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

Personal Firewall

While it's no substitute for a dedicated two-way firewall product like ZoneLab's ZoneAlarm, Windows XP's Personal Firewall feature isn't a bad basic line of defense. It only blocks incoming hacks, not outgoing leaks. When used in conjunction with a real hardware or software firewall, it creates a very solid line of defense.

You enable the Personal Firewall feature on the Properties sheet of the network connection for which you want to add protection. Basic setup is as simple as clicking a checkbox. More advanced configuration, such as allowing incoming traffic on specific ports for servers, requires selecting the services in question from a list and supplying a little additional information. For the most part, though, the default configuration works fine. One added nice touch is that, when you have a particular connection protected with the firewall, the connection icon changes to a red square.

To test its mettle, we used Gibson Research's Shields Up! test page, which lets you scan your network connection for common security holes. Shields Up! reported the computer as being entirely "stealth" mode, the best score you can get. (Note: This isn't a true firewall test, but it does show whether you have the basic protections everyone should have.) As expected, a quick test with Gibson Research's LeakTest tool showed that a malicious local application could penetrate the firewall from the inside out.

Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
To address the annoying problems that go with moving from one computer to another, Microsoft has added a new utility in Windows XP. Called the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, it transports many of the most commonly used settings, such as bookmarks, Word documents, wallpaper, and more from your old computer to your new one.

It's no ZoneAlarm, and it's not a true firewall, but XP's Personal Firewall feature greatly reduces the likelihood of hacker intrusion via the Internet.
Click to see larger image

It's no ZoneAlarm, and it's not a true firewall, but XP's Personal Firewall feature greatly reduces the likelihood of hacker intrusion via the Internet.

The process isn't too difficult. On the new machine, you run the wizard and select the mode of transportation for the files. A home network is the best way to go, especially since the wizard can automatically detect where you're shuttling files to and from. The wizard is mostly automatic and requires only that you leave both computers absolutely alone during the transfer. We tried doing something else on the source computer at the same time, and the wizard bombed out.

One problem with the File and Settings Transfer Wizard is that if you select a file type to move, such as *.TXT, and you have a great many text files scattered across your old system, you will have a plethora of spurious folders recreated on your new system with nothing in them except the odd *.TXT file. Thankfully, the selection of which files and folders to move is fully customizable.

Full-Fledged Firewire
Like Windows 2000 and Windows Me before it, Windows XP supports IEEE 1394, also known as Firewire. This bus architecture, which originated on the Apple Macintosh, was designed to conveniently transfer high-speed, low-latency data streams to and from the PC. It's found its main application in digital video. Most DV camcorders today come with a Firewire plug, and WinXP even includes a simple video-editing program to make use of digital video.

Firewire is a Plug and Play architecture device, so setting up the controller involved nothing more than adding it and letting the system detect it. Once you plug in a camera, the Windows Movie Maker application starts up automatically, and offers you the option to digitize footage you've shot manually or automatically. I've played with the Movie Maker before and it's highly rudimentary, not offering anything more sophisticated than being able to splice together clips. There's also native support for 1394 networking and printing.

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