In-Depth

Windows XP: The Most Stable Desktop OS Yet

Some quick basics about Windows XP, including reliability and recoverability.

In any discussion of Windows 2002 we can’t ignore the client side. At some point, you’ll probably be in a position to influence your company’s decision about the upgrade of desktop systems. So let’s cover some quick basics about Windows XP, particularly in the area of reliability and recoverability.

The Installation Mess
Windows 98, Second Edition introduced application isolation by allowing developers to rename system DLLs and make them available in a private location. This is a great feature, but it’s up to the programmers to implement application isolation. Windows XP makes this process completely transparent by automatically isolating applications that are written to share system resources. During the installation of such applications, Windows XP copies the shared DLLs and other installed files to a private location, so that the application will believe all is well and right in the world of Windows. I know you’ve probably heard it before, but this new functionality could well spell the end of DLL hell once and for all!

Undoing What’s Been Done
The System Restore feature lets administrators roll back the operating system to a previous system state without losing personal data files (such as Word documents or e-mail). System Restore runs in the background, looking for changes about to be made to the OS, and takes a snapshot of the system state before these changes are made. The snapshots are called Restore Points. Restore Points are created every 24 hours as well as when system changes occur, such as the installation of a program or unsigned drivers and other major OS changes. Users can manually create Restore Points as well. If the OS blows up after installing a new application or driver, an administrator can use the System Restore Wizard from either Safe Mode or Normal Mode to roll back the system to a stable configuration at a previously saved restore point.

Changing Drivers
The Device Manager in Windows XP has a new recovery feature called Roll Back Driver. If the system becomes unstable after installing a new driver, an administrator can boot into Safe or Normal mode and click on the Roll Back Driver button to revert to the previously installed driver. To reinstall the previous driver on the system, Windows XP looks to the driver rollback .INF cache to pull the correct files. I’ve used this option on several occasions and it worked like a charm—I didn’t even have to reboot the system!

Windows XP, of course, includes much more than just stability improvements. But those improvements alone would make it worth a serious look for any enterprise environment. The latest word on Windows XP availability puts it on track for a release date toward the end of October.

About the Author

Todd Logan, MCSE:Security, MCSA:Security, CompTIA Security+ is an independent contractor, trainer, and technical writer. He’s a co-author of Windows 2000 Professional Exam Cram.

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