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Windows XP is nice, even with the qualifiers

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My personal verdict is in on Windows XP, and it's a qualified "yes."

This $100 upgrade is worth the money if you meet several qualifiers: You have to be willing to tinker with your PC both before and after the installation; you must be pretty PC savvy to run the upgrade from Windows 98 to XP; and you may have to buy some upgrades for your favorite programs.

None of these qualifiers are involved if you buy a new PC; by all means, get XP installed at the gate. But the upgrade from 98 to XP is more involved than some.

Once you insert the installation disk, XP checks your system to see if you have enough horsepower. Then it scans your disk and tells you what won't work when you are done. All of this is done prior to installation, which is a nice touch.

The report, in my case four printed pages, outlines "blocking issues" and warnings. Blocking issues are items that must be solved before installation. In my case, installation would not continue unless I completely uninstalled Symantec PC Anywhere 0.0 and my Nortel Extranet Access client that I use to connect to my work network.

It then warned me that I would have to reinstall parts of Microsoft Office, Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities, Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.0 and Intellipoint Mouse software.

(Be very careful about Easy CD Creator, by the way. When you reinstall it, the Roxio Web site has a patch that must be installed before you reboot your PC from the first installation.) Anyway, once I cleared up those issues, the installation was nearly flawless. The pluses of XP are ease of use for multiple users, I think. Everyone can easily have his own settings and programs (Mom can have different wallpaper and programs loaded than Dad), and it is much more easy to lock out users from certain programs.

It is easy to "switch users" in midstream. If the kids are playing a game and Mom wants to check some e-mail on her account, she can switch users (leaving the kids' game running under the other account) with two mouse-clicks, then return the PC to the other user just as easily.

Microsoft has also built in tools to "roll back" your computer to prior days if it gets corrupted, plus really easy tools to move your data and files to a new PC if you upgrade.

I asked users to write in with their takes; several installed XP Professional and then found games and such were not working. XP Pro is more akin to Windows NT and 2000, a bit much for home, but be warned that with either XP version some older games and hardware won't work.

It is up to manufacturers to make drivers for their products and, as many readers found out, if you own a product like a scanner or printer from a defunct company, you likely are out of luck with XP.

Some expressed trouble with networking. Some of their issues were with XP's built-in firewall software. With it running the XP PC may be "invisible" on the network.

I'll handle more XP questions next week.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: See if your hardware and software is compatible before you upgrade at www.windowsxp.com.

James Derk is new media editor for The Evansville Courier & Press. His e-mail address is jderk@evansville.net.