XP Home vs XP Pro

A lot of folk (mainly friends and relatives) have been asking for my IT advice recently. I’ve been asked about the differences between XP Home and XP Pro – the question usually arises when the conversation reaches the point of discussing costs. Whether you agree with me or not, I’ve been sending them to Dell’s web-site: I’ve not had a problem with Dell so far. I have used an Inspiron 7000, 7500 and now have an 8600 – apart from the screen resolution on the 8600, it’s a great laptop. The screen resolution is 1280 * 800, which is totally useless for a developer – I didn’t order this screen, but the person who did, well, she goofed up big time, and now I have to live with it. In fact, if it’s a laptop you’re buying, forget the 1280 * 800 and get the best screen resolution you can afford – it’ll save you hours of “scrolling down” over the course of the laptop. Anyway, I disgress…so far I’ve been recommending Dell 5100 towers (not the half-sized silver ones) and have no problems with them at all. However, I’m prepared to accept that your mileage may vary.

For a typical (and real) home user, there’s not much benefit to be had from XP Pro. Unless, of course, you’re expecting yours truly or a.n.other to provide you with support via the Remote Desktop. You might save a few pounds on the operating system, but if you then go and break it such that you ask me to come and have a look at it, I won’t be able connect to it from the comfort of my own home. Of course, there are alternatives to the remote desktop, such as LogMeIn and GoToMyPC, however there’s no guarantee that these services are free or will remain free (even though I’m hearing good things about them).

However, if you’re a business, of any size, remote desktop might not be your key driver. XP Home doesn’t support the concept of groups, all users that are created belong to an “Owners” group…which is pretty much the same as giving them an Administrator account. For most home users, this isn’t a problem, but for business users, giving employees admin rights can be a major problem. That said, even for home users, a lot of support issues surrounding spyware, etc. could be solved if the users were using a lower privilege account.

For more XP Home vs Pro comparisons, take a look at Paul Thurrott’s site.