Microsoft Windows XP, codenamed Windows Whistler, is the end result of Microsoft's efforts to convert the entire Windows line to the NT codebase, while still maintaining compatibility with existing applications. Officially released October 25, 2001, Windows XP packs in a number of new features. Some of the following features were already present in Windows 2000; however this covers the jump from Windows ME to Windows XP.
- Burning of files to a CD-R is now supported; this technology was licensed by Microsoft from Roxio, the guys behind Easy CD Creator. CD-RW manipulation is supported as well; all this makes for a very useful basic CD burning tool
- Luna, which is Microsoft's new Windows interface, Luna sports an enhanced Windows interface such as taskbar button grouping, hiding inactive Tray icons, a revised start menu that groups items according to function, polished icons, and so on. Luna is skinnable, but skins are encrypted; additional skins must be purchased with the Microsoft Plus! pack. StyleXP can remedy this
- A revised Help and Support center, which will search the Internet for Microsoft's Knowledge Base articles to help you troubleshoot your problem; vaguely web-like in nature.
- "Add New Hardware" has been been made largely redundant; Windows XP will autodetect any new Plug and Play devices and will automatically install the appropriate driver from its special Driver Cache.
- System Restore will automatically create restore points should you ever go on a DLL-deleting spree; this has now been integrated into the "System" menu.
- A new networking wizard has been added to help ease the pain of setting up a home network; it combines DHCP with Internet Connection Sharing to create a basic NAT network.
- Fast User Switching, which is a new component of Terminal Services, allows you to quickly log out while keeping all of your programs running in the background; once you enter your password at the login screen again, you're instantly taken back to your desktop
- Remote Desktop is an exclusive Windows XP Professional feature; it falls into the same remote-control software category as VNC and PCAnywhere.
- ClearType anti-aliased fonts have been implemented
- Automatic updating using Windows Update; no more will you miss those critical security patches.
- Windows Messenger, which is a thinly disguised version of MSN Messenger.
- MS-DOS has been completely banished into the realm of NTVDM.exe; as a result some DOS games will not work. AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS are relics of the past and are no longer needed
- My Documents contains some subfolders such as My Pictures and My Music, with samples for each folder
- Windows Media Player is the default choice for MP3 files; mplayer2 and mplay32 are still available for the privacy concerned.
- Attempting to remove a shortcut from the desktop prompts a friendly reminder that doing that only removes the shortcut; it does not remove the program. Similar gentle reminders have been sprinkled throughout the dialogue boxesOpening an unrecognized program will throw up a new dialogue box; you are prompted to "Use the Web service to find an appropriate program". This is the default, which is extremely annoying
- The System Properties menu has been altered to account for the new Luna interface; options are available under the "Performance" tab.
- Adding user accounts has been simplified greatly
- Windows XP will not work with some programs that are ridiculously possessive of the system - Easy CD Creator 4 is a good example
There are two seperate versions of Windows XP targeted towards consumers; Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. The difference between the two are minor:
Windows Product Activation
- Windows XP Home has a green bar in the splash screen; Windows XP Professional has a blue bar
- WinXP Professional supports dual processors and the new Terminal Services additions like Remote Desktop, Remote Assistance..
One of the most controversial additions to Windows XP is Windows Product Activation. WPA represents Microsoft's latest battle to hinder casual copying of Windows XP; put simply it generates a hardware hash and sends it off to Microsoft. You can opt to do this by the Internet, phone, or by modem. Microsoft has tried to make this as painless as possible, and has implemented a system of "tolerance" to account for hardware changes
Microsoft has implemented a 'grace' period of 30 days; after this time expires, you will be prompted to activate your copy of Windows XP. Many OEMs preactivate their copies of Windows XP to keep down support costs.
Interestingly enough, a pirated version of Windows XP Professional is circulating around the Internet; this version has no product activation built in. This version was meant for corporations who worried that implementing Windows XP would be a nightmare for support and would significantly raise costs. A minimal form of copy protection was implemented, but most copying software will copy it anyways