The BySky Computer Advisor
by John Waters


What to buy



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What should you buy? > Operating System Software

So, before you even THINK about what kind of processor, hard drive size or any piece of hardware, you need to consider which Operating System you will want to use.

Now, being very familiar with Microsoft Operating Systems for the PC, we are going to configure IBM Compatibles in this discussion. You may be very partial to Apple Computers, but we won't be of any help from this point on.

If you are debating whether to get an Apple or a PC, we still have to look at the applications.. There is a magnitude of difference in the amount of software available for a PC vs an Apple. Apples are primarily for those people in the graphics arts fields that have been working with Apples all of their careers. Many of you will be VERY disappointed when you go to purchase or download applications off the Web and find that 95% of them will not run on your Apple Mac. If you are a graphics design studio or sound studio, then MAC is a good choice for you applications.

Today in the PC world, the operating system for the personal computer is from Microsoft. You can also purchase Unix or Linux if you are really techie. If you are planing on using Unix, chances are you would not be reading this.

So here is what is available in a nutshell. See the Advanced Networking section for server edition information.We have listened to many users tell us about how they bought a cheap PC with XP Home Edition and could not get it to work on their office LAN. Here are the differences.

Windows XP Home Edition Most popularly bundled OS. Comes with almost all packaged PCs. Does not support connections to a host domain server. So if you are buying nodes for an office network with an NT or Win2000/2003 server, get the XP Pro version only. XP Home DOES support limited home peer-to-peer networking of up to 4 machines.
Windows XP Professional This is the XP work-horse. 99% of the time you will need to buy this separately. It is the latest thing to use for network nodes in a Win2000/2003 domain.
Windows 2000 Professional If you don't like the XP registration process (you MUST register each license on-line) or want to stay all Win2000, this is your choice for an OS. It supports WindowNT/Win2000/Win2003 domains and is very robust and very stable.
Windows 98Me The oldest version you should deal with. Stay away from Windows 95. Win98 and Win98ME work fine for small dedicated nodes on an NT or 2000 network domain because of the smaller RAM overhead. These are UNSUPPORTED and DISCONTINUED by Microsoft but they still work. You should upgrade ASAP, but then again I know a lot us users still working under plain old DOS.

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Which one will most people need?
If you're getting a new PC or laptop for home use, Windows XP Home Edition is just fine. If you are buying a used PC or laptop for home use, Win98 or Win98ME is the oldest software that will work with today's applications and is a great way to get started, but you'll want to upgrade soon.

If you are buying new workstations for work, get XP Pro (or on a used machine, Windows 2000 Pro). You can use Win98 or Win98ME on network nodes as well for very simple dedicated applications, but will want to upgrade soon since Microsoft does not support Win98 any longer.

So the decision about which PC operating system you get is based on:

1. Whether you need to connect to a host network domain (a local area network, like in your office, that has a WindowsNT or Winows2000/2003 SERVER). Microsoft says you may use ALL versions to create simple peer-to-peer networks, but only the PRO versions to automatically log into domains with network servers. However, we have installed Win98ME and Win98 as network nodes on domains (you have to manually log in each time).
2. Whether you want some of the other features of the Pro versions of the operating systems (the pro versions have many other advanced features)

For a comparison of the different XP operating systems visit this page.

If you are use to using Windows 98, this page, will explain the difference between 98 and XP.

Since XP Home Edition comes bundled with almost all PCs today, you will need to purchase an upgrade if you want the additional features. There is no need to buy a completely new license. Purchase upgrade licenses and save money.

Now that you have the proper operating system picked out for your environment, you need to make sure that all the software you want to use will work with it.


We'll talk applications in the next session, but for now, just remember that you will need to know for sure that any special or custom applications you need will run on the OS you are getting.

If you are upgrading, the applications you have been running may not move over to the new OS easily or at all. See the upgrade section for more information.


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