A New eXPerience

Barring a last minute court order, Microsoft plans to launch Windows XP on October 25. Based on the Windows NT family, XP will eventually impact all users, since the Windows 95 family (including 95, 98, and Me) will disappear. While the new operating system has basically the same interface, there are major behind the scenes changes for users unfamiliar with the NT family. Also the two versions of XP will be targeted separately to business and home users.


Users considering upgrading should know the requirements for XP are far higher than earlier versions of Windows. Microsoft recommends at least a 300 MHz processor, 128 MB of memory, 1.5 GB of hard disk space, a CD-ROM drive, and at least a Super VGA display (800x600). Based on past experience with Microsoft's requirements, ITS recommends a higher speed CPU and even more memory.

These requirements will leave most older PCs in the dust. In line with that thinking, Microsoft will allow users to upgrade from Windows 98 or later, but not Windows 95. Users desiring XP Professional Edition can also upgrade from Windows NT 4.0 or later, including XP Home Edition.

Tale Of Two Editions

What's that? Two versions? Yes, XP will arrive in a Home Edition and a Professional Edition. Both will incorporate key features such as the Windows NT base, which provides better protection from errant programs as well as better security. With XP, one program cannot cause problems with other programs as each runs in its own memory space. XP protects its own files, preventing programs from installing older versions of shared files and causing problems with other programs. Both also keep user settings separate for each user, which in a sense is good, but might cause problems with older software not written to work with Windows NT or 2000. In this case users must install the same program multiple times for each user set up on a computer. Users who run lots of programs will be glad to know that XP, like Windows NT and 2000, removes the "resources" limit that could cause Windows 98 to crash when lots of programs were open.

Microsoft will market Home Edition (about $100 for an upgrade) much like Windows Me, on its multimedia capabilities. However Home Edition's networking is limited in that it cannot connect to a Windows Server (be it NT, 2000, or XP). Businesses who buy PCs with Home will need to upgrade to XP Professional if they decide to install an XP Server later.

Professional Edition has the same features as Home but will connect to a Windows Server. It also supports larger amounts of memory and multiple CPUs, making it attractive to users with processor-intensive programs. Upgrades will cost approximately $200.


Overall we stick by our time-tested upgrade strategy: unless you have a real need, do not rush out to upgrade. Our experience suggests problems upgrading from Windows 98 or Me, so clients may want to wait to get a new PC with Windows XP rather than upgrade.

October 2001

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