What the new client OS can do for you

Chances are good that you've heard how Windows XP Professional Edition is easier to use and more productive for end users than Windows 2000 Professional. But, like most administrators, you probably want to hear more about the XP Pro features that affect how you do your job. Although the Windows 2000 Magazine Lab hasn't thoroughly tested XP Pro, we've begun performing tests in environments that include XP Pro clients. In our testing, we've discovered several administrator-related features that we think you'll like.

For example, to ensure maximum stability, Microsoft built XP Pro on the Win2K Pro code base. However, when problematic driver or application installations cause that stability to falter, XP Pro's new and improved recovery features— System Restore and Device Driver Rollback—act as virtual time machines that take the system back to its preproblem state.

To enhance user-support capabilities, XP Pro offers Remote Assistance, which lets you remotely control another XP Pro computer. Remote Assistance gives you new possibilities for troubleshooting, maintenance, and training.

Microsoft expended an immense amount of time and energy to ensure that XP Pro runs a huge number of applications. The software company also developed several compatibility modes; applications that XP Pro doesn't support directly will likely run under one of these modes. As a result, those of you who struggle with users who want you to install applications that don't run on Win2K or Windows NT will enjoy fewer disagreements with funky-app users.

XP Pro also simplifies systems deployment. To bolster the flexibility and security of unattended installations, XP Pro offers more configuration options than Win2K Pro and encrypts passwords within answer files. Thanks to a more intelligent System Preparation (Sysprep) tool, IT shops that use hard disk images to deploy desktop OSs will need to maintain fewer image files for XP Pro than for earlier OSs because a wider variety of hardware can use the same image. And rather than make new image files to accommodate driver updates, you can slipstream the new drivers while you download the image to new computers.

XP Pro's User State Migration Tool (USMT) and its friendly new Files and Settings Transfer Wizard simplify the jobs of moving a user's settings and files to a new computer and maintaining a consistent user environment throughout a desktop hardware or software upgrade. The Resultant Set of Policies (RSoP) feature lets you see the cumulative effect of Group Policy on the XP Pro user or computer. The RSoP's logging and planning modes help you plan, monitor, and troubleshoot Group Policy.

If you've deployed or are considering deploying a wireless network, XP Pro's Network Location Awareness feature will interest you. The feature, which intelligently manages connections and informs the OS and applications—including the built-in Internet Connection Firewall—about connection status, promises to simplify administration of wirelessly networked computers.

The Lab will continue to keep you apprised of other notable XP Pro features—and problems. Windows' manageability is getting better all the time.