Windows XP

XP has not received any significant security updates in years and most modern hardware will not run with it. Despite this, it remains popular among some users.

It is also available as a media center edition and an embedded version for use with hardware such as digital video recorders.


XP Home Edition was designed for the consumer while XP Professional offered added security and administrative options. It was also the first version to support Intel’s Hyper-Threading and it could be run remotely (see Remote Desktop).

Several improvements were made in XP compared with previous versions of Windows. For example, System Restore now uses a copy-on-write file system filter driver to take snapshots that are more efficient, and the system files, registry hives, COM+ databases and WMI metabases are stored as individual data sets rather than in a single compressed file. It now also supports Group Policy and can encrypt the Restore Points on NTFS volumes.

Users can customize the way that informational, critical and warning messages are displayed through the new Notifications Center. Various sounds can be played for events such as device connect, print complete and error notifications. The Navigation Pane in Explorer now supports “simple folder view” which hides the dotted lines between folders and makes each folder browsable by single click. The maximum size of the memory mapped registry hive has been raised, and unused views are dynamically reusable by the memory manager.


In spite of the slow uptake of WDM drivers by soundcard manufacturers, XP has generally been found to be stable enough for use with music software. Many musicians have reported lower latency values than 98SE, and fewer glitches.

XP also supports dual processors, which may improve performance in some music applications. However, this requires a substantial amount of disk space and processing power compared to normal, and is unlikely to be noticeable to the average user.

One easy way to speed up XP startup is to defragment the boot files. This will put the boot files close together on your hard drive, reducing startup times. Similarly, disabling Windows Explorer’s automatic search for network folders and printers will help to speed up browsing times. Finally, turning off unused services such as the Indexing Service will decrease system load and free up memory for other uses. You can disable these and other background processes by opening the Computer Management screen, expanding ‘Services and Applications’ and right-clicking on each to stop them.


While it’s impossible to completely remove the risk of malware from systems that can’t be upgraded past Windows XP, the system does include some security features to mitigate attacks. Some of these precautions are simple, while others require specialized software or hardware.

The logical prefetcher, for example, tracks frequently accessed files and optimizes their locations on disk to reduce the time they need to be read during startup. It also uses a new memory manager that minimizes the registry’s memory footprint and lock contention, and implements algorithms to speed up registry query processing.

The system also prevents users from running worms that exploit the browser, by recording the origin of executable files downloaded with Internet Explorer or received as attachments in e-mail. This way if a worm infects the computer it will not be able to send itself to other machines. This helps keep computers free from worms like Mydoom and Netsky. Also, the system requires users to log in with standard non-administrator accounts and uses privilege management software to limit access to the operating system.


After you reboot the system it will prompt to “Press any key to boot from CD” Press a key and Windows XP install will begin.

After a few minutes the setup screen will appear. It will ask for a partition size and file system. Select NTFS and let it format your drive.

Once it has formatted it will copy the installation files. This will take some time depending on your system.

The next screen will ask you a few questions such as whether to register with Microsoft. This is optional.

After that it will ask for a user name and password. Once this is done it will restart again. It will then give you the option to choose your network settings. Most users who are installing XP on a home or personal computer will leave this at the default setting of Typical. After a few more minutes XP will start up and offer a guided tour of it’s new features.