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


Windows XP shares a quirk common to other versions of Windows: When it comes to networking, it tends to interoperate best with other Windows XP machines. So a network that's all XP or Win2000, rather than a mixture of XP, 98, and Me machines, works more reliably. Windows Me in particular has lots of networking problems, and tends to cause issues, period. (The authors of this story have categorically recommended against buying Windows Me, or even buying a new PC with Windows Me installed on it.)

But so far Windows XP is also displaying slow "network browse" times with 98 on peer networks. Meaning that, while you can find a Win 98 machine in My Network Places, when you double-click to open it, it might take 20, 30, or 40 seconds before that machine opens to display its shared devices and folders. This is a problem many people have also experienced with Windows 2000. Some 98 machines try to assume browse-master control (i.e., to be the machine that retains the master list of all the machines on the network). This often leaves other computers "blind" to the network as a whole. Browse master functionality can be disabled, but it takes some digging (and varies from machine to machine). We hope XP's final documentation will address this increasingly common problem.

On top of that, configuring Windows XP (or Win2000 or NT) to work with Windows 9x class machines on a peer network can be something of a bear. We've found that you have to create a user for every other Windows machine on your network, and also change the hard drive sharename(s) on XP to anything else from their defaults.

There's not much special about My Network Places other than the fact that it looks almost nothing like the old Network Neighborhood.
Click to see larger image

There's not much special about My Network Places other than the fact that it looks almost nothing like the old Network Neighborhood.

Setting up an in-house network with nothing but XP machines is much easier than in any previous version of Windows, though. The whole thing can be done manually, with the user specifying the machine name and the workgroup name during setup and then arranging everything "by hand" after the fact.

There's another way, though. Use the Home Networking Wizard to configure things like file and printer shares, Internet connection sharing, and firewall settings. Even if you hate using wizards to do anything in Windows, the Home Networking Wizard covers so many of the bases and in such detail that we recommend it over trying to do it yourself -- unless you're network experienced. If you've got multiple adapters to bridge or connections to the Net through another computer, the wizard can handle those chores too. Windows XP is endowed with some pretty powerful network features. The one drawback to the wizard is that you must run it on every computer in your home network -- you can't log in as Administrator on one console and make settings for everyone at once. Busy work.

Multiple Monitors
You might not know it, but support for the simultaneous use of two more monitors first appeared in Win98. The feature, known as Multiple Monitors, or MultiMon for short, is very powerful because it vastly extends your Windows desktop. MultiMon can let you run your email program on one monitor while you're running a browser and word processor on another. You can move things back and forth between the two monitors, including program windows, files, folders, whatever. They are each sharing the same piece of desktop real estate. If you have the desktop space for MultiMon, it's a really great way to boost your productivity and reduce computer fatigue. You don't have to keep playing find the window.

Win2000 incorporated support for MultiMon as well, but it was fatally flawed. There were problems with video card drivers under Win2000 that prevented the full functionality. Also, when Windows 98 was in its hey day, there were hardware problems that made it very tough to configure MultiMon.

Enter Windows XP. The Win2000 problems are fixed, and there's new hardware that really makes this easy. Matrox's relatively inexpensive "Dual Head" video cards make setting up MultiMon a breeze because you no longer need to install two video cards in one PC.

XP's Display Properties dialog lets you choose which of the monitors will be your primary monitor. This is an important feature simply because a considerable number of software titles are not designed to function with multiple monitors (the Microsoft Office applications are, though). DVD players typically demand the primary monitor, for example, and so do some screen capture programs. XP lets you switch your primary monitor back and forth as often as you want, without requiring reboots. That makes MultiMon livable, and more than just a curiosity. If you have an old monitor you're not using, suddenly, you can have mega screen real estate.

In testing, multiple monitor features worked flawlessly on the Matrox Millennium G400 Max, the Matrox Millennium G450, and ATI's All-in-Wonder Radeon. It also allowed Hauppauge's WinTV-PVR card to display television in a window on the secondary monitor, something not supported under Win98 or Win2K. In fact, this support, when combined with XP's ClearType feature, resulted in the most readable two-monitor system we've ever seen.

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