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Stability

The main advantage to Windows XP is that it hardly ever crashes. Sure, there are times when programs or devices fail to work correctly, but, in the vast majority of cases, you can get out of trouble by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del, which brings up a menu that lets you stop the misbehaving program without having to reboot the operating system.

It's Not Foolproof

Despite the improvements, Windows XP occasionally froze up and wouldn't respond to any commands, forcing me to turn off the machine by pressing the power switch or pulling the plug.

This is supposed to be the operating system you never have to restart, but that's not entirely true. Sometimes things slow down until you restart, and the file search command sometimes fails to work until the system is rebooted.

One very useful feature in XP is system restore. If you experience a serious problem with the operating system or software, you can restore the system to its state at an earlier point in time. This can be a life saver if a piece of software acts up and affects system performance or other programs.

Adding hardware

XP does a great job of identifying hardware and installing drivers. Most peripherals today are "plug and play," which means they identify themselves to the computer to aid installation. With earlier versions of Windows it was more like "plug and pray" because it seemed to take divine intervention for peripherals to work properly. Now they work quite well.

I added several new pieces of hardware to the PC, and Windows didn't even bother asking me to install the proper driver. XP installed it for me and everything worked just fine.

I have a shared printer on one machine on my network, and every time I add a new PC to the network XP automatically finds that network printer and makes it available to the new machine.

Of course, XP doesn't have drivers for all hardware. Plug and play successfully identifies my Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 1218 printer, but Windows can't find drivers for it. The Windows 2000 drivers worked fine, despite a warning that the drivers haven't been certified to work with XP.

That's usually the case. About 75 percent of the Windows 2000 hardware drivers I've tested work fine in XP, but a few don't work at all. Others support some but not all features of the hardware. Obviously, hardware vendors are in the process of providing XP drivers, but users might have a problem with older pieces of hardware.

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