Upgrading to Windows XP

Tips & Hints

Should I upgrade to Windows XP?

31 October 2001

You’ve heard the hype about how Windows XP will make your computing faster, more reliable and more fun. But how much of this is true? Should you upgrade to Windows XP?

What is it?

Since 1993, Microsoft has had two families of Windows. The consumer family that was Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and ME and the "business family" that was Windows NT and 2000. XP brings the versions together. XP does not support many older programs and hardware, it also sees the end of MS-DOS.

Supporting older technologies was both a strength and a weakness for Windows. You could upgrade to the latest version of Windows and be reasonably sure that your older equipment and software would run. This was also a weakness because supporting those older technologies meant Windows had to sacrifice some realiability and speed.

While Microsoft has done away with having two different "families" of Windows, XP comes in two different versions. The Home version for home users, which can also be used by smaller businesses, and the Professional version for advanced users and businesses.

What features does it have?

New features for home users include built in CD burning, video editing and digital photo organisation. Sharing of Internet connections across a home network has been improved and a firewall has been built in. XP Home is definitely a consumer product, although smaller businesses will find it adequate.

The professional edition has improved security and networking. Offline storage and file encryption are very good utilities for laptop users. The professional edition supports more networking functions than the Home edition.

Will it run on my computer?

Upgrade packages are available for users of Windows 98/NT4 and better. If you are using Windows 95 or NT3.x then you have to buy the full product. The minimum requirements are a 233MHz CPU, 64Mb of memory, and 1.5Gb of available hard drive. We would recommend at least a 300MHz CPU, 128Mb RAM and 2Gb space on your hard drive.

Because it is a new operating system with demanding requirements some hardware will not run on it. Don’t assume that your scanner, printer or even video card will run on it. Before upgrading to XP check that your hardware appears on the Microsoft compatiblity list. If it doesn’t you need to contact the manufacturer to see if Windows XP drivers are available.

Our recommendation

Windows XP is an improvement but all new software packages will have bugs and problems. No matter how good the software it is best to wait at least six months for the industry to get to know the system and for suppliers to get their software right. Being the first on your block to buy XP puts you on the bleeding edge, you’re the one to bleed as the rest of us climb the learning curve.

At PC Rescue we’re reluctant to recommend upgrading operating systems unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Generally, if you and your computer are happy then you should leave it alone. An upgrade is really only necessary if some software or equipment demands the new operating system.

If you’re buying a new computer then by all means have it supplied with Windows XP. Any new computer with 128Mb of memory will have no trouble running XP. Just remember to check that any old hardware or software you want can run on XP.

Windows XP is another evolutionary step for Windows. It isn’t a revolution for your computer but it is an improvement. Over time we will see Windows XP become the standard Microsoft operating system. The older, incompatible software and hardware will wither away. At this stage though, most users can wait until they need to buy a new system.

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ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2011