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Myths and misconceptions about Windows XP

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The List



Here is my collection of some myths and misconceptions about Windows XP which I've come across in various forums, listed in roughly alphabetical order. Most originate from users being accustomed to using older versions of Windows. Sometimes confusion arises due to similar terminology. A search for more information on the internet and Microsoft website usually clears up any confusion or misunderstanding.


The list

You need to format and reinstall after losing the Administrator account password. Not quite: there are ways to reset it (for advanced users; see my tutorial on this).

Boot floppy discs: the six set up floppy discs from Microsoft are the same as start up discs to boot into WinXP. No, the six floppies are for installation and you still need the XP CD in the CDROM to finish it. The boot floppy to boot all the way to the desktop is created differently (KB 314079) or you can modify the first of the six.

The Microsoft Bootvis tool speeds up boot time. Microsoft officially said (in September 2003) that it was not the case for end users. However, some users did find using it improve boot time slightly.

You cannot copy the Windows XP CD due to copy protection. There is no copy protection.

Use deltree to delete a directory. This command is no longer present in Windows XP; use rd (short for rmdir) instead.

FAT32 v. NTFS: which is quicker. Opinions differ but due to different cluster sizes the performance can differ on large HDs. There are other factors involved such as the HD speed and interface type (IDE or SATA, SCSI).

File and partitions size limits in FAT32 and NTFS. The file size limit is often confused with partition size limit. The maximum file size in FAT32 is 4 GB - 1 byte and partition size approximately 8TB (but limited to formatting 32GB in Windows XP's setup and Disk Management). The maximum file size in NTFS is theoretically 16 EB - 1 KB (but limited in Windows XP to 256 TB - 64 KB) and the volume size is 256 TB - 64 KB using 64 KB clusters but volumes above 2TB require dynamic volumes.

You cannot play games in NTFS volumes. Not strictly true but many games don't run in Windows XP even in compatibility mode.

DOS cannot read NTFS. Well, MS-DOS cannot but some versions (e.g. PC DOS in Ghost boot disc) can. Some can write to NTFS (e.g. in Administrator's Pak)

It still has fdisk. No there isn't any more in the CD nor Windows folder. The Windows XP CD can partition and format your new HD (with the diskpart tool). You don't need to type any commands: just follow the onscreen instructions.

You need fdisk to partition and format your HD to install WinXP. The XP CD can format your HD during set up and Disk Management can format any unallocated space afterwards and your subsequent HDs. There is a limitation, however, if you use Disk Management to format a FAT32 partition as it limits the size to 32GB only (by design).

Fdisk /mbr can repair the master boot record for boot sector virus. Microsoft does not recommend it (more info in MS Windows XP Resource Kit Documentation).

Foreign languages: You need to install a third party programme to read and write foreign languages. No, Windows XP supports many languages including Middle Eastern and Fast Eastern languages. just install the input method editors (IMEs) - see my tutorial on handwriting pad.

Where is Front Page Express? It is no longer included. If you cannot cope with Notepad and need a web authoring tool you have to buy FrontPage (or as part of Office Professional) or Dreamweaver.

You need other software and hardware to use the handwriting pad. It depends which version of Windows XP you have and what language to support: refer to my article on handwriting pad.

The Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) can secure my PC. Well, the inbuilt firewall only blocks incoming traffic and cannot handle broadband sharing using a router. It is better than nothing at all but use a good third party firewall instead even with a router or gateway.

You can uninstall Internet Explorer in Add or Remove Programs. You cannot; this simply hides it but the files are still there. Unlike Windows 98, IE (iexplore.exe) cannot be uninstalled because it is closely tied up with Windows' Explorer (explorer.exe).

Messenger service = Windows Messenger or MSN Messenger. They're not the same. And Windows Messenger is not the same as MSN Messenger.

You can uninstall Windows Messenger in Add or Remove Programs. You need to unhide it first by editing the sysoc.inf file.

MS-DOS = The command prompt (cmd.exe or command.com): there is no real MS-DOS in Windows XP. Unlike Win9x you cannot boot directly to DOS.

Multi-booting: you can just install Win9x/NT/2000 after Windows XP. Or you can add a second HD with Win9x and expect it to work. It won't work like that. You need to fix the boot sector and if Windows XP uses NTFS you cannot install Win9x after it.

NetBEUI is missing. It is in the Windows XP CD.

You can transfer OEM versions of XP to another PC. You can do it if it's not tied to the BIOS but the EULA says otherwise (you're doing it illegally).

OEM versions - The factory PCs often (but not all) come with a recovery OEM CD which is an image specific tied to the PC. The OEM version you can buy with hardware is a full version with all the installation files and the extras (Recovery Console, NTBackup, NetBEUI).

Outlook Express (OE) = Outlook. Outlook is part of Microsoft Office or as a standalone programme and has more features than OE except for newsgroup support. Their mail folders are also different: dbx in OE and pst in Outlook.

Prefetch: Enableprefetcher registry key value = 5. This registry setting is undocumented - only 1, 2 and 3 are (more info here) but is widespread on the internet. The value 1 means application-only prefetching; 2 means boot-only prefetching and 3 means both 1 and 2. I've even seen the advice to disable prefetch to speed up booting - not true.

Product key = product ID. The product key is the code (what some people call the serial number) that comes with your retail copy or OEM copy on a label and which you need to enter during set up (not always need for factory PCs). In OEM versions it is on a label attached to your computer. The product ID is another code and what you see afterwards in System Properties.

You need to reformat and reinstall to change the product key. No need: refer to MS KB 328874, or use a tool.

Product activation = registration. Activation is a requirement unless you use factory OEM versions and XP Pro Volume Licence versions. Registration is never compulsory.

There is no Program Manager. Type progman in Start, Run box.

You always have to re-install and re-activate after a hardware change. Sometimes you don't have to, especially with adding devices. If you change motherboard or CPU you may have to but if you change board with a similar chipset you may get away with it, with or without Sysprep.

You can only re-activate Windows XP a few times. Not strictly true. This applies to activation over the internet; after this you have to use the phone; there should be no problem for legitimate versions.

The repair option in the installation CD = Recovery Console. The Recovery Console is the first Repair option; the repair installation is the second repair option which comes up later after you choose set up and accept the EULA.

If you do a repair installation you lose all your data. Not quite. As long as you don't reformat, doing a parallel re-installation should not wipe your data.

Regedit.exe or regedt32.exe? Windows XP combines the two and only needs to use regedit.exe although it has regedt32.exe too.

Unlock regedit by merging the unlock.reg file. This doesn't work in Windows XP (Win9x only - refer to my article on Lock and Unlock the Registry).

Scanreg for repair corrupt registry. It is no longer present in Windows XP.

Serial ATA (SATA) HDs are formatted in the same way: no, they usually need to have drivers installed during setup by pressing F6 (but this is not necessary with some newer mainboards). Check with your mainboard manual.

You cannot record (capture) sound for more than one minute in Windows Recorder. That's true but you can use Windows Movie Maker to record audio only (as wma) with no time limit.

Disable Simple File Sharing in Windows XP Home edition: you cannot disable it in Windows XP Home edition (even with the same registry change) but you can in XP Pro. Unless you disable this you won't be able to access NTFS folder permissions via the folder's security tab (see my article on System Restore folder).

System Restore can restore your data. The data files like your Word documents are not touched by system restore.

Window = Windows. The Microsoft Windows operating system is always Windows even in the singular but it is a very frequent mistake in non-native English users.

Windows XP SP1/1a causes problems like corrupt explorer.exe. I've never seen it in my installations but immediately  after installing SP1 the system uses about 20-30MB more RAM and perhaps runs slightly slower. It's only fair to say some people had problems but by no means everybody.

You need to install Windows XP SP1a even if you have SP1. No! They are the same except SP1a lacks MS Java VM.

You need to install IE6 SP1 after Windows XP SP1. No, it is not necessary although when I did it it let me install as well.

Windows XP SP2 has anti-virus protection. No it doesn't; it only has a new "Windows Security Center" to monitor your anti-virus (and firewall and Windows Autoupdate) status.

Microsoft has asked people not to install Windows XP SP2. Complete nonsense! There is an article somewhere which reports some firms were delaying installing SP2 and requested Microsoft to release a tool to temporarily stop autoupdate from updating SP2. For the home users and many corporate users it is still advisable to update SP2.

Where is the Web Publishing Wizard? It's no longer available. You have to use FTP or an HTML authoring tool like FrontPage.

WinIpconfig shows your IP. Windows XP doesn't come with this but only the ipconfig command. You can download the GUI version (WntIpcfg.exe) from Microsoft and it'll work in Windows XP.

Window XP Home edition does not support policies. It does not support group policies. It does not have the Group Policy editor but many local policy settings in the registry also work in Home edition (Please refer to my article on Group Policy editor in Win XP HE). There are tools which mimic aspects of the Group Policy editor to set policy restriction.

Windows XP includes Word. No unless it comes pre-installed in your factory PC (sometimes as part of Microsoft Works Suite).

Windows XP Professional users must be more professional people than Home edition users. That might be true for some but there are many using XP Pro and don't even know the basic DOS commands or how to unhide a file!

Windows XP Professional = Enterprise Edition. There is no Enterprise Edition (as in Windows Server 2003). A lot of corporate organisations use Windows XP Professional Volume Licence (but it's still not called Enterprise).

Windows XP SP1a has Java VM. No, this was removed for legal reasons. If you don't have SP1, install Sun's version instead.

Windows 2003 is the next desktop version after Windows XP. No, Windows Server 2003 is for server and replaces Windows 2000 Server (and its variants). The next version of desktop workstation Windows after XP would be what is codenamed Longhorn, scheduled to be released in 2006.




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Copyright 2003-2004 by Kilian. All my articles including graphics are provided "as is" without warranties of any kind. I hereby disclaim all warranties with regard to the information provided. In no event shall I be liable for any damage of any kind whatsoever resulting from the information. The articles are provided in good faith and after some degree of verification but they may contain technical or typographical errors. Links to other web resources may be changed at any time and are beyond the control of the author. Articles may be added, removed, edited or improved at any time. No support is provided by the author.

This is not an official support page for any products mentioned. All the products mentioned are trademarks of their companies. Edit the registry at your own risk and back up first.

Last updated 27 Oct 2004