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Windows XP: A Big Improvement, But Not Perfect

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  1. Windows XP: A Big Improvement, But Not Perfect
  2. Stability
  3. Adding Software
  4. Peeves
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Windows XP: A Big Improvement, But Not Perfect

By Larry Magid, author of The Little PC Book, Windows XP Edition

Upgrades for Windows XP have been available since last fall, but if you haven't made the switch yet, don't worry, you're not alone. Many people who are using Microsoft's latest operating system got up and running on it for one of two reasons: either they purchased a new computer with Windows XP and had to learn how to use it, or they were having so much trouble with older versions of Windows that they jumped on XP at the first opportunity.

If you're not in either of those camps, you have the luxury of taking the time to evaluate whether XP is really for you. Here are some things you should consider.

Whether to upgrade at all really depends on how happy you are with your current operating system. If Windows 95, 98 or Me works just fine--and they do for many people--there's no truly compelling reason to trade up to XP. That said, it's clear after testing XP for several weeks on a variety of machines that it is perhaps Microsoft's best operating system, full of significant improvements over previous versions of Windows. It's just as stable and robust as Windows 2000, the operating system Microsoft sells to business users.

In fact, XP is based on the same code as Windows 2000 but has a more friendly interface and support for some older consumer-oriented programs and hardware products that don't work under Windows 2000.

The $199 Windows XP Professional edition is designed for businesses--particularly those with big networks--but most users who decide to upgrade should opt for the $99 Home edition, which includes virtually all of XP's most dramatic enhancements at half the price.

The upgrade process is fairly straightforward. But don't even think about upgrading a machine until you ensure it meets the not insignificant system requirements. For starters, you need Windows 98 or Me. Windows 95 users have to buy the full version of XP. Frankly, though, a PC old enough to be running Windows 95 probably has outdated hardware that XP won't recognize.

Windows 2000 users can upgrade only to the Professional edition.

Microsoft says users need at least 64 megabytes of memory and 1.5 gigabytes of available hard disk space. Double those numbers for decent performance and quadruple them for an optimum system. Don't bother unless your central processing unit is running at 400 megahertz or faster.

You can see if your machine is able to run XP by taking the XP Readiness Test found on my Web site.


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