The most common editions of the operating system are Windows XP Home Edition, which is targeted at home users, and Windows XP Professional, which offers additional features such as support for Windows Server domains and two physical processors, and is targeted at power users, business and enterprise clients. Windows XP Media Center Edition has additional multimedia features enhancing the ability to record and watch TV shows, view DVD movies, and listen to music. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is designed to run ink-aware applications built using the Tablet PC platform. Two separate 64-bit versions of Windows XP were also released, Windows XP 64-bit Edition for IA-64 (Itanium) processors and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition for x86-64. There is also Windows XP Embedded, a componentized version of the Windows XP Professional, and editions for specific markets such as Windows XP Starter Edition.
Windows XP is known for its improved stability and efficiency over the 9x versions of Microsoft Windows. It presents a significantly redesigned graphical user interface, a change Microsoft promoted as more user-friendly than previous versions of Windows. New software management capabilities were introduced to avoid the "DLL hell" that plagued older consumer-oriented 9x versions of Windows. It is also the first version of Windows to use product activation to combat software piracy, a restriction that did not sit well with some users and privacy advocates. Windows XP has also been criticized by some users for security vulnerabilities, tight integration of applications such as Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Media Player, and for aspects of its default user interface. Later versions with Service Pack 2, and Internet Explorer 7 addressed some of these concerns.
The two major editions are Windows XP Home Edition, designed for home users, and Windows XP Professional, designed for business and power-users. XP Professional contains advanced features that the average home user would not use. However, these features are not necessarily missing from XP Home. They are simply disabled, but are there and can become functional. These releases were made available at retail outlets that sell computer software, and were pre-installed on computers sold by major computer manufacturers. As of mid-2008, both editions continue to be sold. A third edition, called Windows XP Media Center Edition was introduced in 2002 and was updated every year until 2006 to incorporate new digital media, broadcast television and Media Center Extender capabilities. Unlike the Home and Professional edition, it was never made available for retail purchase, and was typically either sold through OEM channels, or was pre-installed on computers that were typically marketed as "media center PCs".
Two different 64-bit editions were made available, one designed specifically for Itanium-based workstations, which was introduced in 2001 around the same time as the Home and Professional editions, but was discontinued a few years later when vendors of Itanium hardware stopped selling workstation-class machines due to low sales. The other, called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, supports the x86-64 extension of the Intel IA-32 architecture. x86-64 is implemented by AMD as "AMD64", found in AMD's Opteron and Athlon 64 chips, and implemented by Intel as "Intel 64" (formerly known as IA-32e and EM64T), found in Intel's Pentium 4 and later chips.
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was produced for a class of specially-designed notebook/laptop computers called tablet PCs. It is compatible with a pen-sensitive screen, supporting handwritten notes and portrait-oriented screens.
Microsoft also released Windows XP Embedded, an edition for specific consumer electronics, set-top boxes, kiosks/ATMs, medical devices, arcade video games, point-of-sale terminals, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) components. In July 2006, Microsoft released Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, a thin client version of Windows XP Embedded which targets older machines (as early as the original Pentium). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. It is intended for corporate customers who would like to upgrade to Windows XP to take advantage of its security and management capabilities, but can't afford to purchase new hardware.
In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft €497 million (US$603 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". After unsuccessful appeals in 2004 and 2005, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N. This version does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to pick and download their own media player. Microsoft wanted to call this version Reduced Media Edition, but EU regulators objected and suggested the Edition N name, with the N signifying "not with Media Player" for both Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Because it is sold at the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens have chosen not to stock the product. However, Dell did offer the operating system for a short time. Consumer interest has been low, with roughly 1,500 units shipped to OEMs, and no reported sales to consumers.
In December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Like the European Commission decision, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market. This decision resulted in Microsoft's releasing "K" and "KN" variants of the Home and Professional editions in August 2006.
That same year, Microsoft also released two additional editions of Windows XP Home Edition directed towards subscription-based and pay-as-you-go pricing models. These editions, released as part of Microsoft's FlexGo initiative, are used in conjunction with a hardware component to enforce time limitations on the usage of Windows. Its target market is emerging economies such as Brazil, Hungary and Vietnam.
in the "Royale" theme.
Windows XP analyzes the performance impact of visual effects and uses this to determine whether to enable them, so as to prevent the new functionality from consuming excessive additional processing overhead. Users can further customize these settings. Some effects, such as alpha blending (transparency and fading), are handled entirely by many newer video cards. However, if the video card is not capable of hardware alpha blending, performance can be substantially hurt, and Microsoft recommends the feature should be turned off manually. Windows XP adds the ability for Windows to use "Visual Styles" to change the user interface. However, visual styles must be cryptographically signed by Microsoft to run. Luna is the name of the new visual style that ships with Windows XP, and is enabled by default for machines with more than 64 MiB of video RAM. Luna refers only to one particular visual style, not to all of the new user interface features of Windows XP as a whole. Some users "patch" the uxtheme.dll file that restricts the ability to use visual styles, created by the general public or the user, on Windows XP.
In addition to the included Windows XP themes, there is one previously unreleased theme with a dark blue taskbar and window bars similar to Windows Vista titled "Royale Noir" available for download, albeit unofficially. Microsoft officially released a modified version of this theme as the "Zune" theme, to celebrate the launch of its Zune portable media player in November 2006. The differences are only visual with a black taskbar instead of dark blue and an orange start button (instead of very dark blue). Additionally, the Media Center "Royale" theme, which was included in the Media Center editions, is also available to download for use on all Windows XP editions.
The Windows 2000 "classic" interface can be used instead if preferred. Several third party utilities exist that provide hundreds of different visual styles. Microsoft licensed technology from WindowBlinds creator Stardock to create its visual styles in XP.
System requirements for Windows XP Home and Professional editions as follows:
|Processor||233 MHz||300 MHz or higher|
|Memory||64 MB RAM||128 MB RAM or higher|
|Video adapter and monitor||Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution|
|Hard drive disk free space||1.5 GB or higher|
|Drives||CD-ROM drive or DVD drive|
|Input devices||Keyboard. Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device|
|Sound||Sound card. Speakers or headphones|
In addition to the Windows XP system requirements, Service Pack 2 requires an additional 1.8 GB of free hard disk space during installation. Service Pack 3 requires an additional 900 MB of free hard disk space during installation.
The service pack details below only apply to the 32-bit editions. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition was based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and claimed to be "SP1" in system properties from the initial release. It is updated by the same service packs and hotfixes as the x64 edition of Windows Server 2003.
Service Pack 2 (SP2) (codenamed "Springboard") was released on 6 August 2004 after several delays, with a special emphasis on security. Unlike the previous service packs, SP2 adds new functionality to Windows XP, including an enhanced firewall, improved Wi-Fi support, such as WPA encryption compatibility, with a wizard utility, a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer 6, and Bluetooth support. The new welcome screen during the kernel boot removes the subtitles "Professional", "Home Edition" and "Embedded" since Microsoft introduced new Windows XP editions prior to the release of SP2. The green loading bar in Home Edition and the yellow one in Embedded were replaced with the blue bar, seen in Professional and other versions of Windows XP, making the boot-screen of operating systems resemble each other. Colours in other areas, such as Control Panel and the Help and Support tool, remain as before.
Service Pack 2 added new security enhancements, which include a major revision to the included firewall that was renamed to Windows Firewall and is enabled by default, Data Execution Prevention that takes advantage of the NX bit that is incorporated into newer processors to stop some forms of buffer overflow attacks, and removal of raw socket support (which supposedly limits the damage done by zombie machines). Additionally, security-related improvements were made to e-mail and web browsing. Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes the Windows Security Center, which provides a general overview of security on the system, including the state of anti-virus software, Windows Update, and the new Windows Firewall. Third-party anti-virus and firewall applications can interface with the new Security Center.
On 10 August 2007, Microsoft announced a minor update to Service Pack 2, called Service Pack 2c (SP2c). The update fixes the issue of the diminishing number of available product keys for Windows XP. This update will only be available to system builders from their distributors in Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Professional N operating systems. SP2c was released in September 2007.
It began being automatically pushed out to Automatic Update users on 10 July 2008. A feature set overview which details new features available separately as standalone updates to Windows XP, as well as backported features from Windows Vista has been posted by Microsoft. A total of 1,174 fixes have been included in SP3. Service Pack 3 can be installed on systems with Internet Explorer versions 6 or 7, and Windows Media Player versions 9 and above. Internet Explorer 7 is not included as part of SP3.
Slipstreamed retail and OEM versions of Windows XP with SP3 can be installed and run with full functionality for 30 days without a product key, after which time the user will be prompted to enter a valid key and activate the installation. Volume license key (VLK) versions still require entering a product key before beginning installation.
Although service packs have, until now, been cumulative, installing SP3 on an existing installation of Windows XP requires that the computer must at least be running with Service Pack 1 installed. However, it is possible to slipstream SP3 into the Windows XP setup files at any service pack level—including the original RTM version—without any errors or issues. Slipstreaming SP3 into Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is not supported.
Service Pack 3 does contain updates to the operating system components of Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and security updates for .NET Framework version 1.0, which is included in these Windows XP SKUs. However, it does not include update rollups for the Windows Media Center application in Windows XP MCE 2005. SP3 also omits security updates for Windows Media Player 10, although the player is included in Windows XP MCE 2005. The Address Bar DeskBand on the Taskbar is no longer included due to legal restrictions.
Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be retired on 13 July 2010, almost six years after its general availability. As per Microsoft's posted timetable, the company stopped general licensing of Windows XP to OEMs and terminated retail sales of the operating system on 30 June 2008, 17 months after the release of Windows Vista. However, an exception was announced on 3 April 2008, for OEMs installing to subnotebooks or UMPCs either until 30 June 2010, or one year after the availability of the next client version of Windows, code-named Windows 7 — whichever date comes later.
On 14 April 2009, Windows XP will begin its "Extended Support" period that will last for 5 years until 8 April 2014.
Windows, with its large market share, has historically been a tempting target for virus creators. Security holes are often invisible until they are exploited, making preemptive action difficult. Microsoft has stated that the release of patches to fix security holes is often what causes the spread of exploits against those very same holes, as crackers figured out what problems the patches fixed, and then launch attacks against unpatched systems. Microsoft recommends that all systems have automatic updates turned on to prevent a system from being attacked by an unpatched bug, but some business IT departments need to test updates before deployment across systems to predict compatibility issues with custom software and infrastructure. This deployment turn-around time also lengthens the time that systems are left unsecure in the event of a released software exploit.
While product activation and licensing servers are common for business and industrial software, Windows XP gave many casual computer users their first introduction to it, under the name "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA). The system was introduced by Microsoft to curb unauthorized distribution of Windows XP. Activation requires the computer or the user to activate with Microsoft within a certain amount of time in order to continue using the operating system. If the user's computer system ever changes — for example, if two or more relevant components of the computer itself are upgraded — Windows may refuse to run until the user reactivates with Microsoft.
WGA comprises two parts, an activation/verification system based in part upon the computer's hardware, and a user notification system. WGA for Windows was followed by verification systems for Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Defender, and Microsoft Office 2007. Recently Microsoft removed the WGA verification from the installer for Internet Explorer 7 saying that the purpose of the change was to make IE7 available to all Windows users.
If the license key is judged not genuine, it displays a nag screen at regular intervals asking the user to buy a license from Microsoft. In addition, the user's access to Microsoft Update is restricted to critical security updates, and as such, new versions of enhancements and other Microsoft products will no longer be able to be downloaded or installed. As of 26 August 2008, Microsoft has released a new WGA activation program that if your computer failed validation, it will change your desktop to a plain black background. You can, however change it back to your own personal desktop picture, but after 60 minutes the desktop will be reset back to the black background.
Common criticisms of WGA have included its description as a "Critical Security Update", causing Automatic Updates to download it without user intervention, its behavior compared to spyware of "phoning home" to Microsoft every time the computer is connected to the Internet, the failure to inform end users what exactly WGA would do once installed (rectified by a 2006 update), the failure to provide a proper uninstallation method during beta testing (users were given manual removal instructions that did not work with the final build), and its sensitivity to hardware changes which cause repeated need for reactivation in the hands of some developers.
Strictly speaking, neither the download nor the install of the Notifications is mandatory; the user can change their Automatic Update settings to allow them to choose what updates may be downloaded for installation. If the update is already downloaded, the user can choose not to accept the supplemental EULA provided for the Notifications. In both cases, the user can also request that the update not be presented again. Newer Critical Security Updates may still be installed with the update hidden. However this setting will only have effect on the existing version of Notifications, so it can appear again as a new version. As of 2006, Microsoft is currently involved in a class action lawsuit brought forth in California, on grounds that it violated the spyware laws in the state with its Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications program.
Microsoft developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. After an outcry from security consultants who feared that denying security updates to illegal installations of Windows XP would have wide-ranging consequences even for legal owners, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. This means that while Service Pack 2 will not install on copies of Windows XP which use the older set of copied keys, those who use keys which have been posted more recently may be able to update their systems.
Currently Microsoft provides security updates to Windows XP without validating if it is legal. For all non-security updates, a user must have a verified copy of Windows.
Each type of license has a different installation CD. For customized or retail media, there is a very tiny difference on each type of disc that will only allow that installation disc to accept one type of product key.
Only retail and volume licenses include support for end-user installation scenarios from Microsoft. OEM software is pre-installed on systems and is supported by the system manufacturer rather than Microsoft. The price of such software is reduced to aid computer manufacturers in reducing costs of their computer system production. The cost of OEM software products bundled with systems is not disclosed by Microsoft or by its partners as each system manufacturer will define its own bundling price. Microsoft does not support OEM licenses because it cannot guarantee compatibility with every system configuration possible and it is the responsibility of each system manufacturer to ensure that its hardware is compatible.
Microsoft recommends that system manufacturers have their systems tested, for a fee, as part of the Windows Quality Online Services (Winqual) which includes extensive testing so that no component will cause instability in the Windows operating system due to incompatibility with the Windows operating system or with other system components or their respective drivers. Having a system tested and approved will allow the manufacturer to bear the "Certified for Windows" logo sticker on the exterior of the system, and there are additional benefits for having a tested product. This includes the product's being listed on the Windows Marketplace. Because of the fees and extensive requirements, Microsoft acknowledges that smaller system manufacturers may not opt in to the program until they produce computer systems at a modest rate and on recurring designs.
OEM installations can be customized using the Microsoft OEM Preinstallation Kit with branding, logos, additional applications, optional services, alternate applications for certain Windows components, Internet Explorer links, and various other customizations. All OEM customers must include support and contact information for the initial installation of Windows because it is the responsibility for the OEM to support the Windows installation, and is not provided by Microsoft to the end-user. Direct OEMs must create their own media, but have the option of creating their own custom recovery solution, which may or may not be similar to a generic installation. OEMs may provide a recovery partition on the hard drive as the custom recovery solution rather than providing disc-based media with the computer.
Some end-users have found this to be a troublesome option, because in the event of an out-of-warranty hard drive failure, they may not have access to reinstall Windows on a new hard drive. System Builders are not allowed the option to create a custom recovery CD/DVD media. The only deliverable media available for a System Builder to give to the end-user is the unbranded OEM System Builder hologram media kit. Because of this, when end-users reformat their hard drives and re-install from the installation media, they lose all the custom branding and support information that the System Builder would have included.
As a supplemental recovery method to a CD/DVD-based installation, a System Builder may employ a fully customized recovery solution on the hard drive. Whether utilizing a recovery partition or not, a System Builder must still include the original generic OEM System Builder hologram CD/DVD media kit. OEM licenses are not transferable from one computer to another. Every computer sold/resold with an OEM license must include all of the original installation media or recovery solution, documentation, Certificate of Authenticity, and product key sticker with the sale. Microsoft requires that all OEM system manufacturers include as part of the configuration the Windows Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which is the initial setup wizard encountered the first time Windows boots-up. It is also required that Value-Added Resellers (VAR's), retailers, and general resellers not tamper with the OEM's customized OOBE mechanism unless under permission by the OEM, and it is a recommended configuration for systems that are privately resold so that a customer will have a like-new computer experience upon first boot-up.
OEM licenses are to be installed by professional system manufacturers only. Under Microsoft's OEM License Agreement, they are not to be sold to end-users under any circumstance, and are to be pre-installed on a computer using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) before shipment to the customer, and must include at the very least the manufacturer's support contact information. They are therefore designed for installation only on a single computer and are not transferable, even if the original computer is no longer in use. This is not usually an issue for users who purchase new computer systems because most pre-assembled systems ship with a pre-installed operating system. There are few circumstances where Microsoft will allow the transfer of an OEM license from one non-functioning system to another, but the OEM System Builder License Agreement (SBLA), as well as the OEM End User License Agreement (EULA) do not contain any allowance for this, so it is entirely up to Microsoft's discretion, depending on the situation.
In the event that an end-user decides that they do not wish to use a pre-installed version of Windows, Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) provides that the software may be returned to the OEM for a refund. Despite refusal of some manufacturers to honour the entitlement it has been enforced by courts in some countries.
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