Home Office: A Windows XP Upgrade in Your Future?
It took longer to write my Windows XP column than I thought it would. I spent too much time playing with the new operating system. But even though many of XP's new features make my PC easier to use, the OS's intrusive and draconian activation process makes it impossible for me to recommend to everyone.
I upgraded a Windows 98 SE system that was networked to another PC via SOHOware's BroadGuard DSL router. First problem: No access to the Internet or to the network. My Belkin USB-to-ethernet adapter, which was happy with Windows 98, refused XP's advances. (XP helpfully suggested I go online for new drivers. Some things never change.)
I had to buy a new network card because XP offers only limited support for--pardon my French--NetBEUI, the networking protocol used by the PC I was connecting to. Networking the PCs took a day of futzing with parts, rebooting the systems, and consulting with Microsoft.
My Turtle Beach sound card needed new drivers as well, and I had to reinstall Outlook 2000. Three utilities required an upgrade, and while Ventura Publisher--critical to the creation of my users group newsletter--wouldn't run at all under XP, my ancient DOS apps worked fine.
There are two things I really like about XP (and folks, they're dramatic): its stability and its interface.
XP allowed me to watch two humongous video files simultaneously on a two-year-old, 648-MHz AMD processor-based PC with 128MB of RAM, while I had 19 other programs running (happily, I might add). XP wasn't even breathing hard. This remarkable stability is one of many features XP inherited from Windows 2000. Once I completed the invasive Product Activation process (more on that tale of woe later), programs rarely crashed, and the blue screen of death was nonexistent.
It's not that apps never self-destruct. Instead, XP is able to stop
such events from bringing down your system. Pressing
XP's interface is a fantastic time-saver. For instance, the Start menu's logical organization makes navigating between apps easy. Customizing the interface is also a snap; for example, you can move most of your icons from the desktop to the Start menu for quicker access.
Windows XP has been out for a while now, and you may be on the fence about upgrading. I wish I could give you a definitive thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but the thing that has me worried about XP is Product Activation, a scheme to foil software pirates by limiting the number of times XP can be installed.
If you don't get in touch with Microsoft by phone or the Internet
within 30 days of installing it, XP stops working. Period. That sends chills
down my spine. When you activate XP, it takes a "fingerprint" of your system,
and if the OS later decides you've changed too many of the system's components,
you have to re-register. What's next, mandatory annual fees? Check out last
As proof that evolution can go in reverse, the geniuses at Microsoft decided on chutzpah pricing: $199 for the full version, and $99 for an upgrade. While the Family License program offers a discount of roughly 10 percent on later purchases, my wife's PC probably won't get eXPerienced.
If you're the only one using your PC, it doesn't crash often, and it runs just a few programs, stick it to Bill, save $100, and ignore Windows XP.
On the other hand, if you frequently troubleshoot a crash-prone PC
running Windows 9
For more on my travails with XP,