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Moving onto a Windows XP Desktop

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The latest desktop versions of Windows (Home Edition or Professional) offer significant improvements in stability, functionality, and (if you believe everything Microsoft says) performance to boot. Author and columnist Ed Tittel explains what distinguishes Home Edition from Professional and what kinds of tools and support Microsoft offers to help make the switch from your current desktop to Windows XP. If you’ve got the money and the time, Microsoft has a new desktop operating system for you. Only you can decide if spending the money and time is worth the resulting return.
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In late October 2001, Microsoft made history of a sort by shipping Windows XP on the very date they claimed the product would ship. While this might appear to some as a relatively modest achievement, Microsoft's history in attaining its own self-imposed delivery dates for earlier versions of Windows suggests otherwise. No doubt about it: it's a towering achievement!

OK, so now you can run right out and buy yourself a copy of Windows XP in either its Home Edition or Professional flavors. We'll take a quick look at the differences between the two versions, explain what might cause you to choose one or the other, and then talk about what's involved in picking up your world (at least, as far as your current desktop is concerned) and moving it under an XP umbrella.

Comparing XP Home Edition to XP Professional

It's entirely correct to understand Windows XP Home Edition as a proper subset of Windows XP Professional. In plain English, Windows XP Professional has some capabilities that Windows XP Home Edition does not. A complete comparison of the two systems is available on the Microsoft website at www.microsoft.com/WINDOWSXP/home/howtobuy/choosing2.asp. Table 1 provides a list of things that Windows XP Professional offers that Windows XP Home edition does not (see the aforementioned URL for a more complete listing of the capabilities that both systems have in common).

Table 1—Capabilities Unique to Windows XP Professional

Item

Explanation

Remote Desktop

Permits remote takeover of desktop for troubleshooting, training, and so on.

Offline Files & Folders

Provides virtual access to a network share even when not connected to a network.

Multiple CPUs

Supports one or two CPUs (Home Edition only supports one CPU).

Encrypting File System

Supports EFS.

Access Control

Supports access controls for files, applications, and resources.

Domain support

Supports centralized administration, group policy, software installation and maintenance, roaming user profiles, and remote installation service.

Multi-lingual Interface

Permits the user interface language to use localized dialog boxes, menus, help files, and so on.


In general, both versions of Windows XP (Home Edition and Professional) offer greatly enhanced support for plug-and-play compatible hardware, more kinds of multimedia devices, a new and improved GUI, and more. Microsoft also makes some interesting claims about across-the-board performance improvements. Your author agrees with them that start-up and shutdown occur more quickly, but we differ on the topic of general performance improvements on applications at runtime. I think it's slower at running applications (and other independent reviews I see agree with my assessment); Microsoft claims otherwise.

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