Home > Articles > Hardware > Upgrading & Repairing

Making Sure Your Computer Is Ready for Windows XP

  • Print
  • + Share This

Making Sure Your Computer Is Ready for Windows XP

Windows XP, the new version of Windows previously known as "Whistler", will be appearing on store shelves in late October, and may be popping up on new system hard drives before the end of September. Eventually it's likely to find its way onto your hard drive as well. How can you make sure your system is ready for Windows XP?

Checking the Obvious - Your Processor, Memory Size, and Free Disk Space

While many users have made a habit of using old, slow PCs for experimenting with new versions of Windows, every release of Windows has raised the bar a little higher. Be prepared for a big jump in system requirements if you're considering Windows XP.

In the following table, I've listed both the official requirements for Windows XP Home Edition, as listed on the Microsoft Windows XP Website:
(http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/guide/sysreq.asp), and what I consider to be more realistic expectations if you want adequate system performance.

Minimum

Recommended (by Microsoft)

Recommended (by Me)

Processor (CPU)

233MHz

300MHz

500MHz or faster

Notes AMD K6 family and Pentium MMX are too slow for heavy use; recommend using a fast Pentium III/Celeron, Athlon/Duron, or Pentium 4

RAM

64MB

128MB

256MB

Notes Many lower cost systems share up to 16MB of RAM or more with on-board video, reducing effective memory below the installed amount

Free Hard Disk Space

1.5GB

1.5GB

10GB

Notes If you want to use Windows XP and keep your old version of Windows, create a new partition on your current hard drive for XP, or install a new drive for Windows XP's exclusive use.

How does your system stack up? Chances are you're in pretty good shape as far as your processor is concerned if your computer is no more than three years old, but memory and disk space may be bigger problems. I've seen Windows XP limp along on systems with a 266MHz Pentium II and 96MB of RAM, and seen it run very nicely on an AMD Athlon 800 with 256MB of RAM. Faster is better! And more RAM is better.

What about free disk space? When Microsoft says "1.5GB" - that's just enough to install Windows XP itself. By the time you install some real programs (an office suite, a graphics suite, and so forth), you lose another gigabyte or two. And, Microsoft's System Restore feature (which automatically makes periodic backup copies of your system state in case an upgrade goes awry or your system just decides to malfunction one day) uses even more disk space with every passing day.

If you're running a 30GB or larger hard disk and have 10GB or so to spare, then use that empty space for Windows XP. Install it into its own folder, or better still, use a program like Partition Magic 7.0 www.powerquest.com to reduce the size of your existing drive partition and make a new partition just for Windows XP. Windows XP sets up a dual-boot configuration and gives you your choice of operating systems when you boot.

Prefer a hardware solution? Get a Trios IDE hard drive selector box from Romtec www.romtecusa.com and install two or three different IDE drives, each with its own operating system. Set the system BIOS to Autodetect for the master drive and turn off the computer. Push the button for the drive you want, and restart the computer and boot from that drive. Either way, you can use Windows XP without losing the features of your current operating system.

Video, Optical Drives, and Input Devices

Hard disk space, onboard RAM and processor speed are the obvious areas where your system could fall short when running Windows XP. But, before you decide your system is up to the standards, browse the following table. You might find another upgrade or two before installing, while not absolutely necessary, is worthwhile.

Minimum

Recommended (by Microsoft)

Recommended (by Me)

Video Resolution

SVGA 800 by 600

Same or better

XGA 1024 by 768 or higher with 24-bit or 32-bit color

Notes Use a 17-inch or larger CRT or a 15-inch or larger LCD panel for easy-to-read text and icons; have at least 4MB of RAM on your video card to display 24-bit color

Optical Drive

CD-ROM or DVD-ROM

Same

12x4x32 or faster CD-RW drive

Notes A CD-RW drive will enable the new optical drive recording wizard and give you an easy place to store data.

Input Devices

Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible

Same

High quality mechanical switch keyboard and an optical mouse or trackpointer

Notes This is no place to compromise, unless you don't use your computer very often!

Windows XP is the first version of Windows that makes high resolutions and high color depths a necessity for booting the system as well as using applications. By default, Windows XP uses 16-bit color (65,535 colors) at 800 by 600 resolution; try to get by with 640 by 480, and you won't be able to use your toolbars or Start menu very well.

Ratchet up the resolution to XGA-level (1024 by 768), and you also increase the amount of RAM you need on your video card. If you're running an older system with a low-powered PCI video card or on-board video, you might not be able to display 24-bit color at 1024 by 768 resolution (it needs 4MB of video RAM, and a lot of older systems only have 2MB available for video). So, a better video card might be a hidden cost if you decide to go for Windows XP. But, given its tremendous support for digital imaging, you might decide it's worthwhile.

While you need only a CD-ROM drive to install Windows XP, I recommend using a CD-RW drive, especially if you're looking for a bigger alternative to floppy disks for storage. Windows XP integrates simple-to-use CD-writing support, making it almost as easy to copy data to a CD-RW drive as to a floppy drive. You can still use a full-blown mastering program if you want to, but for routine file-copy operations, you won't need to.

USB Rules

If you're considering Windows XP for its imaging prowess, think twice if you're using older scanner interfaces such as SCSI or parallel port. Pre-release versions of Windows XP had no problem with hot-swapped USB imaging devices of all kinds, automatically starting the correct wizard to acquire existing pictures or scan new ones, even if the USB imaging device wasn't specifically listed as compatible on the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List at www.microsoft.com/hcl. However, SCSI and parallel port imaging devices had a rougher time. While SCSI devices worked acceptably when the File - Acquire command was used (just as with older Windows 9x versions), the automatic imaging features of Windows XP ignored two different SCSI scanners we tried (Epson and Canon), even when we installed new Windows 2000 drivers (Windows XP is based on Windows 2000). In the end, we just couldn't get the nifty Scanner and Camera wizard to run at all and our Acer parallel port scanner wouldn't do anything under Windows XP, even via the File - Acquire menu.

Your Pre-Release Path to Success

Until Windows XP is no longer a pre-release product, about the best way to find out what hardware works best with it is to install Release Candidate 1 (RC1) or 2 (RC2) of Windows XP and use the Windows Update feature (for as long as they remain available). A link on the Windows XP Windows Update site provides a searchable listing of devices ranked by compatibility. Many of the devices listed as "compatible" on the text listing for Windows XP at the Hardware Compatibility site are listed as requiring driver updates before they're really compatible with Windows XP.

Conclusion

Because Windows XP is based on Windows 2000 technologies and drivers, rather than the comfortable Windows 9x/Me technologies of past Windows versions, it requires more system performance to run well, and new drivers for your favorite devices. Don't assume that your existing devices will be supported right away, although Windows XP is likely to take off much faster than Windows 2000 ever did. The real vote of support though comes from hardware manufacturers, virtually all of whom are working on providing XP drivers for their products.

Copyright©2002 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020