Features at a Glance - Which Business Operating System To Choose

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Feature Comparison
Windows XP Professional System Requirements
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With the release of Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional, organizations will be deciding which path to take for their next desktop operating system upgrade. This document presents the Microsoft recommendation for business users and provides detailed evidence to support this recommendation.


Windows XP Professional is the operating system of choice for businesses of all sizes, as well as computer users who want to get the most out of their computing experience; whereas, Windows XP Home Edition was designed exclusively for home users.

Requirements of a Business Operating System

A business desktop or laptop operating system needs to be able to provide a rich set of capabilities to support the diverse needs of a business. It should be:

  • Dependable - greater dependence on PCs has made reliability a top concern for businesses of all sizes.

  • Secure – protecting user data is a key objective for business. Windows XP builds on the legacy of Windows NT and Windows 2000 by introducing several enhancements to increase the security of desktop and mobile computers.

  • Responsive – Today's business users demand a system that can scale to meet the demands of the most rigorous tasks. With its pre-emptive multi-tasking environment, and support for multiple processors, Windows XP professional provides an outstanding environment to meet the needs of even the most power hungry users.

  • Simple to Use – Windows XP's new visual design is optimized to reduced clutter, expose common tasks, and adapt itself to the way the user utilizes their computer.

  • Easy to manage & deploy - ease-of-use and client experience in a networked environment are becoming key factors in maximizing employee productivity and satisfaction. At the same time, cost containment and cost reduction are top priorities for most organizations. Thus, an operating system designed for desktops and laptops needs to be easy to manage and deploy and should simplify lifecycle management to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Right Desktop and Laptop Operating System for Businesses of all Sizes

Windows XP Professional has a powerful set of features that makes it the right choice for businesses of all sizes. It has been designed so that organizations can standardize both their desktop and laptop PCs on a single operating system, while offering the full functionality that business requires today.

It's Dependable

Windows XP Professional incorporates technologies that enhance its reliability and security—thus improving overall user productivity and ensuring the safety of corporate data. Windows XP Professional is built on the solid foundation of Windows 2000, and has been further improved by continuing to work on the core architecture of the operating system. Additionally, new features have been added such as Device Driver Rollback, Automated System Recovery and Remote Assistance that help users recover if they ever experience a problem. Consequently, network administrators will have fewer frustrated internal customers and have more time to perform other activities.

It's Secure

Building on the legacy of Windows 2000, Windows XP continues to offer features designed to secure the desktop. In addition to features that were introduced in Windows 2000, such as Kerberos and IPSec, Windows XP Professional features enhanced support for smart cards, as well as improvements to the encrypting file system that allow encrypted files to be used offline as well as being shared by multiple users.

It's Easy To Use

Windows XP Professional features a fresh new visual design. This redesign of the operating system reduces clutter by grouping similar taskbar items, and hiding icons in the notification area that aren't being used. Additionally, Windows XP Professional will adapt to the way users work on their computers by moving their most frequently used applications to a more prominent position on the start menu. Finally, the most common tasks that a user needs to accomplish are now featured in dynamic, context-sensitive, menus that change based on the type of file or folder selected. Whether the user is a novice or expert, these features make Windows XP Professional easier to use than all previous versions.

It's Responsive

At its core Windows XP Professional is designed to take on the most demanding tasks. Windows XP Professional features a pre-emptive multi-tasking architecture that allows multiple applications to run simultaneously, while still protecting the stability of the system. Additionally, Windows XP Professional can support up to two processors, as well as 4 gigabytes of RAM. This allows users to run their most demanding applications today, as well as having headroom for future needs.

It's Easy to Manage & Deploy

Windows X Professional is designed to enhance the user experience, as well as be easier to manage and be managed. The user interface has been revamped to make Windows easier to use, while exposing additional rich functionality. IT Administrators will be able to manage hundreds of new system settings via local or group policy to ensure they can tailor Windows XP Professional to meet the needs of their environment. Also, when it comes to deploying and maintaining the operating system, Windows XP Professional has made huge advancements. Windows setup with dynamic updates will check for the latest updates before the installation ever begins, which ensures that you will be loading the most up to date setup files available. And, once the operating system is installed, Windows Update will make sure that the latest operating system fixes are available.

Enhanced User Experiences

In addition to providing a rock-solid foundation, Windows XP Professional will deliver an enhanced set of user experiences.

Windows XP will put the advanced productivity tools of the digital age at your users' fingertips.

Examples of these enhanced experiences include:

  • Revolutionizing the way mobile workers get their jobs done

  • Helping users help themselves

  • Enabling new and improved methods of communication

Revolutionizing the Way Mobile Workers Get Their Jobs Done

Windows XP Professional builds on the best mobile features of Windows 2000 Professional and takes them to higher levels. By implementing the advanced configuration and power interface (ACPI) Windows 2000 Professional offered the ultimate in power management as well as plug and play support. But beyond raising the bar on existing technologies, Windows 2000 Professional introduced offline files and folders, which revolutionized the way mobile professionals were able to work on the road. Windows XP Professional continues the work started with Windows 2000 Professional by adding innovative new features like remote desktop. Remote desktop enables a mobile worker to access all the applications and data on the PC in his office from any machine on the corporate network – including machines that are connected via virtual private network or dial-up.

Helping Users Help Themselves

Windows XP Professional is designed to prevent problems from happening before they start. However, if problems do occur, Windows XP allows users a variety of self-help tools. The new Help and Support Center enables a user to search both local and network-based information stores to answer their questions. System Restore allows a user to put their system back into a known state if an error occurs. And device drive rollback can be used to reinstall a previous version of a device driver if a new version is causing errors. If a user needs additional help, a Remote Assistance session can be used to enable a help desk technician to remotely access the user's computer in order to manage the system.

Enabling New and Improved Methods of Communication

Windows XP Professional offers a consolidated communications platform for business users to stay in contact with coworkers, friends, and family. Integrated voice, video, and text chat, have been coupled with the ability to transfer files, share applications, and collaborate on an on-screen white board. These features will allow individuals to work with others whether they are down the hall or across the globe.


Business customers require an operating system that is reliable, easy to use, highly manageable, and cost-effective for both mobile and desktop users. Windows XP Professional has been designed to meet these needs. The rest of this document presents you with a detailed comparison of Windows XP Professional, Windows 95, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) and Windows 2000 Professional and shows why Windows XP Professional should be the operating system of choice for you in your business.

Feature Comparison

The combined features of Windows® XP Professional create the mainstream operating system businesses of all sizes. We integrated the strengths of Windows 2000—standards-based security, manageability and reliability with the best business features of Windows 98 and Windows Me—Plug and Play, easy-to-use user interface, and innovative support services to create the best Windows yet. Whether a corporation deploys Windows XP Professional on a single computer or via a worldwide network, Windows XP Professional increases your computing power while lowering the total cost of desktop ownership.

indicates a feature that is not available

indicates partial feature parity with Windows XP or full parity, but only in a subset of the operating systems listed

indicates a feature that has full parity with Windows XP Professional




Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Built on the Windows Engine

Windows XP Professional is built on the proven code base of Windows NT® and Windows 2000, which features a 32-bit computing architecture, as well as fully protected memory model.

Subset of features

Subset of features

Enhanced Device Driver Verifier

Building on the device driver verifier found with Windows 2000, the Windows XP Professional version will provide even greater stress tests for device drivers.

Dramatically Reduced Reboot Scenarios

Eliminates most scenarios that forced end users to reboot in Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 9x. Many software installations also will not require reboots.

Side By Side DLL Support

Windows XP Professional provides a mechanism for multiple versions of individual Windows components to be installed and run "side by side".

Subset of features in Windows 98 and Windows Me

Windows File Protection

Windows XP Professional protects core system files from being overwritten by application installs. In the event a file is overwritten, Windows File Protection will replace that file with the correct version.

Windows Installer

An Integrated service that helps users install, configure, track, upgrade, and remove software programs correctly.

Enhanced Software Restriction Policies

Windows XP Professional features enhanced software restriction policies that provide administrators a policy driven mechanism to identify software running in their environment and control its ability to execute. This facility can be used in virus and Trojan horse prevention and software lockdown.




Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Preemptive Multitasking Architecture

Windows XP Professional is designed to allow multiple applications to run simultaneously, while ensuring great system response and stability.

Scalable memory and processor support

Supports up to 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and up to two symmetric multiprocessors.




Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Encrypting File System (EFS) with Multi-user Support

Encrypts each file with a randomly generated key. The encryption and decryption processes are transparent to the user. With Windows XP Professional, EFS now supports the ability to have multiple users accessing an encrypted document.

No support for use with multiple users

IP Security (IPSec)

Helps protect data transmitted across a network. IPSec is an important part of providing security for virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow organizations to transmit data securely over the Internet.

Kerberos Support

Provides industry-standard and high-strength authentication with fast, single logon to Windows 2000-based enterprise resources. Kerberos is an Internet-standard, which makes it especially effective for networks consisting of different operating systems such as UNIX.

Smart Card Support

Windows XP Professional integrates smart card capabilities into the operating system, including support for Smart Card login to terminal server sessions hosted on "Whistler" Server (the follow-on server release to Windows 2000) based terminal servers.

Subset of features

Subset of features

Easy To Use



Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Fresh User Interface

While maintaining the core of Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional has features a fresh new user interface. Common tasks have been consolidated, and simplified, and new visual cues have been added to help users navigate their computer more easily. IT Administrators or end users can choose between this updated user interface and the classic Windows 2000 with the click of a button.

Adaptive User Environment

Windows XP Professional has technology that allows a customer's computing environment to adapt to the way he or she works. With a redesigned start menu, the most frequently used applications are show first. Additionally, if an application opens multiple windows (for instance, opening multiple email messages in the Outlook® messaging and collaboration client), all of those windows will be consolidated under a single task bar button. To remove some of the clutter from the notification area, items that are not being used will be hidden. All of these features can be set via Group Policy.

Work with Rich Media

Windows Media Player for Windows XP is the first player to combine all of your common digital media activities into a single, easy-to-use place. MPXP makes it easy for you to:
· View rich media information e.g. for virtual company meetings or "just-in-time" learning
· Adapts to network conditions so you receive the best-possible audio/video quality
· Tune in to nearly 3,000 Internet radio stations
· Create custom CDs up to 700% faster than other solutions
· View DVD Movies

Subset of features

Subset of features

Context Sensitive Task Menus

When a file is selected in explorer, a dynamic menu appears. This menu lists tasks that are appropriate for the type of file selected.

Integrated CD Burning

Windows XP Professional has integrated support for burning CD-R and CD-RW's into the Windows explorer.

Easily Publish Information to the Web

Files and folders can be easily published to any web service that utilizes the WebDAV protocol.


DualView allows two monitors to host the windows desktop, while being driven off of a single display adapter. In the case of laptop computers this could be the internal LCD display as well as an external monitor. For desktops there are a variety of high-end display adapters that will support this functionality.


Helps end-users and IT professionals configure, optimize, and troubleshoot numerous Windows XP Professional functionalities.

Subset of features

Subset of features

Subset of features

Simplified Management and Deployment



Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Application Compatibility

We've provided fixes to hundreds applications that didn't run on Windows 2000 to run on Windows XP Professional. As new application fixes are published, we will make them available via our Windows Update service.
In addition to the application fixes, Windows XP Professional has a mechanism that allows the end user or IT administrator to specify if an application needs to run in either a Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 95/98 or Windows Me compatibility mode. In this mode, Windows XP Professional system DLL's provide appropriate responses to the running application, allowing it to execute appropriately without a performance hit.


User State Migration Tool

Windows XP Professional provides the User State Migration Tool, which allows IT administrators to migrate a user's data and application/operating settings from their old computer to their new Windows XP Professional desktop. These settings may include things like Internet Explorer favorites or Office custom dictionaries, while the data can be any file types specified by the IT administrator.

As a resource kit tool with no support

Support for Latest Hardware Standards

Windows XP Professional provides support for the latest hardware standards. It supports UDF 2.01, the latest standard for reading DVD discs. It also supports the formatting of DVD-RAM drives with the FAT32 files systems. Additionally, DirectX® 8 support will be included in Windows XP. Windows XP Professional also fully supports IRDA, USB, and IEEE 1394.

Support for some standards listed

Support for some standards listed

Setup with Dynamic Update

During the installation process, before any files are actually installed, Windows XP Professional checks the web for critical updates and downloads them to be included in the installation.

Unattended Installation

Windows XP Professional provides the ability to specify a greater number of options than previous versions of Windows, as well as allowing for a greater degree of security by encrypting passwords in the answer files.

Support for subset of options

Support for subset of options

Support for subset of options

Internet Explorer 6 Administration Kit

Internet Explorer 6 is more customizable than ever before through the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK 6), so it's easier to deploy and maintain the browser. Version 6 of the IEAK adds control over new features such as the Media Bar, Auto Image Resize, and the Personal Bar.

System Preparation Tool (SysPrep)

Helps administrators clone computer configurations, systems, and applications. SysPrep can be configured to allow a single image, which includes the operating system and business applications, to be restored to multiple different machine configurations.

Version 1.0 available as download

Subset of features

Setup Manager

Provides a graphical wizard that guides administrators in designing installation scripts.

Remote OS Installation

Permits Windows XP Professional to be installed across the network (including SysPrep images). Note: This feature requires the Active Directory™ service in Windows 2000 server.

Subset of features

Multilingual support

Allows users to easily create, read, and edit documents in hundreds of languages with the English version of Windows XP Professional. Additionally the Multilanguage User Interface version will allow IT Administrators to change the user interface language based on the machine user.

Group Policy

Group Policy settings simplify the administration of users and objects by letting IT administrators organize them into logical units, such as departments or locations and then assign the same settings, including security, appearance, and management options, to all employees in that group. This approach also ensures that settings are consistent across all members of a group. There are over 300 new polices available for Windows XP Professional, in addition to those already available for Windows 2000 Professional.

Subset of features

Resultant Set of Policy

The Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) tool in Windows XP Professional allows administrators to see the effect of Group Policy on a targeted user or computer. With RSoP, administrators have a powerful and flexible base-level tool to plan, monitor, and troubleshoot Group Policy.

Automatic Updates

Windows XP Professional will automatically download critical system updates in the background while the user is connected to the Internet. These downloads are throttled to minimize impact to network responsiveness, and are automatically resumed if the system is disconnected before an update is fully downloaded. Once the update has been downloaded to the PC, the user can then choose to install it.

Subset of features in Windows Me

Windows Update Improvements

As new device drivers, application compatibility fixes, and security patches are released for Windows XP Professional they will be made available to users via the Windows Update service (including Automatic Updates). In corporate environments, IT administrators can disable individual user access to Windows Update. A Windows Update catalog is provided for IT departments to download individual updates, and then deploy them as appropriate to their end users.

Microsoft Management Console (MMC)

Provides a centralized and consistent environment for management tools.

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

Provides a standardized infrastructure for monitoring and managing system resources.

Subset of features

Subset of features

Safe mode startup options

Allows Windows XP Professional to boot the system at the most basic level using default settings and minimum device drivers.

Revolutionizing the Way Remote Workers Do Their Jobs



Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop allows a user to create a virtual session onto their desktop computer using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Credential Manager

Credential manager is a secured store for password information. This feature allows users to input username and passwords for various network resources and line of business applications (such as e-mail) once, and then have the system automatically supply that information for subsequent visits to those resources without any user intervention.

Offline Files and Folders

An end user can specify which network based files and folders they would like to be available when they disconnect from the network. Additionally, with Windows XP Professional, Offline folders can now be encrypted to provide the highest level of security.

Subset of features


Windows XP Professional provides support for Microsoft's ClearType® display technology, a new text technology that triples the horizontal resolution available for rendering text through software.

Offline Viewing

Makes entire Web pages with graphics available for viewing offline.

Synchronization Manager

Lets end users compare and update their offline files and folders with those on the network.

Improved Power Management

By intelligently monitoring CPU state, Windows XP Professional can reduce the amount of power it is using. Additionally, the operating system will provide more accurate data on the amount of power left; this will prevent the system from shutting down prematurely. Also, by allowing for the system to wake up as the battery nears a drained state, the machine can be put into hibernation, and save any in progress work. Finally, the system's power management settings can now be set on a per-machine basis, or configured as necessary for individual users of that machine.


After a set period of time, or on demand, Windows XP Professional will write out the contents of memory to disk, and shut the power down. When the system is brought back up, all the applications are reopened to the state they were when the operating system was put into hibernate mode.

Hot Docking

Lets you dock or undock your notebook computer without changing hardware configuration or rebooting.

Advanced Configuration and Power Interface

The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) provides the latest in power management and plug and play support.

Windows 98 & Windows Me

Wireless Networking Support

Windows XP Professional provides built in support for secured access, as well as performance improvements for wireless networks.

Network Location Awareness

Network location awareness provides an underlying service that allows the operating system and applications to determine when a machine has changed network locations.

Easier Remote Access Configuration Wizards

Guides end users through the steps for setting up remote access to a network or virtual private network (VPN).

Windows Me

Help Users Help Themselves



Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Improved Help and Support Services

Help has been completely revamped in Windows XP Professional. The help system now features the ability to search across multiple information sources – including help sources on the Internet. Windows XP Professional also allows users to print a chapter out of the online documentation. Additionally, customers can submit feedback directly to Microsoft to improve the quality of information included in the documentation. Finally, Windows XP Professional has integrated the concept of "Favorites" into the help subsystem, so customers can easily find important passages.

Subset of features in Windows Me

Remote Assistance

Remote Assistance allows a user to submit a request to have a peer or IT Professional remotely control the customer's PC, which is also running Windows XP, to aid in troubleshooting and problem resolution. IT departments can build custom solutions on top of published API's using HTML to tailor Remote Assistance to their needs, and the feature can be centrally enabled or disabled.

System Restore

The System Restore feature of Windows XP Professional enables users and IT administrators to restore a PC, in the event of a problem, to a previous state without losing personal data files. System Restore actively monitors system file changes to record or store previous versions before the changes occurred. With System Restore, users never have to think about taking system snapshots as it automatically creates easily identifiable restore points, which allow the user to restore the system to a previous time.

In Windows Me

Device Driver Roll Back

When certain classes of new device drivers are installed, Windows XP Professional will maintain a copy of the previously installed driver automatically that can be reinstalled if problems occur.

Recovery Console

Provides a command-line console, allowing IT professionals to start and stop services, format drives, read and write data on a local drive, and perform many other administrative tasks.

Enabling New and Improved Communications



Windows 9x/Me

Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional

Windows XP Professional

Windows Messenger

Windows Messenger is the easy way to communicate with your customers, partners, friends, and family in real time. Will keep you updated with your contacts on-line status. Choose text, voice and video and experience the best on line voice and video quality experience. Collaborate with your contacts, transfer files, share applications and whiteboard drawings.

Subset of features available as download

Subset of features available as download

Internet Connection Firewall

Windows XP Professional offers a firewall client that can help protect small businesses from common Internet attacks.

Network Setup Wizard

The network setup wizard makes it easy for a small business owner to setup and manage their network. The wizard walks through key steps including sharing out files and printers, sharing out the Internet connection, and configuring the Internet Connection Firewall.

Subset of features in Windows Me

Network Bridge

The network bridge simplifies the setup and configuration of small networks that use mixed network connections (such as Cat-5 Ethernet and wireless) by linking the different types of networks together.

Subset of features in Windows Me

Internet Connection Sharing

Connects a small office network to the Internet, using a dial-up or broadband connection. From a single computer, Windows XP Professional can provide network address translation, addressing, and name resolution services for all computers on a small business network.

Windows 98SE and Windows Me

Peer-to-peer networking support

Enables Windows XP Professional to interoperate with earlier versions of Windows on a peer-to-peer level, allowing the sharing of all resources, such as folders and peripherals.

Windows XP Professional System Requirements

To use Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional, you need:

  • PC with 300 MHz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended

  • 128mb of RAM or higher recommended (64MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)

  • 1.5 GB of available hard disk space*

  • Super VGA (800 * 600) or higher-resolution video adapter and monitor.

  • CD-ROM or DVD drive

  • Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

Additional items or services required to use certain Windows XP features

For Internet access:

  • Some Internet functionality may require Internet access, a Microsoft .NET Passport, and payment of a separate fee to a service provider; local and/or long distance telephone toll charges may apply

  • 14.4 Kbps or higher speed modem

For networking:

  • Network adapter appropriate for the type of local-area, wide-area, wireless, or home network you wish to connect to, and access to an appropriate network infrastructure. Access to 3rd party networks may require additional charges.

For instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, and application sharing both parties need:

  • Microsoft .NET Passport account and Internet access or Exchange 2000 Server instant messaging account and network access. (Some configurations may require download of additional components).

For voice and video conferencing both parties also need:

  • 33.6 Kbps or higher speed modem, or a Network connection.

  • Microphone and sound card with speakers or headset

For video conferencing both parties also need:

  • Video conferencing camera

  • Windows XP

For application sharing both parties also need:

  • 33.6 Kbps or higher speed modem, or a Network connection.

  • Windows XP

For Remote Assistance:

  • Both parties must be running Windows XP and be connected via a network.

For Remote Desktop:

  • A Windows 95 or later-based computer and the two machines must be connected via a network.

For sound:

  • Sound card and speakers or headphones

For DVD video playback:

  • DVD drive and DVD decoder card or DVD decoder software

  • 8 MB of video RAM

For Windows Movie Maker:

  • Video capture feature requires appropriate digital or analog video capture device

  • 400MHz or higher processor for digital video camera capture

*Actual requirements will vary based on your system configuration and the applications and features you choose to install. Additional available hard-disk space may be required if you are installing over a network. For more information, please see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp.

Note: To ensure that your applications and hardware are Windows XP–ready, please check http://www.microsoft.com/windows/catalog.

More Information

Visit http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp for more information about Windows XP Professional.