First, I need to clarify a comment in last week's newsletter about product activation. As I explained, Microsoft said that changing NICs is one of the key elements that might trigger the need for a Windows XP reactivation; however, I've swapped PC Card NICs in my notebook without causing a new activation. I hope that news lets those of you who wrote about that specific case rest a bit easier.

Activation aside, I've discovered several new features in XP that might well be worth the upgrade to XP. When installing new hardware or software on a computer, you've probably encountered situations in which you follow all the directions, the installation goes smoothly, you reboot the system, and the computer blue screens, hangs, or just doesn't work the way it's supposed to. Several improvements to XP make situations such as these much less likely to occur.

For instance, when you try to install an application that XP doesn't support and that probably won't work under XP (Easy CD Creator from Roxio, formerly Adaptec, is a good example), XP warns you that the application probably won't run and suggests you not install it. When you ignore the warnings and install the application anyway, you get a message saying that the OS has installed the application, but that the application is incompatible with XP and XP has disabled it.

Another situation in which XP helps solve installation problems is when an application installs drivers that will probably work, but the drivers are unsigned and haven't gone through the XP logo program. XP asks several times whether you want to install these drivers and finally lets you do so. But before the OS installs the software, it lets you know that it’s setting a system restore point and backing up old files in case your system needs to be restored after the installation. If the new software kills the system, you lose only the time necessary to get your system back to the system restore point.

I found out about the final improvement when I tried to run Adobe PhotoDeluxe Home Edition, which was installed on a Windows 2000 system that I had subsequently upgraded to XP Release Candidate 1 (RC1). I clicked the application and got the following message: "The program you are trying to run has a Plug-in to correct known issues with this version of Windows. You should install the EPS Parser Plug-in for Adobe PhotoDeluxe Home Edition 3.x and PhotoDeluxe Business Edition 1.x to ensure proper operation on this version of Windows. Contact the program vendor regarding upgrades that are compatible with this version of Windows."

The enhancements Microsoft added to XP will help make sure you don't accidentally install or run applications that can cause OS problems. Although long overdue, the improvements are very welcome and might make your upgrade decision easier.

This week's tip

You can stop Win2K Professional users from changing the path to the My Documents folder (which might foul up your backup policy) by setting the "Prohibit user from changing My Documents path" group policy. Another method is to use the following steps to edit the registry:

  1. Run regedt32.
  2. Open HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies \Explorer.
  3. Open the Edit Menu and Select Add Value.
  4. Enter DisablePersonalDirChange as data type REG_DWORD.
  5. Set the value of the subkey to 1.
  6. Close the registry editor.