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Operating Systems

Released: 2001-10-25

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Windows XP Home Edition by Microsoft

Software Details

Brand: MicrosoftHardware Platform: PCOperating System: Windows XP
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Description

Packed with multimedia features Windows XP Home Edition aims to unlock the full potential of your personal computer. It also looks great, with rounded window corners, larger and more detailed icons, and a clean-look desktop.

The best thing about Windows XP is that, as it belongs to the Windows NT/2000 product family, it's designed from the ground up for reliability, security, and networking. XP home users will soon see the benefits of this. The dreaded Windows crash and reboot cycle really is much less common with XP, and provided the hardware is up to scratch, XP performance is better too. The downside is that using a different codebase can make compatibility with old applications less good. Business applications normally run fine, but older games, Midi software and system utilities may well cause problems.

XP is more customisable than previous versions, including visual themes that let you change the whole appearance of Windows in an instant. Fast User Switching is a neat feature for computers used by more than one person--it lets another user log on without killing the other user's session, and when you switch back, running applications and open documents are as you left them. This is impressive, but what really counts is that XP properly understands how to deal with multiple users. Each user has their own special folders, like My Documents, which cannot be seen by other users. And for those with more than one computer, the Network Setup wizard simplifies setting up a network.

Windows XP has many strong multimedia features. The new Media Player lets you copy music from CD to hard disk, create your own playlist and write your own music CDs if you have a CD Writer. You can also playback DVD video (but only if a hardware or software DVD decoder is already installed) and play MP3 audio files and MPEG videos (but sadly not the popular Real Media formats). Admittedly, Media Player does nothing that you cannot also do with free alternatives, but it is slick and nicely integrated. There is also Windows Movie Maker, a basic tool for capturing and editing videos, which is fun to use although too limited for serious work.

For Web browsing, XP comes with Internet Explorer 6.0 and MSN Explorer. The most significant new feature for Internet users is the built-in firewall. A firewall protects against one of the most disturbing security risks, where other users unknown to you might connect to your computer while it is online, reading private files or causing other damage. XP's built-in firewall is a simple affair, but does prevent most types of unauthorised connection.

The XP user interface is not a radical departure from earlier versions of Windows, but there are a number of small changes that together add up to a significant improvement. For example, you can add and remove shortcuts from the Start menu by right-clicking the icon and selecting Pin or Unpin from the pop-up menu. Windows online help is integrated into a Help and Support Centre that works like an internal Web site, with searchable help, tutorials and walkthroughs. Laptop or other flat-screen users can set Windows to use ClearType for screen fonts, for a more readable display. There are, of course, some pitfalls. Windows XP is demanding on hardware, and it would be a mistake to install it on less than Microsoft's recommended minimum. Also, if you have devices such as modems, scanners, cameras, printers or multimedia cards, we strongly advise that you check with the manufacturer for XP compatibility. You should also check software such as system utilities, games and multimedia.Business users note: unlike Windows 98 or ME, XP Home Edition cannot join a Windows server domain, so the networking is peer-to-peer only-see Windows XP Professional Edition for this functionality. There is also no multi-processor support, and a mildly annoying anti-piracy measure requires you to obtain a code from Microsoft for full installation and any future system changes. But don't let that put you off: this is Microsoft's best Windows yet. --Tim Anderson

Platforms

Windows 2000, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows Me, Windows XP

More Details

Publisher: Microsoft SoftwareCategory: Operating SystemsBinding: CD-ROMLanguage: English

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