Get up to Speed on Windows XP

Windows XP

Story Contents


Facts & Figures

Home & Pro Differences

Behind the New Wheel

Folders & Special Folders

Looking at 'My Pictures'

Windows Media Player 8

Internet Explorer 6.0

Functional Improvements

Personal Firewall

Remote Assistance

Backup & Restore

Product Activation

Hardware and Setup

Will Your Programs Run?


Beta Conclusions

Home and Pro Differences

The best answer we've gotten so far about the differences between Home and Pro comes from an XP reviewer's document dated February 2001. The features exclusive to the Pro version fall into these categories: Business-class security, corporate management (including features that support "IntelliMirror" services, which require a server component), networking, file system, user interface, advanced and power-user features, and 64-bit architecture. The list of specific Pro-only features is long, but suffice it to say most home, small business, and even medium-size business users aren't going to give a hoot about them. Large corporations, though, are almost certainly going to want at least some of the Pro features, and they will in most cases opt for that version.

That's the good news. The bad news is that there's a small group of features exclusive to the Pro edition that power users are going to be steamed about. For example, you need the Pro version to use the Multiple Monitors (MultiMon) feature that lets you share a desktop between two or more monitors. (That feature is available, and in fact was introduced, in Windows 98.) The Microsoft Fax services do not come with the Home edition either. Some network protocols and services are excluded from the Home edition, including Simple TCP/IP (the standard TCP/IP stack is included) and the Client Service for NetWare. Some of the high-end power features that are dependent on the NTFS file system will only appear in the Pro version, such as Automatic System Recovery, the new Backup utility, the file system encryption, and content indexing. The default file system for the Home edition is NTFS, whereas the Pro version lets you choose to keep FAT32 or another file system instead of installing NTFS. That seems odd, since the vast majority of Windows in the home are using the FAT or FAT32 file systems. (This also may only be on new PCs.)

Like it or hate it, this new Control Panel screen comes between you and the individual applets. At first we didn't mind it, but all of us found it annoying after a while.
Click to see larger image

Like it or hate it, this new Control Panel screen comes between you and the individual applets. At first we didn't mind it, but all of us found it annoying after a while.

User interface differences are mostly minor. The assumption is that you're not running a client/server network with the Home edition, so a lot of the default settings and some of the available options would make it hard for you to access such a network. You will be able to work with a peer-to-peer Windows network though. Start Menu access to Windows 2000-style Administrative Tools will also be disabled in the Home Edition (although still available through the Control Panel). Other features not supported by the Home version include Remote Desktop, support for multiple-language versions, Home Edition Web Server, and the Domain Wizard.

Long and short, if you want to take full advantage of Windows XP, you're going to want the more expensive Professional version -- even if you don't need the corporate-oriented features. For Windows power users, this may amount to a stealth price increase over what they paid for Windows 98 or Me.

A Word About Upgrades
Microsoft has dropped support for Windows 95 in everything it does, and as a result, Windows XP cannot perform upgrades of Windows 95 installations. You can upgrade Windows 98, SE, and ME with either the Home or Pro edition of Windows XP. Windows NT and Windows 2000 can only be upgraded by Windows XP Professional.

When Will It Be Out?
Our last projection is about availability. If you've watched the beta cycles of previous versions of Windows, you'll be mildly surprised to learn that Microsoft currently plans no "Beta 3" of Windows XP. Instead, the company expects to issue one or two "Release Candidates," called RC1 and RC2. Believe it or not, you can sign up to receive one or both of these late beta versions of Windows XP. Find out more about that on Microsoft's Windows XP Preview Program site. It's not clear how long Microsoft will continue to offer this, so hurry over. On the other hand, we don't recommend installing a beta of Windows XP if you've never run a Windows beta before or if you only have one PC.

Predicting software development cycles is tricky business, but if all goes according to Microsoft's plan, expect RC1 by early June, RC2 by early July, and a code lock-down in late July or early August. In that scenario, Windows XP could be on store shelves by around mid to late September and new Windows XP PCs could arrive three to four weeks earlier. Of course, that timing is based on Microsoft not hitting any major bumps along the way. Lately there are indications that Microsoft isn't as confident as it once was of delivering the product in September. And it now seems unlikely that it will finish the product in time to sell retail copies of Windows in time for the Back-to-School selling season, although it's still possible that new PCs running Windows XP will arrive at the end of August. There's even talk that Microsoft could postpone the launch of Windows XP until early 2002. The truth is, no one really knows when Windows XP will "ship."

Note: Since this story was published, Microsoft announced that Windows XP will go on sale Thursday October 25, 2001.

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