ARCHIVED: What is Windows XP?

This content has been archived, and is no longer maintained by Indiana University. Information here may no longer be accurate, and links may no longer be available or reliable.

Microsoft released Windows XP on October 25, 2001. The two most commonly used versions are:

  • Home Edition, intended to succeed the Windows 95, 98, and Me family
  • Professional Edition, intended to succeed the Windows NT and 2000 family

Important: As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP with security updates. To ensure the highest security standards, the UITS Support Center no longer registers Windows XP devices to the IU network. UITS strongly recommends that you look into the options for replacing or upgrading your Windows XP computers for full compatibility with IU systems. See About end of life for Windows 8.0, 7, Vista, and XP.


Microsoft's minimum requirements for Windows XP are a 233 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, 1.5 GB of available hard drive space, and an SVGA-capable video card. UITS has found that computers not exceeding those requirements run Windows XP poorly or not at all. UITS strongly recommends that any system running XP have a CPU faster than 400 MHz and at least 256 MB of RAM.

Differences between Home and Professional Editions

Windows XP Home Edition
Windows XP Professional Edition
Intended for home or small office use
Intended for use in a professional environment (examples include a business office, a graphic design company, a centrally administered corporation or educational organization)
User login designed for ease of use. No provision for network domain authentication; network resources must be authenticated to individually.
Default user login identical to XP Home Edition, but can be configured to do domain authentication like NT and 2000
All users by default are in the Owners group, which has unrestricted control of the computer; Owners are essentially the equivalent of Administrators in Professional. A Restricted User group does exist; users must be explicitly assigned to it. No other groups exist.
All users must be assigned to one of the system's defined groups. Membership in a certain group assigns rights and permissions to that user. For example, an Administrator has unrestricted control of the computer; a Power User has many, but not all, administrative powers; a Guest has no power to change anything systemwide. The groups available are Administrator, Backup Operators, Guests, Power Users, Replicator, Users, and Debugger Users.
Administrative shares (hidden shares accessible to administrators over a network) do not exist, in spite of the fact that XP Home is strongly based on 2000 and XP Professional. They have been deliberately removed.
Administrative shares exist and are accessible in the same manner that they were in NT and 2000.
Supports only a single CPU computer
Supports up to a dual processor system; multiprocessor support available only in server editions of XP Professional

The similarities between the Home and Professional Editions are what separates Windows XP from the previous families. They both share the same core, or kernel, a marked departure from before. This has many benefits, among them simplicity in drivers and common expectations for behavior. Separate drivers are needed for 95/98/Me, NT, and 2000, but with XP Home or Professional, only one is needed. Additionally, even considering the differences listed above, the common core executes both the graphic user interface and any applications identically. Dissimilar kernels in 95/98/Me and NT/2000 behave differently, and the way they run Symantec/Norton AntiVirus Corporate Edition (SAV/NAV CE) is a good illustration of this. In 95/98/Me, SAV/NAV CE is simply a program running in the background, and it can be terminated in the Task Manager. However, in NT/2000, it is a service, which is also a program running in the background, but one protected by the operating system that cannot be terminated in the Task Manager. In both editions of XP, SAV/NAV CE also runs as a service.


Windows XP is heavily based on the Windows NT and 2000 core. In technical terms, Windows XP uses the NT conventions of protected memory, which prevents system crashes by running programs in their own separate RAM locations. This allows the operating system to keep an unstable program from crashing a perfectly functioning application running alongside it, or crashing Windows itself. Windows 95/98/Me and earlier had no equivalent memory scheme, which resulted in the whole computer being at the mercy of the least stable program running.

Also, Windows XP continues the 32-bit programming model that was partially implemented in Windows 95/98/Me, and fully implemented in NT and 2000; part of the protected memory scheme depends on programs being 32-bit. Other stability enhancements include driver signing (a Microsoft seal of approval for a device driver that's been tested and found to be stable) and enhancements to how Windows reacts to user actions.

For more, see Windows XP.

Some of this information was adapted from Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.

This is document akma in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2018-01-18 13:02:20.