It’s mostly true that there’s really just one Windows XP. The Professional and Home editions look alike, generally work alike, and are based on the same multigigabyte glob of software code.
But as with a pizza, insurance policy, or Toyota Camry, you can pay a little more for a few extras. Buying the Professional Edition equips you with these goodies. Many of them are interesting primarily to professional corporate network nerds, but all are described in this book:
Remote Desktop. If your XP Pro machine has a permanent Internet connection (like a cable modem or DSL), you can connect to it from any other Windows machine via the Internet (or office network). You can see what’s on its screen and manipulate what you find there—a great feature when you’re traveling with a laptop.
Corporate domain membership. XP Pro computers can be part of a domain—a group of networked computers, usually in big corporations (Chapter 19), that system administrators can maintain as a unit. Computers running the Home Edition can’t join a domain and aren’t affected by the changes the administrator makes to the domain settings.
Administrative shares. Windows XP Pro creates several shared folders for use by administrators and operating system services that manage the computer environment on the network. For security reasons, and to make it impossible for some clueless worker bee to delete essential files, XP Pro doesn’t give everyday employees access to these folders.
Remote Installation Service (RIS). RIS is a technical process that helps administrators install operating systems and software via the network without having to physically visit each computer.
Acknowledgment of high-horsepower chips. If your computer has multiple processors inside, or the Intel Itanium processor, only XP Pro exploits them.
Offline files. This feature lets you “sign out” certain files and folders when you’re about to leave the office with your laptop. When you return, the documents you’ve edited are automatically copied back to their starting places on the network.
Roaming profiles. This feature lets you sit down at any PC on the office network, log on, and see your own personal desktop, even though you’re not at your own personal PC.
Group and local policy settings. Group policies let administrators set up various groups on the network domain (one for Marketing, one for Accounting, as so on). That way, the administrator can apply the same security and management settings to all employees in that group, in one fell swoop.
Local group policies let administrators customize and fine-tune the underlings’ PCs. For example, the admin can prevent you from using certain programs (like chat programs) and specify what your Start menu and taskbar look like. (If a local group policy conflicts with a network domain group policy, the group policy usually wins.)
Polyglot heaven. You can make Windows XP change the language it uses for dialog boxes, menus, help files, dictionaries, spelling checkers, and so on. Microsoft refers to this feature as the Multilingual User Interface. Over 60 languages are included in both versions of Windows XP, but only XP Pro includes a toolbar (the Language bar) that lets you change the language on your computer at any time.
File protection. In XP Pro, you can protect individual files or folders by encrypting them, so that not even the most diligent spy or hacker can open them.
NTFS Permissions. XP Pro gives you much greater control over who (in your home, school, or office) can access which files, folders, or programs—whether over the network or when logging in directly. Details in Chapter 17.
Internet Information Services (IIS). XP Pro can turn your PC into a Web, mail, and FTP server using this software. (This feature may be familiar to Windows 2000 fans.)
Dynamic disks. If you have more than one hard drive, you can set up XP Pro to treat them all as single massive disk. (Details in Chapter 15.)