Product Type: Microsoft Operating Systems
Newest Review: ... a year of using XP now, not just as a standard user but for both gaming and heavy duty video editing; I can very safely say that I wil... more
The new 'XP'erience
MS Windows XP
MS Windows XP
Date: 27/04/01, updated on 24/10/01 (305 review reads)
Advantages: Improved functionality, Greater stability, Easy on the eye
Disadvantages: None that I can find!
It was like Christmas day when it came in the mail. I had ordered an evaluation copy of Windows XP from the Microsoft web site for free of charge and after waiting what seemed like a long time it arrived in the mail. It was pure excitement as I was going to be the first out of all my friends to try it. The screenshots and good reviews about this new operating system alone was enough to get me excited but to have the CD in my hands weeks before anyone else just tipped the scales.
The previous set up on my computer had Windows 98 SE on it and given that XP Professional Edition could upgrade from that I did just to see how smoothly the transition would go. To my surprise everything went well. XP found all my drivers in it?s database and replaced them with it?s own. The reason for this is that XP has a large database of drivers, which have all been tested to be compatible with XP and haven?t been known to cause any problems and this is where the digital signing comes in. This is a feature that makes sure that this hardware will work under XP. However XP did mess up on one driver update. It failed to recognise my modem but I was easily able to change it to my real one with ease using the ?Add Hardware? wizard. Speaking of wizards, XP is completely packed with them. They?re all easy to use and thus allows those who are new to computers to be able to do things that they might not of been able to do in the past, such as set up a network. The upgrade from 98 to XP as usual with upgrades left over large debris of Windows 98 files and unneeded and unused files and it also made some of my programs not start-up. This is the point where I advise that you back up all your files before doing an upgrade or better yet do what I did after doing the upgrade. Back up your files then do a complete re-install of the operating system. This will make sure that you got the most stable environment in Windows and problems are unlikely to occur. It?s worth the effort because
it?s not something that you do everyday and XP is definitely worth it! I had problems mainly with the Norton products. I had Norton Antivirus 2002 and Norton Utilities 2002 installed and they refused to work but after a re-install of XP and then installing these two products again they worked perfectly fine.
Windows XP is the next major step from 98 or ME. Remember the days of the old Windows 3.x Graphical User Interface (GUI)? They then moved that to what they called then the revolution of computing, which got everyone excited because of it?s new interface and speed. Today we see that happening yet again. Obviously there wasn?t that big a change as the 3.x to 95 but none the less major changes have been made. You know the saying, ?Never judge a book by its cover? well this quote applies to XP. Although experienced users of 2000, 98 and ME might not find the new theme that exciting what XP packs under the hood is rather astonishing compared to Windows 98 SE. To start with, there?s no question about it that this is the best ever version of Windows. It has the power of Windows 2000, the core engine of NT, and the games and multimedia capabilities of 98 SE/ME. In the past 98 and ME were for games and 2000 Pro was for advanced users who were running networks, etc. Well that?s all gone now thanks to XP. One thing you will notice when you do a new installation of XP is that the desktop is empty bar one icon; the Recycle Bin. My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places and Internet Explorer have all been shifted to the Start Menu to eliminate clutter on your desktop allowing more space for the icons that you want. This can be changed with a slight tweak and you can get those icons back. I found it inconvenient to have it in the Start Menu so I put them back on the desktop. The fact that you can do this alone shows how customisable XP is. If you do a bit of exploration of the options for XP you will find that the appearance and the way things work ar
e very ?flexible? and there are a number of different things you can do to make your time on the computer more efficient and pleasant. The start menu has been revolutionised and has two bars now. One side is fro programs and the other side is for your folders and settings. Your dial-up networking connections can also be found here as well. The left hand-side of the start menu has the most recently used programs and programs that you want as shortcuts to remain. Rather than recently used programs it is programs that you use most often and XP knows how many times you use these programs and chooses, which ones to display. The ?All Programs? menu is a slide menu that shows all your installed programs. For those with CD-RW drives XP has built in functionality for it. So you can literally drag and drop files onto a CD-R or CD-RW and it will do the rest for you. Have I convinced you to buy it yet? No? Well I?ve still got some more to write about yet. Windows Media Player 8 is the latest version of its multimedia jukebox offering everything from streaming audio to DVD. The DVD feature however does not include a DVD encoder so you?ll have to install a separate piece of software in order for it to work but most of you who have a DVD drive will have some sort of DVD player software accompanied with it so there shouldn?t be too many problems there. Media Player 8 also includes more ?Skins? and the ability to not only rip audio files of CD?s and convert them into it?s own format (Windows Media Audio a.k.a *.WMA) but you can also burn audio files onto CD?s and it?s really simply as well as fast. Internet Explorer 6 is bundled with XP despite the controversy of the legal court case against Microsoft for the bundling of IE 6 with Windows XP. You probably won?t immediately notice anything at first but there have been a few changes in terms of functions and features. Like I said with Windows XP about the ?under the hood? saying. Microsoft have made some changes to t
he way IE 6 handles data from the internet and is much better at it. The loading time of it is also much faster and the Media Bar is a saviour. It?s quite impressive how these small minor tweaks to the program will make using the Internet much quicker. Speaking of the Internet, Dial Up Networking has improved and I like it! Although I am on 56kbps modem dial up to the Internet things seem to be going much more smoothly and faster. Dial Up Networking can be done in many different ways. You can have it dial up to the internet automatically when you click it?s icon from the start menu or you can get it to prompt for username and password, or if you have more than one internet service it can ask you to choose which number you want it to dial first. Outlook Express has remained the same apart from its start-up logo but besides that I don?t think there have been any exciting changes made to it. Folder viewing is much more versatile allowing you to customize the way it works and looks. If say you want to create a new folder anyway on your system you?re given that opportunity and what you put in it can be up to you and the way the files are displayed is also up to you. For example you can create a folder on your desktop for storing audio files. You save a few in there and now you want them to be organised for easy access to them in future so this is where the functionality comes in. You can group them alphabetically under titles and sub headings. If you choose the ?Details? view of your files it doesn?t show the useless information like when it was created or the type of file it is you can choose what things you want it to display for example the Artist, the album it came from, the bit rate that it plays at and etc. There are too many to name. The left hand side of all the folders in XP is a more developed feature from Windows 98 and gives you a number of things to do. For example it allows you to copy your files to a CD, delete the file, share the file wit
h other people on your network, play all the music/video files in that folder, publish the contents of the folder online, email the folder, and even order reprints online! Amazing what you can from just inside a folder. There are three new types of viewing contents of folders now; Thumbnail, Filmstrip and Tiles. Each of these can be used for photos and video files. Thumbnails are made of the first frame of videos. Microsoft?s Windows Messenger apes the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service. That said, although there are some interesting features added with Windows Messenger-such as voice and video communication in addition to text, and the sharing of applications and whiteboard drawings on top of simple file transfers-the additions aren?t features that are used prevalently. Simply installing AIM straight after the XP installation of Windows Messenger. Although, thankfully, Windows Messenger is no longer integrated into the OS as originally planned, it still pops up annoyingly in the systray should you open IE 6 (also installed by default) or Outlook.
Windows? handling of digital cameras also deserves a special mention. Now, you just need to plug in your USB-connected camera and ?once the driver has been installed-a removable storage device folder appears that automatically loads the pictures taken. This should work for most modern if not old cameras.
On the whole, Microsoft?s approach to providing a richer PC ?XP? experience to the majority of home users is a step in the right direction. Another plus is Windows XP?s approach to help and support, which is the best replacement for a dedicated IT support team yet realised in an OS. It does depend to some extent upon an Internet connection, although without this you still get richly detailed help files on almost any Os-related subject, including general hardware and software application queries. As mentioned with regards to disabling Windows Messenger, it?s still not flawless. Connected to the Intern
et, you also have access to multiple information sources such as your PC manufacturer?s homepage, Microsoft Knowledge Base and others that will be added, probably via Windows Update, as they come online. The concept of ?favourites? is also integrated into the Help subsystem, so you can easily find those passages most important to you. Most impressive is the ability to invite a trusted friend or support professional, also running XP, to be your remote assistant. Through an Internet connection, your assistant can chat with you, observe your working screen and with your permission, remotely control your computer. This facility no longer leaves professionals alone at home or otherwise at the mercy of frustratingly trying to follow somebody?s phone-relayed instructions to fix hiccups-just sit back and relax and let someone else do the work. For the professional or power user considering which version of Windows XP to opt for, it?s best to peruse the list of available features in the Professional Edition and then decide whether the extra £68 asking price is worth it. I suspect for the majority of standalone desktop users, even those requiring simple home networking, which is supported on the TCP/IP protocol only, it won?t be. In answer to the hardcore gamers out there, my experience proves that the fast-moving area of graphics card driver revisions and game development will always result in a few problems, although I quickly solved the ones I encountered, so we expect you to be able to do so as well.
Forget the snobbish route of choosing the Professional over the Home Edition just because you consider yourself a professional user or enthusiast. All the integrated apps are provided in both versions anyway. It?s simply a question of whether you have to have any of the extra features provided with XP Professional. For an unmanaged desktop, I?d suggest that the majority of users, professionals and enthusiasts, would be perfectly happy with the Home Edition. The
simplicity isn?t as clear-cut as a dumbing-down of functionality-far from it. So should you, as a standalone user, upgrade? The answer is a resolute yes. This is £77 well spent, as you?re buying the NT code base together with some superb features. And with exceptional stability, the extra features and time-saving, intuitive interface, XP Home Edition will certainly provide for more than your average home user.