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Windows XP: Pros and Cons

By Martin England

Microsoft’s latest version of the Windows family has been met with both guarded optimism, and staunch criticism. Now supported by CIS, Windows XP Pro provides the kind of network security previously offered by Windows 2000, and features a modern look-and-feel that is easy on the eyes, with many singing its praises. On the flipside, XP contains some problematic features and requirements that have many questioning the need to upgrade. Here are a few favorable XP features…and a few that may discourage the quick switch.

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User Accounts
Similar to Windows 2000, XP allows users to set up password-protected accounts, each with different levels of access. “Computer Administrators” are granted full-rights to install programs and change hardware settings, while “Limited” accounts have restricted rights. Users can quickly switch from one account to another without closing programs or saving documents before exiting. Each password-protected account is also allowed its own My Documents folder and personalized desktop.

Smart Folders
Pictures in XP now appear automatically as thumbnails, making it far easier to recognize files without the time-consuming practicing of opening and closing files. Sound files are also displayed with a Preview button, making it easier for users to recognize MP3s, WAVs and RAs.

Automatic System Updates
Similar to its predecessors (and all software programs), XP has its share of bugs. With previous versions of Windows, users had the options of visiting Microsoft’s Website or clicking on an icon in the Start menu to check for updates and patches. Windows XP automatically displays a dialog box whenever updates are available. The downside is users must be connected to the Internet in order for the system to detect these updates.

System Restore
XP allows users to remove system changes by the use of the System Restore feature. In essence, System Restore takes a snapshot of the hard-drive, and then recalls that snapshot should the need to reinstate a previous system state arise. This feature is especially useful when loading new software, installing a new hardware device, or downloading a file from the Internet. Before this feature can be enabled, users must first establish a Restore Point. Use the following instructions to create a restore point (Source:

  1. Access the System Restore Wizard through Help and Support Center. (Click start, and then click help and support. Click performance and maintenance, click using system restore to undo changes, and then click run the system restore wizard.
  2. Click create a restore point, and then click next.
  3. In the “Restore point description” box, type a name to identify this restore point. System Restore automatically adds to this name the date and time that this Restore Point is created.
  • To finish creating this restore point, click create.
  • To cancel restore point creation and return to the Welcome to System Restore screen, click back.
  • To cancel restore point creation and exit the System Restore Wizard, click cancel.

    To view or to return to this restore point, from the “Welcome to System Restore” screen of the System Restore Wizard select restore my computer to an earlier time. Then select the date when the restore point was created from the calendar in the select a restore point screen. All of the restore points that were created on the selected date are listed by name in the list box to the right of the calendar.


Hardware Requirements
At present, many campus departments are choosing to stick with Windows 2000, if only for the heavy XP hardware requirements. Before purchasing XP, make certain your system can handle its steep requirements. Computers age two years and above should be checked to ensure hardware requirements are met. CIS recommends the following minimum hardware requirements:

  • Pentium III or higher processor (450 to 500 MHz in speed)
  • A minimum 256MB RAM
  • At least 1.5 GB of free hard drive space

Software and Hardware Compatibility
Many hardware devices are not compatible with Windows XP. Compatibility is also an issue with many older applications, which may or may not work with XP. Microsoft’s Website contains a downloadable “Upgrade Advisor,” which will determine system upgrade readiness. Ideally, the Upgrade Advisor should be downloaded and installed before upgrading to Windows XP, but at 31.7 MB, it requires a robust network connection, and takes hours with a dial-up connection. The Upgrade Advisor is available at:

After downloading and installing the Upgrade Advisor, Microsoft performs a system check, and lists all hardware and software that is not compatible with Windows XP.


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Copyright © 2002 Computing & Information Services
University of New Hampshire
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Last Updated: Monday, June 17, 2002