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Gearing up for Windows XP

Because it dispenses with DOS, XP is more stable. Windows advisor hed: Gearing up for Windows XP dek: the new OS upgrade adds stability and hardiness. dek: because it dispenses with DOS, XP is more stable. by Joe DeRouen

The next generation of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows XP, is scheduled for release in September 2001. The new OS will be an upgrade for all versions of Windows 9x as well as for Windows Me. It’s supposed to end all Dynamic Link Library (DLL) problems, create a more stable environment, improve on network connectivity, add more eye candy, play DVDs in Windows Media Player, and do just about everything else except clean the kitchen and wash your car.

Windows XP (the XP stands for “experience”) will come in two flavors: a Home Edition for consumers, and a Professional Edition for business and professional users. Professional may also appear in a highly anticipated 64-bit version for super-powered Itanium processor-based systems.

Are you ready for Windows XP? This month, we’ll go over exactly what your system needs in order to run XP, what conflicts you might run into in the process, what to expect from the OS, and how to get the most out of the public beta version.

System requirements

Microsoft says the minimum system requirements for Windows XP include a Pentium III processor with 64 MB of RAM, though 128 MB of RAM is recommended. While XP will indeed run on such a setup, it will more than likely run slowly.

Instead, upgrade your RAM to at least 256MB. Windows XP will perform exponentially better with more RAM, so throw as much memory at the OS as you possibly can. And while you’re at it, upgrade your system to a Pentium 4. A Pentium 4 system running with 256MB RAM and a huge hard drive (think 30GB or more) should have no problems with even the most processor-intensive Windows XP setup.

Make no mistake about it: Windows XP hogs even more space and memory than its predecessors did. For example, the basic installation of XP can take as much as 1GB of disk space. The key here, though, is that while XP demands a lot in terms of space and memory, it efficiently uses more of what it takes than did any previous version of the OS. And that can’t be anything but positive.

Driver and DLL conflicts

Driver conflicts were likely to cripple-or at the very least, severely hinder-anyone switching from Windows 9x to Windows Me. As is the case with most Windows upgrades, key hardware and software vendors were not able to keep up with the revolving OS door at Redmond. Thus a lot of hardware and software wasn’t compatible with key changes (like the file protection system) that Me offered. While some conflicts will probably still exist, most vendors have by now released new drivers for Me-drivers that will work with XP.

Because Windows XP finally does away with DOS as its foundation and instead rests on the more stable and powerful NT platform, Windows XP also inherits the stability of Windows 2000, creating a hybrid that is arguably the best of both worlds.

As with driver conflicts, just about everyone who has used Windows for any length of time has run into DLL problems. Applications would replace these shared files with their own copies, rendering them useless for other apps that also depended on the library files to run. Windows XP effectively manipulates the programs into thinking that they’re copying over old DLL files, while in reality it creates new versions of the files for the new programs so that each app uses its own DLL files. Sure, it defeats the purpose of having a shared file library, but it avoids messy DLL conflicts.

Beta testing

Microsoft has had a public beta version of Windows XP available at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/preview/ since April. For $9.95, you get to help beta test the newest and brightest (and possibly the best ever) Windows OS, bugs and all. And you will find bugs. The open-beta test, however, should help create an exceptionally strong product that will benefit everyone. If you’ve already signed up for the program, or are planning to do so, here are some tips that can make the experience positive.

There already are many different Web sites dedicated to Windows XP, but Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows http://www.winsupersite.com offers the best look at the Win XP beta. The site includes a comprehensive review of the new OS, as well as tips and tricks dedicated to making XP work for you.

One of the most annoying things about the new Windows XP user interface, according to SuperSite contributor Bryan Somerville, is that Microsoft saw fit to provide links to all of the Shared Documents folders on your system at the top of the My Computer window. The result is a cluttered desktop, made even worse by the fact that you can’t edit the display through the shell. In fact, you’re stuck with it unless you’re willing to edit the registry.

Proceed with caution

Please be aware that the following tip is for advanced Windows users only. Editing your registry could render your system unusable if you don’t know what you’re doing. Proceed with caution!

First, load regedit.exe by clicking Start/Run, then type regedit.exe in the dialogue box and click OK. Click Edit, then Find, then search for the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer My Computer NameSpace DelegateFolders

You’ll find a sub-key with this name: 59031a47-3f72-44a7-89c5-5595fe6b30ee If you delete this, all of the Shared Documents folders (which are normally under the group called “Other Files Stored on This Computer”) will disappear, making your system desktop clutter-free.

There are other good tips for use with Windows XP on Paul’s site, including options for ripping high-quality MP3 files in Windows Media Player 8, tips for speeding up the Start Menu, plans for doing an unattended installation of the OS, and more. If you want to get the most out of your beta copy of Windows XP, or just want the scoop on Microsoft’s newest OS, Paul’s SuperSite for Windows will be your holy grail.

Gaining experience

Whether you intend to wait for the full release or you want to get your feet wet with the beta, Windows XP finally gets the concept of the graphical user interface right. XP takes the functionality and compatibility of Windows 98 and adds the stability and hardiness of Windows NT, making for the strongest OS yet from Microsoft.

Windows XP makes the most of the memory and space it uses, improving on its wireless and home-networking abilities, hardware and software compatibility, DLL and driver support, and overall look and feel of the interface. Folders are easier to sort and catalogue, it’s easier to add peripherals, and crashes are all but eliminated. In short, if your PC has the necessary available space and memory-and you want a system that runs more smoothly, is more reliable, and is easier to use, there’s no reason not to make the change. Enjoy the experience.

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