Why upgrade? as it turns out, you might not have to. Prior to Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000 Professional was Microsoft’s most stable operating system. Many users would argue that it still is and that XP doesn’t really bring enough to the table to go through the hassle of upgrading. So why should you switch?
Windows 2000 and Windows XP are, of course, essentially the same operating system. Internally at Microsoft, Windows 2000 is known as NT 5 while XP is known as NT 5.1. Both are based on the original Windows NT kernel, and both have sought to marry the NT and Windows 98 operating systems.
So which is better for you? Should you stick with what you know, or take a chance on a new upgrade? And if you do, how much of a challenge will it be? Below I present con and pro arguments pertaining to upgrading from 2000 to XP.
2000 was a good year
The Windows 2000 OS offers many advantages over previous releases of Windows, including Active Directory, self-healing applications, distributed management utilities, and an overall better performance. The platform is also very flexible and is available in professional workstation and server versions appropriate for a small or large businesses.
Windows 2000 also has an easier-to-use interface and avoids the use of Styles and other “improvements” found in Windows XP. The interface is straightforward and more like Windows NT 4 than either Windows 98 or XP. And because Windows 2000 has been out since 1999, many more bugs and security issues have been fixed (or at least addressed) via periodic Service Pack releases than with Windows XP.
Furthermore, vendors have had longer to make their products compatible with Windows 2000 than they have with Windows XP. Add that to the fact that Windows 2000 doesn’t employ the controversial product activation that its newer cousin introduced and it’s no wonder that many users across the country are opting to stick with the older OS.
If you’re running anything less than a 400MHz system with 256MB of RAM you’re probably better off with Windows 2000. The older OS requires less computing power, making things run much more smoothly on an older system.
Finally, if you have Windows 2000 Professional and install the service packs, Internet Explorer 6, Media Player 8, and DirectX 8, you’ll have a system very similar to Windows XP without the assorted extra pieces of software that come with it. You’ll also avoid the whole “product activation” ordeal, making life just a little bit easier.
Take the plunge
All the above said, if you have at least a 400MHz machine with 256MB of RAM, Windows XP will run faster on your system than will Windows 2000. (Independent benchmark tests indicate that Windows XP delivers 34 percent better performance when installed on a new PC than does Windows 2000. Average application access time is also 21 percent faster.) The new OS is also more configurable, giving you more control over your environment. Windows XP is also fully compatible with Windows NT 4, Windows Workstation, Windows Millennium, and Windows 98, and roughly 90 percent compatible with Windows 2000 applications, avoiding many of the compatibility issues that have plagued users of Windows.
One key difference in the overall look and feel of Windows XP is the redesigned interface. While it may take a while to get used to for die-hard 2000 users, the desktop is less cluttered and the task-orientated menu system will make accessing the programs and applications you most often need much easier. If you absolutely love the classic interface, don’t fear; you can revert to it at any time.
Windows XP also offers more bells and whistles, such as built-in CD writer support, Remote Desktop Connection, Internet Connection Firewall, Fast User Switching (useful for when multiple users are sharing one PC), and Windows Movie Maker. And when you consider that the new OS boasts greater support for Windows 95/98 games and utilities, it’s hard not to consider making the switch.
And because Windows XP is the latest and greatest OS, more manufacturers (not to mention Microsoft) will develop software for it than for Windows 2000. After all, Windows XP was built in part to replace its older cousin, so why should software houses support something that’s obsolete? Manufacturers of existing hardware and software products are also more likely to add Windows XP compatibility now than Windows 2000 compatibility, as the industry focus has shifted to the newer OS.
With the release of Windows XP, Microsoft has also instituted a very thorough testing process that should ensure that third-party device drivers meet high performance criteria. Microsoft maintains a single update site containing copies of all certified driver and application program upgrades. Also, whenever new DLLs are installed, Windows XP will retain the older versions to allow for an easy restore in the event that something goes wrong. Updates can also be automatically downloaded and installed for network users. With Windows XP, users will no longer have to visit multiple vendor sites to download up-to-date drivers.
In essence, Windows XP users will get the benefit of building on existing Windows 2000 knowledge while being able to run many applications that ran under Windows 9x/Me, but failed to run properly under Windows 2000.
To switch or not to switch
If you’ve been using Windows 2000 Professional for a year or two and are happy with it (and don’t need it do anything it isn’t already capable of doing), then you probably don’t need to upgrade to Windows XP Professional. Once you take away all the bells and whistles, there isn’t much of a difference between the two operating systems. Save your money and buy some more RAM instead.
If, however, you’d like to add some of the compatibility that Windows 98 had and want to be on the cutting edge of Windows technology, an upgrade to XP is probably the way to go. If you have the available memory to support the new OS and need (or even just want) the new features that XP offers, then go for the upgrade. Installation is fairly easy and straightforward, especially if you’ve checked out your system ahead of time. Windows XP Professional does improve on its older cousin in a number of key areas, and there are worse ways that you could spend your money than to upgrade your OS.