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In this introduction


Why This Book?

How Our Book Is Organized

What's on the CD?

Conventions Used in This Book


Thank you for purchasing or considering the purchase of Special Edition Using Microsoft® Windows XP Home, Third Edition. It's amazing the changes that nearly 20 years can bring to a computer product such as Windows. When we wrote our first Windows book back in the mid-1980s, our publisher didn't even think the book would sell well enough to print more than 5,000 copies. Microsoft stock wasn't even a blip on most investors' radar screens. Boy, were they wrong! Who could have imagined that a little more than a decade later, anyone who hoped to get hired for even a temp job in a small office would need to know how to use Microsoft Windows, Office, and a PC. Eighteen or so Windows books later, we're still finding new and exciting stuff to tell our readers.

Some people (including the U.S. Department of Justice) claim Microsoft's predominance on the PC operating system arena was won unethically through monopolistic practices. Whether this is true (we're going to stay out of the politics in this book), we believe Windows has earned its position today through reasons other than having a stranglehold on the market. Consider that Windows NT 3.1 had 5 million lines of code. Windows XP weighs in with more than 30 million. This represents a lot of work, by anyone's accounting. Who could have imagined in 1985 that any decent operating system two decades later must have support for so many technologies that didn't even exist at the time: CD-ROM, DVD, CD-R and CD-RW, Internet and intranet, MP3, MPEG, DV, USB, FireWire, PPoE, 802.11g, Bluetooth, APM, ACPI, RAID, email and newsgroup clients, UPS, fault tolerance, disk encryption and compression…? The list goes on. And could we have imagined that a Microsoft Certified System Engineer certificate (MCSE) would prove as lucrative as a medical or law degree?

Although rarely on the bleeding edge of technology, and often taking the role of the dictator, Bill Gates has at least been benevolent from the users' point of view. In 1981, when we were building our first computers, the operating system (CP/M) had to be modified in assembly language and recompiled and hardware parts had to be soldered together to make almost any new addition (such as a video display terminal) work. Virtually nothing was standardized, with the end result being that computers remained out of reach for average citizens.

Together, Microsoft and IBM changed all that. Today, you can purchase a computer, printer, scanner, Zip drive, keyboard, modem, monitor, and video card over the Internet; plug them in; and install Windows, and they'll probably all work together. The creation and adoption (and sometimes forcing) of hardware and software standards that have made the PC a household appliance the world over can largely be credited to Microsoft, like it or not. The unifying glue of this PC revolution has been Windows.

Yes, we all love to hate Windows, but it's here to stay. Linux is on the rise, but for most of us—at least for some time—Windows and Windows applications are where it's at. And Windows XP ushers in truly significant changes to the landscape. That's why we were excited to write this book.

This book covers Windows XP Home Edition as well as the latest upgrade to XP, which is called Service Pack 2 (SP2). SP2 adds significant new security features to Windows XP and its accessory programs such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

Why This Book?

We all know this book will make a hefty doorstop in a few years. You probably have a few already. (We've even written a few!) If you think it contains more information than you need, just remember that it can serve as a reference that will be there as you grow into this product. And we all know that computer technology changes so fast that it's sometimes easier just to blink and ignore a phase than to study up on it. Windows XP Home Edition is definitely a significant upgrade in Windows technology and one you'll need to understand. Microsoft has folded all its operating systems into the Windows XP product line, so rest assured it will be around for some time.

On the surface, Windows XP might look like Windows 98 and Windows Me, but it's a completely different animal. From the way users sign on, to the new Start menu, to its day-to-day management tools, XP bears little resemblance to its predecessors. Don't let that worry you: In all ways, it's superior to any operating system Microsoft has ever produced.

Is Windows XP so easy to use that books are unnecessary? Unfortunately, no. True, as with other releases of Windows, online help is available. As has been the case ever since Windows 95, however, no printed documentation is available (to save Microsoft the cost), and the Help files are written by the Microsoft cronies. You won't find criticisms, complaints, workarounds, or talk of third-party programs there.

You might know that Windows XP comes in two versions: Home Edition and Professional. These are very similar versions of the same fundamental operating system, and all the same applications and utilities are present in both. The Home Edition, though, has a simpler management scheme and omits advanced networking features that are used only in corporate networks. Following suit, we've produced two books. This one was written to address you, a user of XP Home Edition, specifically. Other publishers have produced combined volumes to cover both operating systems, but we think that will only confuse readers. We wanted you to have a book that discusses only the Windows version you'll be working with and focuses on the needs of the home and small home-office user. We assume you are not a corporate techno-geek, and we'll do our best to speak in plain English and not snow you with jargon.

In this book's many pages, we focus not just on the gee-whiz side of the technology, but why you should care, what you can get from it, and what you can forget about. The lead author on this book has previously written 18 books about Windows, all in plain English (several best-sellers), designed for everyone from rank beginners to full-on system administrators deploying NT Server domains. The coauthor has designed software and networks for more than 25 years. We work with and write about various versions of Windows year in and year out. We have a clear understanding of what confuses users and system administrators about installing, configuring, and using Windows, as well as (we hope) how to best convey the solutions to our readers.

This book is now in its third edition and builds on the experience we've gained over the years since XP's initial release. We spent many months adding coverage of new Windows features, testing Windows XP service pack betas through numerous builds, participating in the Microsoft beta newsgroups, documenting and working through bugs, and installing and reinstalling Windows XP on a variety of networks and computers. The result is what you hold in your hands.

While writing this book, we tried to stay vigilant of four cardinal rules:

  • Keep it practical.

  • Keep it accurate.

  • Keep it concise.

  • Keep it interesting, and even crack a joke or two.

We believe that you will find this to be the best book available on Windows XP Home Edition for the intermediate to advanced user. While writing it, we targeted an audience ranging from the power user in the small home office to the support guru in a major corporation. Whether you use a Windows XP PC at home or work, or support others who do, this book covers it all.

We're also willing to tell you what we don't cover. No book can do it all. As the title implies, this book is about Windows XP Home Edition. We don't cover the advanced networking features of Windows XP Professional, nor the various Server versions of this operating system called Windows Server 2003, Advanced Server, and Datacenter. However, we do tell you how to connect to and interact with other operating systems, including MacOS, Linux, and older variants of Windows over a local area network. And, due to space limitations, there is only passing coverage of Windows XP's command-line utilities, batch file language, and Windows Script Host. For that (in spades!), pick up a copy of Brian's book Windows XP Under the Hood: Hardcore Scripting and Command Line Power, also published by Que. Finally, if you feel you've earned a graduation from the knowledge found in this book, be sure to check out our Platinum Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP (published by Que, of course).

We worked hard not to assume too much knowledge on your part, yet we didn't want to assume you aren't already experienced with Windows. The working assumption here is that you are already conversant at least with some form of Windows. However, we provide a primer on the Windows XP interface because the look and feel of Windows XP is significantly different from its predecessors. Even when you've become a Windows XP pro, we think you'll find this book to be a valuable source of reference information in the future. Both the table of contents and the very complete index will provide easy means for locating information when you need it quickly.

How Our Book Is Organized

Although this book advances logically from beginning to end, it's written so you can jump in at any location, get the information you need quickly, and get out. You don't have to read it from start to finish, nor do you need to work through complex tutorials.

This book is broken down into six major parts. Here's the skinny on each one:

Part I, “Introducing Windows XP Home Edition,” introduces Windows XP and explains its features, new screen elements (GUI), and the design and architecture behind Windows XP. It then explains how to ready your hardware and software for installation of XP and describes the installation process itself.

Part II, “Getting Your Work Done,” is, well, about getting your work done. Perhaps the bulk of readers will want to study and keep on hand this part as a reference guide. Here, we cover using the interface, running programs, organizing documents, sharing data between applications, printing and faxing documents, and managing fonts. We also cover how to best work with the increasingly popular plethora of digital imaging tools and formats encountered with digital photography and nonlinear video editing in your PC.

Part III, “Windows XP and the Internet,” introduces you to Windows XP networking, Internet style. We start with Internet connection options and then move on to the supplied Internet tools. We provide in-depth coverage of Outlook Express for mail and newsgroups, Internet Explorer for Web surfing, Windows Messenger for audio and videoconferencing, and the new security features these program gained in Service Pack 2. We also have included sections on Internet diagnostic utilities such as ping and ipconfig.

Part IV, “Networking,” deals with networking on the LAN. Here, we explain the fundamentals of networking and walk you through planning and installing a functional LAN in your home or office. We cover the use of a Windows XP network; give you a chapter on dial-up, remote, and portable networking; and finish up with crucial security tips and troubleshooting advice that the Windows Help files don't cover. This section also covers the updated Windows Firewall and Windows XP's Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance features, and it shows you how to set up a secure, shared Internet connection for your home LAN.

Part V, “System Configuration and Customization,” covers system configuration and maintenance. We tell you how to work with Control Panel applets, provide tips and tricks for customizing the graphical user interface to maximize efficiency, and describe a variety of ways to upgrade your hardware and system software (including third-party programs) for maximum performance.

Part VI, “System Administration and Maintenance,” dives even deeper into system administration and configuration, with coverage of supplied system administration tools such as the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and its plug-ins. We also provide techniques for managing multiple users; means for managing the hard disk, including multiple file system formats such as FAT32 and NTFS; and details on setting up multiboot machines with Windows 9x, DOS, Linux, and Windows 2000. We cap off this part with coverage of the Windows Registry and a chapter on troubleshooting and repairing problems with your Windows XP installation.

Finally in the book's last chapter, we decided to briefly introduce and cover another flavor of Windows that is garnering a lot of attention: Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). Even if you don't have an MCE-based computer, you'll want to check out this chapter to learn what MCE is and what it can do. If you do have an MCE computer, you'll find some tips on how to take control of the digital video recorder to watch TV on your large-screen projector without commercials, how to run captivating slideshows of your digital pictures, how to burn DVDs of movies and TV shows you record, and how to organize your MP3 files. You'll even learn how to build an MCE computer.

Appendix A, “Installing Service Pack 2,” covers installation of Service Pack 2, and Appendix B, “New Features in Service Pack 2,” describes the changes SP2 brings, with cross references to coverage of its new features throughout the book.

What's on the CD?

We've made a 45-minute CD-ROM–based video presentation, so not only can we tell you how to use and manage Windows XP, but we can actually demonstrate specific skills so you can learn more quickly. We show you how to get around the new XP interface as well as how to set up a simple network—one of XP Home's strengths. You'll want to be sure to check this out and meet the authors.

Conventions Used in This Book

Special conventions are used throughout this book to help you get the most from the book and from Windows XP Home Edition.

Text Conventions

Various typefaces in this book identify terms and other special objects. These special typefaces include the following:

ItalicNew terms or phrases when initially defined
MonospaceInformation that appears in code or onscreen
Bold monospaceInformation you type

Words Separated by Commas

All Windows book publishers struggle with how to represent command sequences when menus and dialog boxes are involved. In this book, we separate commands using a comma. Yeah, we know it's confusing, but this is traditionally how the Special Edition Using book series does it, and traditions die hard. So, for example, the instruction “select Edit, Cut” means you should open the Edit menu and select Cut. Another, more complex example would be “click Start, Settings, Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager.”

Key combinations are represented with a plus sign. For example, if the text calls for you to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, you would press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time.

Tips from the Windows Pros

Ever wonder how the experts get their work done better and faster than anyone else? Ever wonder how they became experts in the first place? You'll find out in these special sections throughout the book. We've spent a lot of time under the Windows hood, so to speak, getting dirty and learning what makes Windows XP tick. So, with the information we provide in these sections, you can roll up your shirt sleeves and dig in.

Special Elements

Throughout this book, you'll find notes, cautions, sidebars, cross-references, and troubleshooting tips. Often, you'll find just the tidbit you need to get through a rough day at the office or the one whiz-bang trick that will make you the office hero. You'll also find little nuggets of wisdom, humor, and lingo you can use to amaze your friends and family—not to mention making you cocktail-party literate.



We specially designed these tips to showcase the best of the best. Just because you get your work done doesn't mean you're doing it in the fastest, easiest way possible. We'll show you how to maximize your Windows experience. Don't miss these tips!



Notes point out items you should be aware of, but you can skip them if you're in a hurry. Generally, we've added notes as a way to give you some extra information on a topic without weighing you down.



Pay attention to cautions! They could save you precious hours in lost work. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Troubleshooting Notes

We designed these elements to call attention to common pitfalls you're likely to encounter. When you see a troubleshooting note, you can flip to the end of the chapter to learn how to solve or avoid a problem.


Cross-references are designed to point you to other locations in this book (or other books in the Que family) that will provide supplemental or supporting information. Cross-references appear as follows:

→ For information on updating offline Web pages, see “Browsing Offline,” p.295.



Sidebars are designed to provide information that is ancillary to the topic being discussed. Read this information if you want to learn more details about an application or a task.

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