What is Windows XP?


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What is Windows XP?

Note to upgraders: If you are upgrading to Windows XP from a previous version of Windows, you will be given the choice to "Upgrade" or to "Install a New Copy". UITS recommends selecting "Install a New Copy", since merely upgrading can cause your system to become unstable. Back up your important files to a DVD, CD, flash drive, or Zip disk before installing a new operating system.

Released on October 25, 2001, Microsoft Windows XP is a widely used and supported operating system. Though other versions of Windows XP exist, the two most commonly used versions are:

Home Edition, which is intended to succeed the Windows 95, 98, and Me family

Professional Edition, which is intended to succeed the Windows NT and 2000 family
Microsoft has announced that it will provide security patches and updates to Windows XP until April 2014.


Microsoft's minimum requirements for Windows XP are a 233MHz processor, 64MB of RAM, 1.5GB of available hard drive space, and an SVGA-capable video card. UITS has found that computers not exceeding those requirements run Windows XP poorly or not at all. UITS strongly recommends that any system running XP have a CPU faster than 400MHz and at least 256MB of RAM.

Why Microsoft created Windows XP

Microsoft created Windows XP in order to update the user interface, add new features, unify the code base between the separate families of Windows, and provide a more stable platform.

Updated user interface

The new interface, Luna, changes the Windows look familiar from Windows 95 and succeeding versions. The new interface is designed to be more intuitive and to aid in keeping screen clutter to a minimum. For example, the standard desktop icons (e.g., My Computer and My Documents) are now located in the Start menu instead of on the desktop.

The older interface, called Classic, is available for those who prefer the more familiar appearance.

Note: If this doesn't match what you see, refer to About navigation settings in Windows.

New features

Some new components never before bundled in Windows are now included with Windows XP. These include the Remote Desktop, which allows an XP user to remotely log into another computer running XP and control it from the first computer. VNC or PCAnywhere users may be familiar with this concept.

Another new feature is Remote Assistance, which is a way to invite someone to connect to your computer and give help over the network, and even control your computer remotely if you choose to allow it. Other features include a built-in firewall, driver signing, and fast switching between different user profiles.

Code base unification

Since Windows NT 3.1, Windows has been split into two families: the Home/Small Office track, starting with Windows 3.1 and including 95, 98, and Me; and the Business/Professional track, starting with NT 3.1 and including NT 3.51, NT 4.0, and 2000. For years, Microsoft intended to unify the kernels of the two families into one, and Windows XP is the first of the reunified operating systems. The differences between XP Home and Professional are not as profound as, for example, those between Me and 2000, although they do exist.