My company's CEO recently came to me with his new Sony VAIO notebook computer, complaining that he couldn't access any network resources. The problem was that the VAIO shipped with Windows XP Home Edition, and XP Home doesn't let users connect to a domain. (Microsoft's introduction of two versions of Windows XP—the Professional Edition and the Home Edition—simplifies home and small office/home office—SOHO—users' lives by giving them a version without all the extra features for business and advanced users, but the two versions create confusion when you work with their networking components.) We could have upgraded the VAIO to XP Pro, but all the custom applications that Sony created for the VAIO's special features and functions would have made it difficult and time consuming to get everything working properly with XP Pro. The CEO's primary network-necessary application is email, and we were able to work around that problem by setting up Microsoft Outlook to use only POP3 mail. We'll deal with the other problems that using different versions of XP at home and at work create as these problems arise.

Indirectly, my CEO's problems with his VAIO led me to a simple solution to another annoying problem. Like me, many users in my office use the same wireless PC Card in their notebooks to access the company network and their home networks. The problem is that my office wireless network is heavily locked down: My company uses a lot of wireless networking security so that someone sitting in our lobby can't simply open his or her wireless-equipped notebook and gain network access. But this lockdown means that when employees want to take their work notebooks home, they either need to configure the same level of security for their home wireless networks, or they must reconfigure the network card twice a day, which is confusing for nontechnical users.

The solution to this problem, though more of a brute-force approach than a study in elegance, is to use two wireless PC Cards. Users simply leave their office cards at the office and their home cards at home and pop in the appropriate card. XP doesn't care which card is installed and identifies the interfaces uniquely, so switching back and forth isn't a problem, even if users never reboot their computers (many users just hibernate their computers). At less than $100 for a second PC Card, this solution is far more cost-effective than teaching nontechnical users how to reconfigure wireless networking.

To help you deal with both XP Pro and XP Home networking concerns, I've prepared the following list of networking differences between the two OSs.

Networking Differences Between XP Pro and XP Home

  1. XP Pro systems can join a domain; XP Home systems can't, which limits its use to home and SOHO environments because it can't use any corporate-specific features such as IntelliMirror.

  2. Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.1 and Personal Web Server (PWS) are found only in XP Pro.

  3. Direct access to the Administrator account is available only in XP Pro. XP Home users must log on using Safe mode to access the Administrator account.

  4. XP Pro supports Remote Desktop, which is basically a single-user version of Windows 2000 Server Terminal Services. XP Home supports only Remote Assistance.

  5. Networking-related Group Policy Objects (GPO) are available only in XP Pro. XP Home supports no group policies.

  6. Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS) and Sysprep are supported only in XP Pro.

  7. The Network Monitor application is available only in XP Pro.

  8. The UI for IP Security (IPSec) is available only in XP Pro.

  9. SNMP support, Simple TCP/IP Services, the service access point (SAP) and Client Services for NetWare (CSNW) are available only in XP Pro.

  10. XP Home supports only simple file sharing. Detailed file-level security permissions such as those found in Win2K are available only in XP Pro, which also supports the simple file-sharing model that XP Home uses.

  11. XP Pro lets users limit the number of connections to shared folders and control user access by account. XP Home users access shared folders through the Guest account, which is disabled by default in XP Pro.12. You can upgrade Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and Win2K Professional only to XP Pro. You can upgrade Windows 9x versions since Windows 98 only to XP Home. Neither version supports upgrades from Windows 95.