What Is Windows XP?

By Chuck Jennings

I will be posting an article every few days that will walk people through what is Windows XP and how it works. While many of us know a lot about this subject, I always learn something new when I do such things. So ... here goes:

What Is Windows XP?

Windows XP is a legacy desktop version of Microsoft's Windows series of programs. It's the upgrade to the consumer versions of Windows (95, 98, and Me) as well as to the business, server, and power-user versions (Windows NT and 2000). Windows is an operating system, a program that manages your entire computer system, including its screen, keyboard, disk drives, memory, and central processor. Windows also provides a graphical user interface, or GUI, which enables you to control your computer by using a mouse, windows, and icons. You can also use the keyboard to give commands; this book describes both methods.

Versions of Windows XP and Windows 2002

For years, Microsoft has produced two editions of Windows, one for desktops (that is, for individual users, including for use on laptops) and one for servers (computers that provide services over networks). The desktop versions were Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and Me, and were intended for workstation use--that is, on computers that people used directly. The server versions were Windows NT 4, NT 5, and 2000, and were intended for use on servers (computers that provide services to other computers on a network) as well as by high-end users.

Windows XP is designed to work for individuals and power users, and comes initially in three versions: Home Edition (for home and small offices), Professional (for offices), and 64-Bit Edition (for technical workstations that use the Intel Itanium CPU). At the end of 2001, Microsoft plans to release two more editions of Windows XP, renamed Windows .NET: Windows .NET Server and Advanced Server (for server machines on small and large networks). This book describes Windows XP Home Edition and Professional, with notes where features are available in one edition and not the other. If you plan to use the Windows .NET Server or Advanced Server versions, refer to Windows .NET Server and Advanced Server: The Complete Reference by Kathy Ivens, (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2001). The Microsoft Web site contains details about Windows XP at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp.

You can upgrade to Windows XP from Windows 98 or Me, or you can do a "clean install" to replace any previous version of Windows on your computer. You can also buy a computer with Windows XP preinstalled. Once Windows XP is installed, you can run Windows-compatible application programs (programs for getting real-world work done).

Windows XP comes bundled with many programs, most of which aren't actually part of the operating system, including Internet connection software (dial-up connections), an e-mail program (Outlook Express), a Web browser (Internet Explorer), a simple word processing program (WordPad), an instant messaging program (Windows Messenger), local are network support, utilities that help with hard-disk housekeeping, and dozens of other programs.

What Hardware Do You Need?

Windows XP requires the following computer hardware:

If you plan to listen to sounds played by Windows and other programs, you need a sound board and speakers attached to your computer. To participate in voice or video chats, you need a microphone or digital video camera, too.

If you plan to use your computer to connect to the Internet, you need one of the following:

If you have a question or comment about Windows XP, send it to the club president.

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