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Here are some positive aspects of the new installation procedure:
* Fewer reboots
* Better (although not perfect) 'clumping' of question-and-answer screens
* 'Dynamic Update' feature letting you update Setup with the latest fixes and drivers at install time
* Better overall hardware detection than Windows NT 4.0
* More wizards to ease setup chores (especially valuable in Server)
On the minus side, customers have less choice about which accessories, applets, and options should be installed:
* The familiar 'typical,' 'custom,' and 'minimal' installation options are gone.
* Users not on a corporate license must activate the product (more on this in the section 'Product Activation').
* The only area in which an interactive user can choose components to install is in the networking area.
Microsoft offers two options for automated deployment of the Windows XP operating system:
* Remote Installation Service (RIS)
With RIS, a server can install Windows XP onto a PC that doesn't even have an operating system on it. RIS was available for Windows 2000 Professional, but with XP it supports server installations as well as workstation installations, and has new operating system repair capabilities.
Use this with disk-cloning software such as Ghost or Drive Image. SysPrep helps create the master image, and your cloning software duplicates it.
The usual scripted installation options using 'answer files' are still available, too.
New migration paths
You can upgrade a Windows 98, 98 SE, or Me system to Windows XP Professional. That's a positive step in that a direct upgrade path from the 9x platform to Windows NT 4.0 never existed. Because of the greater similarities between NT-family operating systems, the upgrade path to XP from Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 Professional is likely to be smoother.
A new (and controversial) requirement for users of the retail Windows XP Professional product is product activation. This is a step in which your PC sends the product key to Microsoft, along with a hashed code that reflects details of the PC's hardware configuration, via the Internet or a phone call to Microsoft. Microsoft then supplies a return code that activates your product. Failing activation, the operating system locks up after 30 days.
The acronym for this anti-piracy feature is WPA, for Windows Product Activation. Chapter 4 deals with WPA in more detail.
Microsoft says that it's focusing on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) these days, and administrators may be able to reduce TCO with certain new Windows XP Professional features. Note that many of these features don't apply to Windows XP Home Edition, which doesn't support domain-style networking.
Policies are a mechanism for implementing and controlling the various other types of Windows XP security, not a new type of security themselves. Policies can be
* Local only
* Network-based only (using Active Directory)
* Both local and network-based
Tip Think of policies as the 'rules of the house' that set forth all the security restrictions (both machine-specific and user- and group-specific) that you've chosen to implement.
After an administrator sets policies, policies automatically modify the Registry (applying security, user-interface consistency, or both) at
* Boot time
* Logon time
* Periodic refresh intervals
Warning Technically, Windows XP policies work differently on
* Standalone machines
* Computers in a solely Windows XP and 2000 network
* Computers in mixed-mode networks with Windows NT 4.0 clients
Winning the award for most awkward name for a software utility, Microsoft calls the Windows XP/2000 implementation of policies Group Policy:
* The Local Group Policy utility runs on local workstations.
* The Group Policy property sheets are included in the various Active Directory administrative tools on a Windows 2000 server.
Automatic IP Addressing
Automatic IP Addressing allows Windows XP Professional PCs to assign themselves IP addresses if no address server exists on the network. (Windows 2000 and 98 also offer this capability.) That's handy for computers on purely private networks; that is, networks that don't need to connect to the public Internet.
Microsoft Management Console
Windows XP uses a new kind of control panel in addition to the older *.CPL files. This new variation is called Microsoft Management Console, or MMC for short. Microsoft used MMCs in a few products (such as its Internet server software) before Windows XP and even before Windows 2000, and it seems to be the way the company is moving.
MMC is a little like a standard car chassis within which software developers can put whatever engine they want. The framework has some consistent elements, but the contents of any given MMC window may vary greatly. One nice feature of MMC is that it enables administrators to build their own customized consoles with whatever snap-ins they find most useful.