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For more than a decade, I’ve been helping ordinary people wrestle with Microsoft Windows. Friends, neighbors, and family members pepper me with questions about their computers every day. I get phone calls and e-mails, and occasionally someone stops me in the gym and says. “I’m having this problem with Windows and I wonder whether you can help me figure it out...” In the past few years those questions have become much tougher: How do I keep my computer safe from viruses? How can I get these photos out of my new digital camera and burn them onto a CD? Why is all this offensive e-mail landing in my Inbox, and what can I do to get rid of it? What do I need to do to share my high-speed Internet connection with all the PCs in my house?

Those are all great questions, and I’ll bet you’ve got a few of your own that are just as tough. You know that today’s Windows-powered computers are amazingly powerful and complicated. Windows XP has more gizmos, gadgets, bells, whistles, and cool features than any single piece of software Microsoft has ever produced. So where do you begin? If you don’t have a hotline to your favorite Windows expert, how do you find the fastest, smartest way to tame this amazing operating system?

If you’re like other people I’ve talked with, you’re probably frustrated with computer books that overpromise and underdeliver—you know, the ones that assume you’re an imbecile or an idiot or some kind of dummy. After you get past the cornball jokes and the step-by-step instructions on how to click the mouse, those books don’t leave much room for answers to the really tough questions, do they?

That’s why I wrote this book.

This Book Could Be for You

Throughout this book, I assume that you have some experience with earlier versions of Windows, especially Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me). I won’t waste your time showing you how to click mouse buttons or move a window around on the screen. You’re smart enough to figure out how the Start button works, and I’ll bet you’ve used the Web, so you don’t need me to tell you how to click a hyperlink or what www stands for. You want answers, and you don’t want me to waste your time.

I’ve started by identifying the essential tasks you need to do every time you sit in front of a computer running Windows XP. I explained each of those tasks in plain English, with step-by-step instructions, strategies to help you work smarter, and pointers to places where you can find more information.

Of course, if you want to read this book from cover to cover, I’ve organized it so you can quickly get up to speed on Windows XP. For a fast, no-nonsense introduction to the features of Windows XP, especially those that are different from the Windows version you already know, I recommend reading Chapter 1, “You’ve Got Windows XP...Now What?” and Chapter 2, “How Windows Works (and How to Work with Windows),” before you go any further.

Want to dig deeper? Just keep reading. If you’re concerned about viruses, hackers, spam, and other unpleasantries, don’t miss Chapter 8, “Protecting Your Privacy and Your Computer’s Security,” where I explain how to use a firewall to block Internet intruders and how to protect yourself from viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Wondering what to do with your new digital camera? See Chapter 12, “Picture-Perfect Digital Photography.” And if you’re thinking about setting up a network, you’ll find step-by-step instructions in Chapter 14, “Setting Up and Running a Small Network.”

You don’t have to read this book from front to back, though. If you’re stumped by a Windows feature that isn’t working the way you expect, feel free to dive into the chapter that covers that feature for quick answers; if there’s relevant advice or essential instructions about that task in a different chapter, you’ll find a “See Also” note that leads you to that information.

Throughout this book, you’ll find a variety of helpful elements designed to turn you into an instant Windows expert. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to steer clear of jargon and technobabble. On those occasions when it’s unavoidable, look for a Lingo box that translates the term into plain English. You’ll also find tips, notes, and “Try This!” elements scattered throughout the text, all with the goal of helping you work (and play) faster and smarter.

What Hardware and Software Do You Need?

This book is all about Windows XP. If you’re thinking about upgrading to Windows XP, you’ll find helpful advice in the first two chapters. Throughout the rest of the book, I assume you already have a computer with Windows XP installed and running. I expect that most people who read this book are running Windows XP Home Edition, but I also cover some of the features you’ll find in Windows XP Professional. If you’re running Windows XP at home or in a small business, everything you read in this book should match what you see on your screen. If you use Windows XP on a large corporate network, however, you may notice some differences—I’ve tried to point these differences out whenever possible.


Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this book. Microsoft Press provides corrections for books at the following address:


If you have comments, questions, or ideas regarding this book, please send them to Microsoft Press via e-mail to:


or via postal mail to:

Microsoft Press

Attn: Faster Smarter Series Editor

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA 98052-6399

Please note that product support is not offered through the above addresses

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