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Who Should Read This Book xxviii

How This Book Is Organized xxviii

Special Features in This Book xxx

I've used a lot of different computer operating systems over the years. The first personal computer operating system I used was CP/M, on a Kaypro II computer back in the very early 1980s. CP/M looked and worked a lot like MS-DOS, which I used in a number of versions from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s. Then I switched to Windows, which I used from version 3.0 through Windows 95, 98, and Me.

Finally, in 2001, I switched to the latest and greatest version of Microsoft's primary operating system, Microsoft Windows XP. I know that Windows XP is the latest and the greatest because that's what Microsoft tells me, but this particular version of Windows actually seems to live up to all the hype surrounding its launch. For perhaps the first time in the history of personal computing, Microsoft has created an operating system that is actually easy to use and doesn't crash all the time.

In other words, Windows XP is the operating system we've been waiting for…well, forever.

Of course, just because Windows XP is easier to use than any other Microsoft operating system doesn't mean you can figure it out by yourself. And just because it doesn't crash all the time doesn't mean that it is totally free of…well, let's be kind and call them idiosyncrasies.

In other words, even though Windows XP is the greatest thing since sliced bagels, you'll still probably need some help to learn your way around.

That is where this book comes in.

Microsoft Windows XP for Home Users, Third Edition, is your guide to all the pieces and parts of Microsoft's latest operating system. This book is designed to help you get up and running with Windows XP, and then help you keep it up and running over the long haul. There's lots here to learn, which is why a book like this is necessary—so necessary that this is the third edition of the book, updated with all the fixes and changes that come with the installation of Service Pack and Microsoft's latest official utilities and applications.

Who Should Read This Book

This book is designed for anyone using Windows XP Home Edition—although most of the information contained within these covers also applies to Windows XP Professional Edition. (The two versions are functionally identical for most end-user operations; I have both versions installed on various PCs around my home, and I can't tell you which PC is running which version without looking it up.) The book isn't for complete novices, however; I assume that you're already familiar with some older version of Windows. Maybe you're upgrading the operating system on your PC from Windows 98 or Me to Windows XP, or maybe you've just bought a new PC with Windows XP preinstalled. In any case, I focus on how Windows XP differs from the Windows you're used to, and proceed from there.

How This Book Is Organized

To make this book easy for you to use, I've organized its 25 chapters into six major sections, each focusing on a specific group of tasks or operations. This way, you can turn directly to that part of the book that contains the information you want—or you can read straight through, from front to back, to get the whole Windows XP story.

  • Part I: Getting to Know Windows XP gets you up and running with this newest version of Microsoft Windows. The first chapter tells you about everything that's new or has been changed since Windows 98 and Windows Me. The second chapter shows you how to customize the Windows XP desktop and operations to look and act the way you want them to.

  • Part II: Working with Files, Programs, and Peripherals examines all the file-management tools in Windows XP. You'll also learn how to add new software and hardware to your system, and how to control XP's printing function.

  • Part III: Taking Windows Online is all about Windows XP and the Internet. Here is where you'll learn how to connect to an ISP, share an Internet connection, use the new features in Internet Explorer 6, instant message with other users via Windows Messenger, and keep your computer safe and secure while you're online.

  • Part IV: Sounds and Pictures tells you about some of the neatest new features of Windows XP. You'll learn how Windows XP manages the task of importing and viewing pictures from digital cameras and scanners, as well as how you can listen to, rip, and burn digital audio files. You'll also learn how to use Windows XP with special Media Center PCs.

  • Part V: In the Home and On the Road is all about using Windows XP on a network or on a portable PC. You'll learn just how easy it is to set up an XP-based home network, how to fast-switch between multiple users, and how to make your notebook PC run faster and look better when you're away from home.

  • Part VI: Maintenance and Troubleshooting is the place to turn to if you're having trouble with Windows XP. Look here for advice on finding help, performing routine system maintenance, and troubleshooting common problems.

In addition, this book features three appendixes with essential information about upgrading your system to Windows XP, using XP's built-in accessory programs, and implementing XP's accessibility options.

Special Features in This Book

Besides the main text in this book, you'll find several extra features that give you even more information about getting the most out of Windows XP.


To get the most out of Windows XP, I recommend that you configure your system to at least 1024 × 768 resolution, running at least 16-bit color—and if your video card can handle it, crank the color quality all the way up to the highest setting. Windows XP looks best with 32-bit color. Naturally, you'll need a 17-inch or larger monitor to handle this resolution, which is another one of my recommendations.


These are pieces of advice—little tricks, actually—that help you use Windows XP more effectively or maneuver around problems or limitations.


Notes provide information that is generally useful but not specifically needed for what you're doing at the moment. Some are like extended tips—interesting, but not essential.


Prior to Windows 95, filenames were limited to eight main characters plus a three-character extension. Windows no longer has this “8+3” limitation. Filenames can now include up to 255 characters, and can use spaces and special characters.


Installing too many fonts on your system not only consumes a lot of hard disk space, it also eats up system memory and can cause your system to run slower than normal. If your system is running sluggishly, you may want to remove some unused fonts. This enhances the performance of your system performance and frees up some disk space.


These tell you to beware of a potentially dangerous act or situation. In some cases, ignoring a Caution could cause you significant problems—so pay attention to them!

Shortcut Key Combinations

Shortcut key combinations in this book are shown as the key names joined with plus signs (+). For example, Ctrl+W indicates that you should press the W key while holding down the Ctrl key. (This particular key combination closes the current browser window—useful if you've been plagued with a bunch of advertising pop-ups without the normal Close Window controls.)

Menu Commands

You'll see instructions, such as this, everywhere in this book:

Choose File, New.

This means that you should pull down the File menu and select New. (This particular example opens the New dialog box in most Windows applications.)

Web Addresses

There are a lot of Web addresses in this book. They're notated like this:


In all cases, the beginning http://, not necessary with Internet Explorer 6, is assumed.

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