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Microsoft Windows XP

Windows XP - a Worthwhile XPerience?

Definitely, if...

By Jim Bray

Windows XP is here, and life is now worth living.

That's what Microsoft would like you to believe, anyway. Its newest Operating System, Windows XP, is indeed the latest and greatest in its line of such products, but is it worth dropping a hundred bucks or more on it?

Yes, if you're tired of crashes, if you want snazzy new features, if you have enough money, and if you only need to upgrade one home computer.

That's a lot of "ifs."

The biggest plus of Windows XP is stability. The Windows 9.x Operating Systems (Windows 95, 98 and Me) have great features, but their big downfall has been falling down -they crash and burn far too often.

On the other hand, Windows 2000 Professional, the higher end business Operating System, is terrifically stable. I've been using it for over a year and I love it.

The downside to Windows 2000 Pro was that some games and other multimedia things wouldn't run, or wouldn't run properly.

Windows XP, available in Home and Professional versions, finally brings the two worlds together: Home users can supposedly expect the wonderful stability of Windows 2000 Pro, while Professional users now get all the "gee whiz" multimedia, digital photography, and other stuff.

I've been using Windows XP Professional, so I can't comment on the Home version's stability, but there's no reason it shouldn't work as advertised.

Windows XP also has easy networking setup. My son built our home network and when configuring Windows 98 or 2000 Pro I had to beg him for help. All I had to do with XP, though, was type the workgroup name into the Network Setup Wizard and it chugged away and set up everything. It was wonderful.

XP also has a much ballyhooed new interface, which is supposedly easier for new users to figure out. Maybe it does; I'm not a new user. I don't like the new look, however; it's far to "cutesy." Fortunately, you can go back to the "classic" Windows look if you choose - so I did.

XP also includes value-added stuff like built in support for digital photography and music, you can downsize and optimize your digital photos for efficient transmission over the Internet, and there's a video editor that lets you make quick and dirty (but perfectly adequate) movie files from your home videos.

You don't have to use any of these features, or Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web Browser, but they're there if you want them. They've also built in Windows Messenger which lets you keep in touch with your online friends.

XP is supposed to be faster than Windows 9x, but it isn't appreciably faster than Windows 2000 Pro. It isn't particularly more stable than Win2K Pro, either - nor does it need to be. So while home users may find plenty of incentive to switch, Windows 2000 Pro users who don't need the multimedia stuff may want to think twice.

One thing I don't like is Microsoft's product activation rigmarole, which forces you to either log onto the Internet or phone a toll free number to "turn on" the product once it's installed. This is an anti-piracy move and it ties Windows to the computer on which it's installed - so you'll no longer be able to use one CD to install Windows onto more than one PC in your home. Microsoft should at the very minimum lower the price substantially for multiple purchases, to encourage people to buy the product, but it doesn't.

Most of my existing software - so far - runs fine on XP. One notable exception was Norton Antivirus 2001, though NAV 2002 works fine.

According to, Windows XP pricing is $100 or $200 (upgrade vs. full price) for Home and $200 to $300 (same parameters) for Professional. Windows 98, Me or 2000 users can get the upgrade, so if you still use Windows 95 you'll have to pay the full price. This isn't fair.

Any PC bought within the past year or so should run XP fine, but minimum requirements include a Pentium II 300 or compatible, 64 Megabytes of RAM (but get at least 128 Mb), and 1.5 Gigabyte of available hard disk space. You can check for compatibility by downloading free "Upgrade Advisor" from Microsoft's Web site.

XP's definitely worth a look - if.

Jim Bray's technology columns are available from the TechnoFILE Syndicate. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006