How does Windows XP differ from the old Windows?

Have you recently traded in your old clunker of a computer for a new one? Likely the old one was running Windows 98 or Windows Millenium also known as Windows ME. The new computer, of course, will be running Windows XP.

At first Windows XP may seem like just a dressed up Windows 98 with that pretty green start button and all those soothing shades of blue, but look a little closer and you'll see some differences. We'll discuss a couple of the good and the one bad difference here.

Let's hear the bad new first. In Windows 98 and ME, you could run the Maintenance Wizard and, with just a few clicks, schedule all the disk maintenance procedures your computer would ever need. For some reason Microsoft decided to remove this feature in Windows XP. Now all disk maintenance utilities must be initiated manually. There are two, that you should run once every couple months. Click on My Computer, then right click on the C: drive and click properties. Then the window opens, click on the Tools tab. Here you can access the disk error checker and the disk defragmenter. For more information on these click on Start, then Help and Support. When the help screen opens, click on Performance and Maintenance, then on Maintaining your computer.

Do you ever get sick of digging through the start menu to find a program that you run frequently? The next time you go hunt that program down, try this. Right click on the icon in the start menu, then left click on Pin to start menu. Now when you click the start menu, that program will always be there above the horizontal line on the first panel of the menu for you to access easily. You can also easily remove the program from this panel by right-clicking it and selecting Remove from this list. The programs below the horizontal line on the start menu are programs you have accessed recently. To play with some more features of the start menu, try this. Right click on the start button, then click properties. You will find all kinds of options here.

You know you need a firewall right? You may even have installed Zone Alarm, McAfee Personal Firewall or even Norton Internet Security. All of these products are somewhat cumbersom to use and in Windows XP they are not needed. Windows XP has a built in firewall. All you need to do is turn it on. Click on start, then run. Enter ncpa.cpl and click ok. This opens the Network Connections screen. Right click on your local area connection or your dial up connection and click properties. When the property sheet opens, click the Advanced tab. Now check the check box that says "Protect my computer and network by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet." and click the ok button. Do this for any local area or dial up connections that you use to access the internet. Please note that if you already have a router and a home network, you probably don't need to do this and this will keep you from sharing files and printers with other computers on your local network.

There are many other improved features in Windows XP. Far to many to discuss here. Dig through the help features, the start menu and Control Panel to see what you can find.