With the introduction of Windows XP, Microsoft Corp. managed to tick off a lot of people, ranging from consumers (who were still getting Windows Me to work correctly) to IT professionals, who faced yet another operating system to support and install.
Some hardware pieces, such as scanners and printers, still don't have drivers, forcing some to upgrade. XP has a controversial registration scheme that assures that one copy of the OS is bought for every PC it is installed on. And it takes some serious PC horsepower to run it effectively.
After spending some time with XP Home Edition on my main home PC, I am ready to offer a verdict: The upgrade is well worth the $99. My system is more stable, faster and more visually appealing.
There are many other features worth talking about:
--Users: XP lets you have up to five separate users. Each can have his or her own desktop, applications and settings. You can log-off one person (and leave their stuff running) and log in as another. Perfect for households with kids because mom and dad's Quicken checkbook can be "off-limits" to the other users. And dad doesn't have to put up with "N Sync" desktop wallpaper.
--Firewall: XP has a built-in, basic firewall. Not a perfect step but more than many users have. It serves at least as a "screen door" on your Internet connection.
--Visuals: XP is great to look at, especially if you have a good video card (32 megs of video memory or more.)
--Stable: I have gone weeks without rebooting my Windows XP setup. In Windows 98 or Me I was lucky to go a day or two.
--Installation: Simple and easy. XP will tell you when you have incompatible software or hardware installed. In my case, Norton AntiVirus, Symantec PC Anywhere and Roxio Easy CD Creator all died slow, horrible deaths. If I want to continue to use them, I had to upgrade to newer, XP-compatible versions. (Consider that in your budget.)
--Speed: Many applications load faster in XP. The whole computer reboots in one-third the time...a big deal if you're a nerd. (I honestly think I have spent more than a year of my life waiting for computing devices to warm up or boot, starting with my keypunch machine in high school.)
There are a few downsides:
--Registration: Once installed, Microsoft ties the operating system to items in your PC's box. If you make lots of changes in your internal hardware frequently (like a computer columnist) XP may think you're a pirate and quit working until you call Microsoft and make a good case. Should not affect a lot of people but it's still a downside.
--Compatibility: This OS is still a new baby so bugs are sometimes a problem. Apple Quicktime videos don't run on my system unless Quicktime is the very first application run on my PC after a reboot. (Newsgroups say this is a common issue). Drivers for discontinued hardware items are hard to find in some cases (manufacturers write drivers, not Microsoft and their goal is to sell new hardware, not write drivers for old hardware.)
But all in all, I think XP is a major, worthy step up for people who have decent hardware (processors above 550s) and at least 256 MB of RAM.
- Weekly Web Wonder: For complete details on Windows XP and the hardware compatibility list (before you buy) check out www.microsoft.com.)