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Windows XP
Microsoft's latest operating system for consumers is Windows XP. For all intensive purposes, XP is Windows 2000 with a pretty interface slapped on top and lots of wizards for computer newbies. The days of the "blue screen of death" are numbered. XP and 2000 have a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) which prevents software from directly talking to the computer's hardware as it can in Windows 9x operating systems which often leads to crashes if a device is given the wrong command. XP still has a blue screen that will appear if a critical error happens, but you will rarely, if ever, see it. Windows XP also provides built-in support for the latest hardware. With Service Pack 2, XP has become more secure with its built-in firewall although I still recommend installing a good anti-virus program and using an alternative browser instead of Internet Explorer.

Windows Update You should visit this once a month to make sure Windows is up to date. You can set XP to automatically download and install high priority (a.k.a. critical) updates. However, the optional (a.k.a. recommended) software and hardware updates often may fix minor issues with your computer and add new features to the operating system. Using Windows Update is very easy. Just check the updates you want, and Windows will automatically download and install them for you. You may have to restart the computer once the installation is complete. Some of the downloads are very large, so if you are on a dial-up modem, it is recommended to start this utility when you don't need your internet connection for a while.



Microsoft has created a special set of PowerToys just for Windows XP users. Microsoft warns they don't support these tools, but you shouldn't have any problems with them if you are an experienced Windows user. Essentials are the Tweak UI and ClearType Tuner. Unlike previous versions of Tweak UI, this one installs like most other applications. Once it is installed, click on the Start menu > All Programs > PowerToys for Windows XP > Tweak UI to start it. The ClearType Tuner will make text easier to read on your screen especially if you have an LCD monitor. You can start this utility in the Control Panel.

Tips & Tricks

Last Updated December 5, 2004