Windows XP: What the Numbers Mean
To understand how Windows XP compares with previous versions of Windows, we collected more than 500 test results on 86 different system configurations. Our desktop test-beds included systems with processors ranging from 233-MHz Pentium IIs to 2-GHz P4s. We configured the lower-end systems (less than 866 MHz) with 64MB and 128MB of RAM, and we used 128MB and 256MB of memory on the higher-end computers. The Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2001 tests were used to measure system performance when running common business programs and working with files. We ran all tests on multiple duplicate systems to ensure accurate and reliable results.
As we expected, Windows XPs performance was very similar to that of Windows 2000, with a few notable exceptions. For instance, Windows XP, which is the heir to Windows Me, proved much better suited than Windows 2000 to gaming and 3-D graphics.
When users install Windows XP, they have to choose between FAT32 and NTFS file formats. Both Home and Professional default to and recommend NTFS. FAT32 configurations generally perform faster, but NTFS handles file usage and access better, thanks to a smaller cluster size.
Windows XP is smart enough to turn off some visual effects to improve performance, based on processor speed. On our 233-MHz systems, 9 of the operating systems 16 visual-effects options were turned off automatically; on the PIII/550s, Windows XP disabled 1 effect; and on the 2-GHz systems, all options were enabled. The user can always go into the System Properties control panel and decide which features to enable or disable.
We extensively tested upgrade versions of Windows XP Home and Professional. Upgrading was seamless, even on the 233-MHz systems. Our benchmark test results were slightly lower on the upgraded systems than on systems with clean installations, though generally the difference was imperceptible and within a reasonable margin of error. When possible, however, its better to make a fresh installation rather than upgrading from an already choking operating system.
Windows XP had no problem recognizing all the different devices that were in our test machines, and the OS tended to perform better when it used digitally signed device drivers. The OS was even able to detect some new devices that arent yet on the market when we simply plugged them in. And Windows XP installed the correct drivers, creating a true plug-and-play experience.
We tried to install and run various games and other software and hardware on our test systems. Most recent games worked, but some older software had installation problems. If you run into this situation, check to see whether a new version of your software or a patch is available to correct the situation. Most of the hardware was easy to install, but we did run into some difficulties when we tried to use an older CD-R drive. By the time you read this, most manufacturers will be rolling out digitally signed drivers for their devices and updated versions of their software.
Compared with most previous Microsoft operating systems, Windows XPs stability is outstanding—on a par with Windows 2000. Unstable drivers are often the cause of system crashes, but Microsofts driver compatibility programs let the company thoroughly test manufacturers drivers before they are available on the market.
Click here to view the results for Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2001 with Pentium II/233 MHz and Pentium III/550 MHz processors.
Click here to view the results for Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2001 with Pentium III, Athlon and P4 processors.
Click here to view the results for Home and Pro XP Upgrades.