I am buying a new computer for my son to take to college and don’t know which version of Windows I should get between Windows XP Home, XP Pro and the Media version.
This question was answered on August 31, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Windows XP actually comes in 5 different flavors: Home Edition, Professional, Media Center Edition, Tablet PC Edition and Professional x64 Edition.
The first thing that you would want to do that could make this decision very simple is to check with the college that your son will be attending Often times the university will publish the minimum requirements for connecting to the schools network.
For the most part, the default operating system on most laptops is Windows XP Home Edition (you must request a different version at the time of purchase if you need something different).
Home Edition may work just fine but I have seen many schools require Windows XP Professional as it is more suited to large networks.
The most relevant features in Windows XP Pro that are not in the Home Edition include EFS (Encrypting File System - which allows the user to secure the individual files that are created by ‘encrypting’ or scrambling them), Remote Desktop, which would allow the schools network administrators to remotely administer the system, higher levels of security and better compatibility with various platforms.
Media Center Edition is basically Windows XP Home with an alternate interface available to make the computer look like a “TiVo” For scholastic purposes, this would seem to be a potential distraction, not to mention add additional cost and complications And once again, if the school requires Windows XP Professional, this version would not qualify.
The Tablet PC Edition will only come on Tablet PCs; specially designed portable computers that can fold back into what looks like an electronic tablet This special version of Windows has advanced hand writing recognition capabilities built-in and may seem enticing at first glance, but be careful.
Most Tablet PC users that I have encountered (with the exception of those in the medical field) have relegated the hand writing capability to nothing more than a ‘parlor trick’ that they can perform for those that have never seen it When it comes to productivity for most users, typing is substantially faster and more accurate than trying to use hand writing recognition software.
If you decide you want to give it a try, be sure to have your son demo it for an extended period of time Have him write a 50 word essay as a tablet and then as a traditional laptop and I think you will see what I am talking about Also, the Tablet PC Edition may not meet the proper specs for schools requiring Windows XP Professional.
Professional x64 Edition is completely unnecessary as it’s a special version for very expensive servers that run a specific type of processor.
Another thing to watch for, especially on low cost laptops is “90-day trial” versions of software, such as anti-virus and even Microsoft Office.
Make sure the various security programs are a full version with a one year subscription so your son is not dealing with an expired program shortly after getting started.
Students can also buy special educational versions of many mainstream programs at a greatly reduced price, so check with the school’s bookstore before you make your final decisions.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on August 31, 2006