mentioned in Hardcore Windows 95 Day 2 This often greatly increases the level of security and stability in the operating system, but requires many vendors to get behind the operating system and learn to adapt to its fundamental differences. Windows NT 4.0 didn't really gain the traction it needed to justify such wide driver support until 1998, when it was pitched as the smoothest path to upgrade to the much anticipated Windows NT 5.0, something which would later become known as Windows 2000.

A HAL does not create real limitations in how a computer can be used; the problem with Windows NT 4.0 was simply that it was lagging behind so much in hardware support compared to Windows 95. It had no real APM implementation, so any power-related settings you wanted to set up had to be defined in the BIOS setup utility, or a third-party driver specific to the system you're working with. Windows NT cannot even power itself off unless you have a UPS configured in a specific way.

However, a company going by Softex did create a modified HAL which allows Windows NT to power off after shutting down. They insist the HAL requires a seperate license from them, but it's included in Service Pack 6a anyway, so what gives... you can just extract the contents of the service pack using the following switches in a Run dialog:


Then take the applicable Softex HAL to WINNT\SYSTEM32, and modify C:\BOOT.INI with a new boot option under the [operating systems] section. (This will vary depending on what system you installed Windows NT to, so just copy/paste the first option to another line and modify the new one)

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00" /hal=hal.dll.softex multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00 (Old HAL)"

Whatever you do, ALWAYS keep the original HAL around! The section option is just the same as a normal bootup, only with a different label indicating the original HAL is to be used. Also, if you are using a dual CPU system, you must use halmps.dll.softex instead of hal.dll.softex. Some servers may not have an APM implementation at all, particularly later ones which opt to use ACPI exclusively.

Of course, the other thing to do after that is enable the option to power off after shutting down in the registry. At the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon, set PowerdownAfterShutdown to 1. Don't forget, if this option is set without the Softex HAL loaded, Windows NT will just reboot instead of shutting down.

Tape Backup!

Windows NT 4.0 tape driver menu

Tape backup often gets scoffed at as some unreliable backup medium, but it's actually remained very popular in the enterprise sector and continues to evolve through LTO Ultrium. Anyone who believes all backups should be done in the magical cloud these days is insane! If modern tape backup could be made more affordable for average consumers and have ease of use technologies like LTFS carried over, I'm sure it would enjoy significant success among video creators looking for an easy, cost-effective, and energy efficient option to archive their old stuff. Those streams really do pile up, baby!

For this server, I've loaded a DAT72 tape drive into the case, connected via SCSI. Unlike Windows 95's backup utility, Windows NT has pretty much always supported SCSI tape drives. While DAT72 was introduced in 2003 and Windows NT 4.0 was far out of the question by then, using a DAT40 (DDS-4) driver turns out to be sufficient for fully leveraging a DAT72 drive without any troubles - even to the point where you can use the higher capacity of a DAT72 cartridge.

Windows NT 4.0 backup program

Backing up to tape is pretty straightforward in Windows NT. You just insert a tape, select the drives and/or files you want to back up, and create a new backup job. You can then let it run along, and the tape drive's hardware will even compress data on the fly if it supports doing so. Most typical files passed around these days are not highly compressible, so the compression is more effective in more "raw" data like SQL databases.

By the offchance you happen to have a tape drive which connects to a floppy controller (as is the case with certain Colorado/QIC drives), Windows NT 4.0 is the last version of Windows besides 98 that supports it. From what I recall reading in a Microsoft KB article, issues in getting QIC tape drives connecting through a floppy interface to coexist with USB led to the former getting canned outright in Windows 2000. QIC drives using SCSI are unaffected, of course.