Windows XP seems to be gaining momentum in the client computer space. I don't base that statement on any Microsoft claim or analyst's report, but on the types of reader email messages I've been receiving.

Although I've received quite a few questions from systems administrators about integrating their new XP computers into their Windows 2000 environments, I'm receiving more and more messages that start out with "I can't get my to work with XP." The increase in such messages means an increase in the number of users moving to the XP platform—and these users are running into a lot of problems with their new systems. I have some advice for these system upgraders.

When you put the XP CD-ROM into the drive and the installation menu opens, click "Check system compatibility," then select the "Check my system automatically" option; the "Visit the Compatibility Web site" option simply takes you to a catalog of XP logo products. If you have an Internet connection, let the compatibility-checker application download the latest updates from the Web site.

You can also visit the Microsoft Windows Hardware Compatibility List Web site and manually check hardware compatibility. Microsoft has upgraded the old Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) documentation that this site used to contain. The new site is easier to search, and clicking a product name brings up more detailed information than the site previously offered. You can quickly see which hardware products work with which Windows OSs.

You'll notice that in many hardware categories, products have far fewer compatibility check marks in the XP column than in the Win2K column or Windows 98 column, and many motherboard-embedded devices are listed separately from the motherboard. For example, your computer might have Crystal Audio built-in, and the HCL will list it under Crystal Audio rather than the computer name. You might discover that your computer system supports XP, but the built-in audio device doesn't support XP, so checking all system hardware is important.

Most of the reader email I receive about XP problems refers to devices that the reader has been using for several years, and a compatibility check is especially important in these cases. Generally if the device has been working with Win2K, it likely will work with XP. If you're running a Windows 9x system, I suggest you check the compatibility of any hardware you want to keep before you start down the upgrade path.