Windows

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Posted by sonny 03/04/2009 @ 01:12

Tags : windows, operating systems, computers, technology

News headlines
Microsoft's free anti-malware beta to arrive next week - CNET News
Microsoft Security Essentials, which will run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7, will be available in the US, Brazil, and Israel in English and Brazilian Portuguese. A public beta version for Simplified Chinese will be available later in the year....
Microsoft: 18-month Windows 7 downgrade rights - Register
By Gavin Clarke • Get more from this author If you get a PC running Windows 7 but can't divorce yourself from Windows XP, Microsoft will give you 18 months to downgrade - not six. That's the line from Microsoft, which said that downgrade rights will be...
Battle of the $300 Netbooks - CNET News
Note also the universal inclusion of Windows XP--for the least expensive first- and second-generation Netbooks, many PC makers saved the XP licensing fee and opted for a Linux-based OS. And the Intel Atom N270 has been the Netbook chip of choice for...
T-Mobile Updates Dash Smartphone - InformationWeek
The Dash 3G is made by HTC, and it's T-Mobile's first Windows Mobile smartphone that has 3G capabilities. The handset has a full QWERTY keyboard on its face, and it resembles Sprint's Snap smartphone. The handset is powered by Windows Mobile Standard...
Nvidia: For smartbooks, Windows CE beats Android - Computerworld
s Windows CE for ARM-based netbooks. Mike Rayfield, general manager for Nvidia's mobile business unit, said Nvidia preferred Microsoft's Windows CE over Android because of CE's maturity. He said Android currently has a rough user interface....
Microsoft warned over plans to omit browser from Windows 7 - EETimes.com
LONDON — Having been warned by the European Commission that bundling its Internet Explorer web browser with its Windows operating system is a possible abuse of its market position, Microsoft has now been warned over its plans to do the opposite — to...
Up Front: Ballmer says Bing may be worth investing 10% of ... - BetaNews
By Angela Gunn and the Betanews Staff | Published June 19, 2009, 9:00 AM The Bing marketing push has been a short-term success for Microsoft in that it got people to trying out its search engine, including several of the features Windows Live Search...
Google's data sync tool breaks Windows search - CNET News
by Josh Lowensohn Google is working on an update to its Google App Sync software, the latest version of which breaks Microsoft's Windows Desktop Search along with several plug-ins found in Outlook. A post by Google on its enterprise blog late Tuesday...
Bugs and Fixes: A Bonanza of Browser Bug Fixes - PC World
Internet Explorer 8, released in March, will appear as a high-priority update if you run Windows Update, but Microsoft says you'll be able to skip it even if you have Automatic Updates set to install applications without asking permission....
Strafford County jail cell windows to be tinted following lewd ... - Foster's Daily Democrat
By ROBERT M. COOK DOVER — Strafford County jail inmates who have displayed lewd behavior from behind their jail cell windows will soon lose that option after county commissioners gave the green light Thursday to tint the jail's windows....

Windows XP

Windows XP SP3.png

Windows XP is a line of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. The name "XP" is short for "experience". Windows XP is the successor to both Windows 2000 Professional and Windows Me, and is the first consumer-oriented operating system produced by Microsoft to be built on the Windows NT kernel and architecture. Windows XP was first released on 25 October 2001, and over 400 million copies were in use in January 2006, according to an estimate in that month by an IDC analyst. It is succeeded by Windows Vista, which was released to volume license customers on 8 November 2006, and worldwide to the general public on 30 January 2007. Direct OEM and retail sales of Windows XP ceased on 30 June 2008, although it is still possible to obtain Windows XP from System Builders (smaller OEMs who sell assembled computers) until 31 July 2009 or by purchasing Windows Vista Ultimate or Business and then downgrading to Windows XP.

The most common editions of the operating system are Windows XP Home Edition, which is targeted at home users, and Windows XP Professional, which offers additional features such as support for Windows Server domains and two physical processors, and is targeted at power users, business and enterprise clients. Windows XP Media Center Edition has additional multimedia features enhancing the ability to record and watch TV shows, view DVD movies, and listen to music. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is designed to run ink-aware applications built using the Tablet PC platform. Two separate 64-bit versions of Windows XP were also released, Windows XP 64-bit Edition for IA-64 (Itanium) processors and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition for x86-64. There is also Windows XP Embedded, a componentized version of the Windows XP Professional, and editions for specific markets such as Windows XP Starter Edition.

Windows XP is known for its improved stability and efficiency over the 9x versions of Microsoft Windows. It presents a significantly redesigned graphical user interface, a change Microsoft promoted as more user-friendly than previous versions of Windows. A new software management facility called Side-by-Side Assembly was introduced to avoid the "DLL hell" that plagued older consumer-oriented 9x versions of Windows. It is also the first version of Windows to use product activation to combat illegal copying, a restriction that did not sit well with some users and privacy advocates. Windows XP has also been criticized by some users for security vulnerabilities, tight integration of applications such as Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Media Player, and for aspects of its default user interface. Later versions with Service Pack 2, and Internet Explorer 7 addressed some of these concerns.

During development, the project was codenamed "Whistler", after Whistler, British Columbia, as many Microsoft employees skied at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.

As of the end of November 2008, Windows XP is the most widely used operating system in the world with a 66.31% market share, having peaked at 85% in December 2006.

The two major editions are Windows XP Home Edition, designed for home users, and Windows XP Professional, designed for business and power-users. XP Professional contains advanced features that the average home user would not use. However, these features are not necessarily missing from XP Home. They are simply disabled, but are there and can become functional. These releases were made available at retail outlets that sell computer software, and were pre-installed on computers sold by major computer manufacturers. As of mid-2008, both editions continue to be sold. A third edition, called Windows XP Media Center Edition was introduced in 2002 and was updated every year until 2006 to incorporate new digital media, broadcast television and Media Center Extender capabilities. Unlike the Home and Professional edition, it was never made available for retail purchase, and was typically either sold through OEM channels, or was pre-installed on computers that were typically marketed as "media center PCs".

Two different 64-bit editions were made available, one designed specifically for Itanium-based workstations, which was introduced in 2001 around the same time as the Home and Professional editions, but was discontinued a few years later when vendors of Itanium hardware stopped selling workstation-class machines due to low sales. The other, called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, supports the x86-64 extension of the Intel IA-32 architecture. x86-64 is implemented by AMD as "AMD64", found in AMD's Opteron and Athlon 64 chips, and implemented by Intel as "Intel 64" (formerly known as IA-32e and EM64T), found in Intel's Pentium 4 and later chips.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was produced for a class of specially designed notebook/laptop computers called tablet PCs. It is compatible with a pen-sensitive screen, supporting handwritten notes and portrait-oriented screens.

Microsoft also released Windows XP Embedded, an edition for specific consumer electronics, set-top boxes, kiosks/ATMs, medical devices, arcade video games, point-of-sale terminals, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) components. In July 2006, Microsoft released Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, a thin client version of Windows XP Embedded which targets older machines (as early as the original Pentium). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. It is intended for corporate customers who would like to upgrade to Windows XP to take advantage of its security and management capabilities, but can't afford to purchase new hardware.

Windows XP Starter Edition is a lower-cost edition of Windows XP available in Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is similar to Windows XP Home, but is limited to low-end hardware, can only run 3 programs at a time, and has some other features either removed or disabled by default. Each country's edition is also customized for that country, including desktop backgrounds of popular locations, localized help features for those who may not speak English, and other default settings designed for easier use than typical Windows XP installations. The Malaysian version, for example, contains a desktop background of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.

In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft €497 million (US$603 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". After unsuccessful appeals in 2004 and 2005, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N. This version does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to pick and download their own media player. Microsoft wanted to call this version Reduced Media Edition, but EU regulators objected and suggested the Edition N name, with the N signifying "not with Media Player" for both Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Because it is sold at the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens have chosen not to stock the product. However, Dell did offer the operating system for a short time. Consumer interest has been low, with roughly 1,500 units shipped to OEMs, and no reported sales to consumers.

In December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Like the European Commission decision, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market. This decision resulted in Microsoft's releasing "K" and "KN" variants of the Home and Professional editions in August 2006.

That same year, Microsoft also released two additional editions of Windows XP Home Edition directed towards subscription-based and pay-as-you-go pricing models. These editions, released as part of Microsoft's FlexGo initiative, are used in conjunction with a hardware component to enforce time limitations on the usage of Windows. Its target market is emerging economies such as Brazil and Vietnam.

Windows XP is available in many languages. In addition, MUI packs and Language Interface Packs translating the user interface are also available for certain languages.

Windows XP analyzes the performance impact of visual effects and uses this to determine whether to enable them, so as to prevent the new functionality from consuming excessive additional processing overhead. Users can further customize these settings. Some effects, such as alpha blending (transparency and fading), are handled entirely by many newer video cards. However, if the video card is not capable of hardware alpha blending, performance can be substantially hurt, and Microsoft recommends the feature should be turned off manually. Windows XP adds the ability for Windows to use "Visual Styles" to change the user interface. However, visual styles must be cryptographically signed by Microsoft to run. Luna is the name of the new visual style that ships with Windows XP, and is enabled by default for machines with more than 64 MiB of video RAM. Luna refers only to one particular visual style, not to all of the new user interface features of Windows XP as a whole. Some users "patch" the uxtheme.dll file that restricts the ability to use visual styles, created by the general public or the user, on Windows XP.

In addition to the included Windows XP themes, there is one previously unreleased theme with a dark blue taskbar and window bars similar to Windows Vista titled "Royale Noir" available for download, albeit unofficially. Microsoft officially released a modified version of this theme as the "Zune" theme, to celebrate the launch of its Zune portable media player in November 2006. The differences are only visual with a new glassy look along with a black taskbar instead of dark blue and an orange start button instead of green. Additionally, the Media Center "Royale" theme, which was included in the Media Center editions, is also available to download for use on all Windows XP editions.

The default wallpaper, Bliss, is a BMP photograph of a landscape in the Napa Valley outside Napa, California, with rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds.

The Windows 2000 "classic" interface can be used instead if preferred. Several third party utilities exist that provide hundreds of different visual styles. Microsoft licensed technology from WindowBlinds creator Stardock to create its visual styles in XP.

Note 1: Even though this is Microsoft's stated minimum processor speed for Windows XP, it is possible to install the operating system on any computer with a compatible processor running at 100 MHz or faster.

Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows operating systems to fix problems and add features. Each service pack is a superset of all previous service packs and patches so that only the latest service pack needs to be installed, and also includes new revisions. Older service packs need not be removed before application of the most recent one.

The service pack details below only apply to the 32-bit editions. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition was based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and claimed to be "SP1" in system properties from the initial release. It is updated by the same service packs and hotfixes as the x64 edition of Windows Server 2003.

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows XP was released on 9 September 2002. It contains post-RTM security fixes and hot-fixes, compatibility updates, optional .NET Framework support, enabling technologies for new devices such as Tablet PCs, and a new Windows Messenger 4.7 version. The most notable new features were USB 2.0 support and a Set Program Access and Defaults utility that aimed at hiding various middleware products. Users can control the default application for activities such as web browsing and instant messaging, as well as hide access to some of Microsoft's bundled programs. This utility was first brought into the older Windows 2000 operating system with its Service Pack 3. Another improvement is the support for SATA and hard drives larger than 137GB (48-bit LBA support), though this is not a big issue while SP1 was released. The Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which was not in the RTM version, appeared in this service pack. IPv6 support was also introduced.

On 3 February 2003, Microsoft released Service Pack 1a (SP1a). This release removed Microsoft's Java virtual machine as a result of a lawsuit with Sun Microsystems.

Service Pack 2 (SP2) (codenamed "Springboard") was released on 6 August 2004 after several delays, with a special emphasis on security. Unlike the previous service packs, SP2 adds new functionality to Windows XP, including an enhanced firewall, improved Wi-Fi support, such as WPA encryption compatibility, with a wizard utility, a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer 6, and Bluetooth support. The new welcome screen during the kernel boot removes the subtitles "Professional", "Home Edition" and "Embedded" since Microsoft introduced new Windows XP editions prior to the release of SP2. The green loading bar in Home Edition and the yellow one in Embedded were replaced with the blue bar, seen in Professional and other versions of Windows XP, making the boot-screen of operating systems resemble each other. Colours in other areas, such as Control Panel and the Help and Support tool, remain as before.

Service Pack 2 added new security enhancements, which include a major revision to the included firewall that was renamed to Windows Firewall and is enabled by default, Data Execution Prevention that takes advantage of the NX bit that is incorporated into newer processors to stop some forms of buffer overflow attacks, and removal of raw socket support (which supposedly limits the damage done by zombie machines). Additionally, security-related improvements were made to e-mail and web browsing. Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes the Windows Security Center, which provides a general overview of security on the system, including the state of anti-virus software, Windows Update, and the new Windows Firewall. Third-party anti-virus and firewall applications can interface with the new Security Center.

On 10 August 2007, Microsoft announced a minor update to Service Pack 2, called Service Pack 2c (SP2c). The update fixes the issue of the diminishing number of available product keys for Windows XP. This update will only be available to system builders from their distributors in Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Professional N operating systems. SP2c was released in September 2007.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) was released to manufacturing on April 21, 2008 and to the public via both the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update on May 6, 2008.

It began being automatically pushed out to Automatic Update users on July 10, 2008. A feature set overview which details new features available separately as standalone updates to Windows XP, as well as backported features from Windows Vista has been posted by Microsoft. A total of 1,174 fixes have been included in SP3. Service Pack 3 can be installed on systems with Internet Explorer versions 6 or 7, and Windows Media Player versions 9 and above. Internet Explorer 7 is not included as part of SP3.

Slipstreamed retail and OEM versions of Windows XP with SP3 can be installed and run with full functionality for 30 days without a product key, after which time the user will be prompted to enter a valid key and activate the installation. Volume license key (VLK) versions still require entering a product key before beginning installation.

Although service packs have, until now, been cumulative, installing SP3 on an existing installation of Windows XP requires that the computer must at least be running with Service Pack 1 installed. However, it is possible to slipstream SP3 into the Windows XP setup files at any service pack level—including the original RTM version—without any errors or issues. Slipstreaming SP3 into Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is not supported.

Service Pack 3 contains updates to the operating system components of Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and security updates for .NET Framework version 1.0, which is included in these Windows XP SKUs. However, it does not include update rollups for the Windows Media Center application in Windows XP MCE 2005. SP3 also omits security updates for Windows Media Player 10, although the player is included in Windows XP MCE 2005. The Address Bar DeskBand on the Taskbar is no longer included due to legal restrictions. It also includes Windows Installer 3.1.

Support for Windows XP without a service pack ended on 30 September 2004 and support for Windows XP Service Pack 1 and 1a ended on 10 October 2006.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be retired on 13 July 2010, almost six years after its general availability. As per Microsoft's posted timetable, the company stopped general licensing of Windows XP to OEMs and terminated retail sales of the operating system on 30 June 2008, 17 months after the release of Windows Vista. However, an exception was announced on 3 April 2008, for OEMs installing to ultra low-cost PCs (ULCPCs) either until 30 June 2010, or one year after the availability of the next client version of Windows, Windows 7—whichever date comes later.

On 14 April 2009, Windows XP will begin its "Extended Support" period that will last for 5 years until 8 April 2014.

Windows XP has been criticized for its susceptibility to malware, viruses, trojan horses, and worms. Security issues are compounded by the fact that users, by default, receive an administrator account that provides unrestricted access to the underpinnings of the system. If the administrator's account is broken into, there is no limit to the control that can be asserted over the compromised PC.

Windows, with its large market share, has historically been a tempting target for virus creators. Security holes are often invisible until they are exploited, making preemptive action difficult. Microsoft has stated that the release of patches to fix security holes is often what causes the spread of exploits against those very same holes, as crackers figured out what problems the patches fixed, and then launch attacks against unpatched systems. Microsoft recommends that all systems have automatic updates turned on to prevent a system from being attacked by an unpatched bug, but some business IT departments need to test updates before deployment across systems to predict compatibility issues with custom software and infrastructure. This deployment turn-around time also lengthens the time that systems are left unsecure in the event of a released software exploit.

Critics have claimed that the default Windows XP user interface (Luna) adds visual clutter and wastes screen space while offering no new functionality and running more slowly. Users can revert to the Windows Classic theme.

In light of the United States v. Microsoft case which resulted in Microsoft being found liable for abusing its operating system monopoly to overwhelm competition in other markets, Windows XP has drawn fire for integrating user applications such as Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger into the operating system, as well as for its close ties to the Windows Live ID service.

Some users switching from Windows 9x to XP disliked its lack of DOS support. Although XP comes with the ability to run DOS programs in a virtual DOS machine, it still has trouble running many old DOS programs. This is largely because it is a Windows NT system and does not use DOS as a base OS, and that the Windows NT architecture is different from Windows 9x. Some DOS programs that cannot run natively on XP, notably programs that rely on direct access to hardware, can be run in virtual machines, such as DOSBox, VMware, Microsoft Virtual PC or VirtualBox.

In an attempt to reduce piracy Windows XP introduced product activation. Activation requires the computer or the user to activate with Microsoft (either online or over the phone) within a certain amount of time in order to continue using the operating system. If the user's computer system ever changes—for example, if two or more relevant components of the computer itself are upgraded—Windows will return to the unactivated state and will need to be activated again within a defined grace period. If a user tries to reactivate too frequently the system will refuse to activate online. The user must then contact Microsoft by telephone, to explain why this is happening, in order to obtain a new activation code.

However, activation only applies to retail and "system builder" (intended for use by small local PC builders) copies of Windows. "Royalty OEM" (used by large PC vendors) copies are instead locked to a special signature in the machine's BIOS (and will demand activation if moved to a system whose motherboard does not have the signature) and volume license copies do not require activation at all. Predictably this led to pirates simply using volume license copies with volume license keys that were widely distributed on the internet.

In addition to activation, Windows XP service packs will refuse to install on Windows XP systems with product keys known to be widely used in unauthorized installations. These product keys are intended to be unique to each boxed (or bundled) copy of Windows XP and are included with the product documentation, but a number of product keys were posted on the Internet and were then used for a large number of unauthorized installations. The service packs contain a list of these keys and will not update copies of Windows XP that use them.

Microsoft developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. After an outcry from security consultants who feared that denying security updates to illegal installations of Windows XP would have wide-ranging consequences even for legal owners, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. This means that while Service Pack 2 will not install on copies of Windows XP which use the older set of copied keys, those who use keys which have been posted more recently may be able to update their systems.

To try to curb piracy based on leaked or generated volume license keys, Microsoft introduced Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). WGA comprises two parts, a verification tool which must be used to get certain downloads from Microsoft and a user notification system. WGA for Windows was followed by verification systems for Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Defender, and Microsoft Office 2007. Recently Microsoft removed the WGA verification from the installer for Internet Explorer 7 saying that the purpose of the change was to make IE7 available to all Windows users.

If the license key is judged not genuine, it displays a nag screen at regular intervals asking the user to buy a license from Microsoft. In addition, the user's access to Microsoft Update is restricted to critical security updates, and as such, new versions of enhancements and other Microsoft products will no longer be able to be downloaded or installed. As of 26 August 2008, Microsoft has released a new WGA activation program that displays a plain black desktop background for computers failing validation. The background can be changed, but reverts after 60 minutes.

Common criticisms of WGA have included its description as a "Critical Security Update", causing Automatic Updates to download it without user intervention on default settings, its behavior compared to spyware of "phoning home" to Microsoft every time the computer is connected to the Internet, the failure to inform end users what exactly WGA would do once installed (rectified by a 2006 update), the failure to provide a proper uninstallation method during beta testing (users were given manual removal instructions that did not work with the final build), and its sensitivity to hardware changes which cause repeated need for reactivation in the hands of some developers.

Strictly speaking, neither the download nor the install of the Notifications is mandatory; the user can change their Automatic Update settings to allow them to choose what updates may be downloaded for installation. If the update is already downloaded, the user can choose not to accept the supplemental EULA provided for the Notifications. In both cases, the user can also request that the update not be presented again. Newer Critical Security Updates may still be installed with the update hidden. However this setting will only have effect on the existing version of Notifications, so it can appear again as a new version. As of 2006, Microsoft is currently involved in a class action lawsuit brought forth in California, on grounds that it violated the spyware laws in the state with its Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications program.

There are three main types of Windows XP licenses: Retail, Volume (VLK), and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). All three types of licenses are available for Windows XP Professional (32-bit and 64-bit). Windows XP Home Edition is limited to Retail and OEM licenses whereas Windows XP Media Center Edition and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition are exclusively available through VLK and OEM licenses.

Each type of license has a different installation CD. For customized or retail media, there is a very tiny difference on each type of disc that will only allow that installation disc to accept one type of product key.

Only retail and volume licenses include support for end-user installation scenarios from Microsoft. OEM software is pre-installed on systems and is supported by the system manufacturer rather than Microsoft. The price of such software is lower. There are two important restrictions on OEM licenses: Microsoft does not offer tech support, and the license cannot be transferred to another computer. The cost of OEM software products bundled with systems is not disclosed by Microsoft or by its partners as each system manufacturer will define its own bundling price.

Microsoft recommends that system manufacturers have their systems tested, for a fee, as part of the Windows Quality Online Services (Winqual) which includes extensive testing so that no component will cause instability in the Windows operating system due to incompatibility with the Windows operating system or with other system components or their respective drivers. Having a system tested and approved will allow the manufacturer to bear the "Certified for Windows" logo sticker on the exterior of the system, and there are additional benefits for having a tested product. This includes the product's being listed on the Windows Marketplace. Because of the fees and extensive requirements, Microsoft acknowledges that smaller system manufacturers may not opt in to the program until they produce computer systems at a modest rate and on recurring designs.

Retail licenses, those purchased from a retail store in full packaging, are of two sub-types: "Upgrade" and "Full Purchase Product", often abbreviated by Microsoft as FPP. FPP licenses are transferable from one computer to another, provided the previous installation is removed from the old computer. Although upgrade licenses are also transferable, a user must have a previous version of Windows even on the new computer to which they are moving the installation. Retail licenses include installation support for end-users, provided directly by Microsoft.

A Volume License is the license given to a software version sold to businesses under a direct purchase agreement with Microsoft, and is sold as an upgrade license only, meaning that a previous license must be available for each new volume license. Volume license versions of Windows XP use a Volume License Key (VLK) which is a product key that does not require Windows Product Activation. The term "Volume License Key" refers to the ability to use one product key for multiple systems, depending on the type of agreement. Since Windows XP Volume License versions do not require product activation, this led to leaked copies of VLK media and product keys from businesses leading to piracy of Windows XP which quickly spread across the internet upon early release. Beginning with Service Pack 1, Microsoft's active attempts to search out and blacklist known pirated VLK product keys became well known due to the inability to install the service pack on a system with one of the blacklisted keys. Later, this led to the Windows Genuine Advantage program.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) licenses are pre-installed on, and sold with, pre-assembled computers from system manufacturers. There are two types of OEM product types: those used for "Direct OEMs" (major name brands that buy through a direct contract with Microsoft and produce and brand their own media from a Microsoft "Gold Master Copy" by using an Authorized Microsoft Duplication Partner), and those used for "System Builders" (local computer shops that buy generic, unbranded kits through Authorized Microsoft Distributors). Direct OEM product keys will often not activate with System Builder installation media because Direct OEMs are now required by Microsoft to pre-activate their copies in the factory using their own internal mechanism before delivery to the customer. It is recommended that System Builders also pre-activate their systems before delivery, but this is not mandatory.

OEM installations can be customized using the Microsoft OEM Preinstallation Kit with branding, logos, additional applications, optional services, alternate applications for certain Windows components, Internet Explorer links, and various other customizations. All OEM customers must include support and contact information for the initial installation of Windows because it is the responsibility for the OEM to support the Windows installation, and is not provided by Microsoft to the end-user. Direct OEMs must create their own media, but have the option of creating their own custom recovery solution, which may or may not be similar to a generic installation. OEMs may provide a recovery partition on the hard drive as the custom recovery solution rather than providing disc-based media with the computer.

Some end-users have found this to be a troublesome option, because in the event of an out-of-warranty hard drive failure, they may not have access to reinstall Windows on a new hard drive. System Builders are not allowed the option to create a custom recovery CD/DVD media. The only deliverable media available for a System Builder to give to the end-user is the unbranded OEM System Builder hologram media kit. Because of this, when end-users reformat their hard drives and re-install from the installation media, they lose all the custom branding and support information that the System Builder would have included.

As a supplemental recovery method to a CD/DVD-based installation, a System Builder may employ a fully customized recovery solution on the hard drive. Whether utilizing a recovery partition or not, a System Builder must still include the original generic OEM System Builder hologram CD/DVD media kit. OEM licenses are not transferable from one computer to another. Every computer sold/resold with an OEM license must include all of the original installation media or recovery solution, documentation, Certificate of Authenticity, and product key sticker with the sale. Microsoft requires that all OEM system manufacturers include as part of the configuration the Windows Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which is the initial setup wizard encountered the first time Windows boots-up. It is also required that Value-Added Resellers (VAR's), retailers, and general resellers not tamper with the OEM's customized OOBE mechanism unless under permission by the OEM, and it is a recommended configuration for systems that are privately resold so that a customer will have a like-new computer experience upon first boot-up.

OEM licenses are to be installed by professional system manufacturers only. Under Microsoft's OEM License Agreement, they are not to be sold to end-users under any circumstance, and are to be pre-installed on a computer using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) before shipment to the customer, and must include at the very least the manufacturer's support contact information. They are therefore designed for installation only on a single computer and are not transferable, even if the original computer is no longer in use. This is not usually an issue for users who purchase new computer systems because most pre-assembled systems ship with a pre-installed operating system. There are few circumstances where Microsoft will allow the transfer of an OEM license from one non-functioning system to another, but the OEM System Builder License Agreement (SBLA), as well as the OEM End User License Agreement (EULA) do not contain any allowance for this, so it is entirely up to Microsoft's discretion, depending on the situation.

In the event that an end-user decides that they do not wish to use a pre-installed version of Windows, Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) provides that the software may be returned to the OEM for a refund. Despite refusal of some manufacturers to honor the entitlement it has been enforced by courts in some countries.

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History of Microsoft Windows

The Windows logo used since November 2006.

In 1983 Microsoft announced the development of Windows, a graphical user interface (GUI) for its own operating system (MS-DOS), which had shipped for IBM PC and compatible computers since 1981. Since then, Microsoft has shipped many versions of Windows, and the product line has changed from a GUI product to a modern operating system.

The first independent version of Microsoft Windows, version 1.0, released on 20 November 1985, achieved little popularity. It was originally going to be called "Interface Manager" but Rowland Hanson-the head of marketing at Microsoft, convinced the company that the name <Windows> would be more appealing to consumers. Windows 1.0, was not a complete operating system, but rather an "operating environment" that extended MS-DOS, and shared the latter's inherent flaws and problems. The first version of Microsoft Windows included a simple graphics painting program called Windows Paint, Windows Write, a simple word processor, an appointment "calendar", a "cardfiler", a "Microsoft notepad", a "clock", a " control panel", a "computer terminal", "Clipboard", and RAM driver. It also included the MS-DOS Executive and a game called Reversi.

Microsoft had worked with Apple Computer to develop several Desk Accessories and other minor pieces of software that were included with early Macintosh system software. As part of the related business negotiations, Microsoft had licensed certain aspects of the Macintosh user interface from Apple; in later litigation, a district court summarized these aspects as "screen displays". In the development of Windows 1.0, Microsoft intentionally limited its borrowing of certain GUI elements from the Macintosh user interface, in order to comply with its license.

For example, windows were only displayed "tiled" on the screen; that is, they could not overlap or overlie one another. There was no trash can icon with which to delete files, since Apple claimed ownership of the rights to that paradigm.

Microsoft Windows version 2 came out on 9 December 1987, and proved slightly more popular than its predecessor. Much of the popularity for Windows 2.0 came by way of its inclusion as a "run-time version" with Microsoft's new graphical applications, Excel and Word for Windows. They could be run from MS-DOS, executing Windows for the duration of their activity, and closing down Windows upon exit.

Microsoft Windows received a major boost around this time when Aldus PageMaker appeared in a Windows version, having previously run only on Macintosh. Some computer historians date this, the first appearance of a significant and non-Microsoft application for Windows, as the beginning of the success of Windows.

Versions 2.0x used the real-mode memory model, which confined it to a maximum of 1 megabyte of memory. In such a configuration, it could run under another multitasker like DESQview, which used the 286 Protected Mode.

Later, two new versions were released: Windows/286 2.1 and Windows/386 2.1. Like previous versions of Windows, Windows/286 2.1 used the real-mode memory model, but was the first version to support the "High Memory Area|HMA". Windows/386 2.1 had a protected mode kernel with LIM-standard EMS (Emulator|emulation), the predecessor to XMS which would finally change the topology of IBM PC computing. All Windows and DOS-based applications at the time were real mode, running over the protected mode kernel by using the virtual 8086 mode, which was new with the 80386 processor.

Version 2.03, and later 3.0, faced challenges from Apple over its overlapping windows and other features Apple charged mimicked the ostensibly copyrighted "look and feel" of its operating system and "embodie and generated a copy of the Macintosh" in its OS. Judge William Schwarzer dropped all but 10 of Apple's 189 claims of copyright infringement, and ruled that most of the remaining 10 were over uncopyrightable ideas.

Microsoft Windows scored a significant success with Windows 3.0, released in 1990. In addition to improved capabilities given to native applications, Windows also allowed users to better multitask older MS-DOS based software compared to Windows/386, thanks to the introduction of virtual memory.

Windows 3.0's user interface was finally a serious competitor to the user interface of the Macintosh computer. PCs had improved graphics by this time, due to VGA video cards, and the Protected/Enhanced mode allowed Windows applications to use more memory in a more painless manner than their DOS counterparts could. Windows 3.0 could run in Real, Standard, or 386 Enhanced modes, and was compatible with any Intel processor from the 8086/8088 up to the 80286 and 80386. This was the first version to run Windows programs in protected mode, although the 386 enhanced mode kernel was an enhanced version of the protected mode kernel in Windows/386.

A "multimedia" version, Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions 1.0, was released several months later. This was bundled with "multimedia upgrade kits", comprising a CD-ROM drive and a sound card, such as the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Pro. This version was the precursor to the multimedia features available in Windows 3.1 and later, and was part of Microsoft's specification for the Multimedia PC.

The features listed above and growing market support from application software developers made Windows 3.0 wildly successful, selling around 10 million copies in the two years before the release of version 3.1. Windows 3.0 became a major source of income for Microsoft, and led the company to revise some of its earlier plans.

During the mid to late 1980s, Microsoft and IBM had cooperatively been developing OS/2 as a successor to DOS. OS/2 would take full advantage of the aforementioned Protected Mode of the Intel 80286 processor and up to 16MB of memory. OS/2 1.0, released in 1987, supported swapping and multitasking and allowed running of DOS executables.

A GUI, called the Presentation Manager (PM), was not available with OS/2 until version 1.1, released in 1988. Its API was incompatible with Windows. (Among other things, Presentation Manager placed X,Y coordinate 0,0 at the bottom left of the screen like Cartesian coordinates, while Windows put 0,0 at the top left of the screen like most other computer window systems.) Version 1.2, released in 1989, introduced a new file system, HPFS, to replace the FAT file system.

By the early 1990s, conflicts developed in the Microsoft/IBM relationship. They cooperated with each other in developing their PC operating systems, and had access to each others' code. Microsoft wanted to further develop Windows, while IBM desired for future work to be based on OS/2. In an attempt to resolve this tension, IBM and Microsoft agreed that IBM would develop OS/2 2.0, to replace OS/2 1.3 and Windows 3.0, while Microsoft would develop a new operating system, OS/2 3.0, to later succeed OS/2 2.0.

This agreement soon however fell apart, and the Microsoft/IBM relationship was terminated. IBM continued to develop OS/2, while Microsoft changed the name of its (as yet unreleased) OS/2 3.0 to Windows NT. Both retained the rights to use OS/2 and Windows technology developed up to the termination of the agreement; Windows NT, however, was to be written anew, mostly independently (see below).

After an interim 1.3 version to fix up many remaining problems with the 1.x series, IBM released OS/2 version 2.0 in 1992. This was a major improvement: it featured a new, object-oriented GUI, the Workplace Shell (WPS), that included a desktop and was considered by many to be OS/2's best feature. Microsoft would later imitate much of it in Windows 95. Version 2.0 also provided a full 32-bit API, offered smooth multitasking and could take advantage of the 4 gigabytes of address space provided by the Intel 80386. Still, much of the system still had 16-bit code internally which required, among other things, device drivers to be 16-bit code as well. This was one of the reasons for the chronic shortage of OS/2 drivers for the latest devices. Version 2.0 could also run DOS and Windows 3.0 programs, since IBM had retained the right to use the DOS and Windows code as a result of the breakup.

In response to the impending release of OS/2 2.0, Microsoft developed Windows 3.1, which includes several minor improvements to Windows 3.0 (such as display of TrueType scalable fonts, developed jointly with Apple), but primarily consists of bugfixes and multimedia support. It also excludes support for Real mode, and only runs on an 80286 or better processor. Later Microsoft also released Windows 3.11, a touch-up to Windows 3.1 which includes all of the patches and updates that followed the release of Windows 3.1 in 1992. Around the same time, Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups (WfW), available both as an add-on for existing Windows 3.1 installations and in a version that included the base Windows environment and the networking extensions all in one package. Windows for Workgroups includes improved network drivers and protocol stacks, and support for peer-to-peer networking. One optional download for WfW was the "Wolverine" TCP/IP protocol stack, which allowed for easy access to the Internet through corporate networks. There are two versions of Windows for Workgroups, WfW 3.1 and WfW 3.11. Unlike the previous versions, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 only runs in 386 Enhanced mode, and requires at least an 80386SX processor.

All these versions continued version 3.0's impressive sales pace. Even though the 3.1x series still lacked most of the important features of OS/2, such as long file names, a desktop, or protection of the system against misbehaving applications, Microsoft quickly took over the OS and GUI markets for the IBM PC. The Windows API became the de-facto standard for consumer software.

Meanwhile Microsoft continued to develop Windows NT. The main architect of the system was Dave Cutler, one of the chief architects of VMS at Digital Equipment Corporation (later purchased by Compaq, now part of Hewlett-Packard). Microsoft hired him in August 1988 to create a successor to OS/2, but Cutler created a completely new system instead. Cutler had been developing a follow-on to VMS at DEC called Mica, and when DEC dropped the project he brought the expertise and around 20 engineers with him to Microsoft. DEC also believed he brought Mica's code to Microsoft and sued. Microsoft eventually paid $150 million U.S. and agreed to support DEC's Alpha CPU chip in NT.

Windows NT 3.1 (Microsoft marketing wanted Windows NT to appear to be a continuation of Windows 3.1) arrived in Beta form to developers at the July 1992 Professional Developers Conference in San Francisco. Microsoft announced at the conference its intentions to develop a successor to both Windows NT and Windows 3.1's replacement (code-named Chicago), which would unify the two into one operating system. This successor was codenamed Cairo. In hindsight, Cairo was a much more difficult project than Microsoft had anticipated and, as a result, NT and Chicago would not be unified until Windows XP. Parts of Cairo have still not made it into Windows as of 2009 - specifically, the WinFS file system, which was the much touted Object File System of Cairo. Microsoft announced that they have discontinued the separate release of WinFS for Windows XP and Windows Vista and will gradually incorporate the technologies developed for WinFS in other products and technologies, notably Microsoft SQL Server.

Driver support was lacking due to the increased programming difficulty in dealing with NT's superior hardware abstraction model. This problem plagued the NT line all the way through Windows 2000. Programmers complained that it was too hard to write drivers for NT, and hardware developers were not going to go through the trouble of developing drivers for a small segment of the market. Additionally, although allowing for good performance and fuller exploitation of system resources, it was also resource-intensive on limited hardware, and thus was only suitable for larger, more expensive machines.

However, these same features made Windows NT perfect for the LAN server market (which in 1993 was experiencing a rapid boom, as office networking was becoming common). NT also had advanced network connectivity options and the efficient NTFS file system. Windows NT version 3.51 was Microsoft's entry into this field, and took away market share from Novell (the dominant player) in the following years.

One of Microsoft's biggest advances initially developed for Windows NT was a new 32-bit API, to replace the legacy 16-bit Windows API. This API was called Win32, and from then on Microsoft referred to the older 16-bit API as Win16. The Win32 API had three main implementations: one for Windows NT, one for Win32s (which was a subset of Win32 which could be used on Windows 3.1 systems), and one for Chicago. Thus Microsoft sought to ensure some degree of compatibility between the Chicago design and Windows NT, even though the two systems had radically different internal architectures. Windows NT was the first Windows operating system based on a hybrid kernel.

After Windows 3.11, Microsoft began to develop a new consumer oriented version of the operating system code-named Chicago. Chicago was designed to have support for 32-bit preemptive multitasking like OS/2 and Windows NT, although a 16-bit kernel would remain for the sake of backward compatibility. The Win32 API first introduced with Windows NT was adopted as the standard 32-bit programming interface, with Win16 compatibility being preserved through a technique known as "thunking". A new GUI was not originally planned as part of the release, although elements of the Cairo user interface were borrowed and added as other aspects of the release (notably Plug and Play) slipped.

Microsoft did not change all of the Windows code to 32-bit; parts of it remained 16-bit (albeit not directly using real mode) for reasons of compatibility, performance and development time. Additionally it was necessary to carry over design decisions from earlier versions of Windows for reasons of backwards compatibility, even if these design decisions no longer matched a more modern computing environment. These factors eventually began to impact the operating system's efficiency and stability.

Microsoft marketing adopted Windows 95 as the product name for Chicago when it was released on 24 August 1995. Microsoft had a double gain from its release: first it made it impossible for consumers to run Windows 95 on a cheaper, non-Microsoft DOS; secondly, although traces of DOS were never completely removed from the system, and a version of DOS would be loaded briefly as a part of the booting process, Windows 95 applications ran solely in 386 Enhanced Mode, with a flat 32-bit address space and virtual memory. These features make it possible for Win32 applications to address up to 2 gigabytes of virtual RAM (with another 2GB reserved for the operating system), and in theory prevented them from inadvertently corrupting the memory space of other Win32 applications. In this respect the functionality of Windows 95 moved closer to Windows NT, although Windows 95/98/ME did not support more than 512 megabytes of physical RAM without obscure system tweaks.

IBM continued to market OS/2, producing later versions in OS/2 3.0 and 4.0 (also called Warp). Responding to complaints about OS/2 2.0's high demands on computer hardware, version 3.0 was significantly optimized both for speed and size. Before Windows 95 was released, OS/2 Warp 3.0 was even shipped preinstalled with several large German hardware vendor chains. However, with the release of Windows 95, OS/2 began to lose market share.

It is probably impossible to choose one specific reason why OS/2 failed to gain much market share. While OS/2 continued to run Windows 3.1 applications, it lacked support for anything but the Win32s subset of Win32 API (see above). Unlike with Windows 3.1, IBM did not have access to the source code for Windows 95 and was unwilling to commit the time and resources to emulate the moving target of the Win32 API. IBM also introduced OS/2 into the United States v. Microsoft case, blaming unfair marketing tactics on Microsoft's part, but many people would probably agree that IBM's own marketing problems and lack of support for developers contributed at least as much to the failure.

OSR2, OSR2.1, and OSR2.5 were not released to the general public, rather, they were available only to OEMs that would preload the OS onto computers. Some companies sold new hard drives with OSR2 preinstalled (officially justifying this as needed due to the hard drive's capacity). This product was sold under the name Windows 97 in some countries in Europe.

The first Microsoft Plus! add-on pack was sold for Windows 95.

Microsoft released Windows NT 4.0, which features the new Windows 95 interface on top of the Windows NT kernel. (a patch was available for developers to make NT 3.51 use the new UI, but it was quite buggy).

On 25 June 1998, Microsoft released Windows 98, which was widely regarded as a minor revision of Windows 95, but generally found to be more stable and reliable than its 1995 predecessor. It included new hardware drivers and better support for the FAT32 file system which allows support for disk partitions larger than the 2 GB maximum accepted by Windows 95. The USB support in Windows 98 is far superior to the token, unreliable support provided by the OEM editions of Windows 95. It also controversially integrated the Internet Explorer browser into the Windows GUI and Windows Explorer file manager, prompting the opening of the United States v. Microsoft case, dealing with the question of whether Microsoft was abusing its hold on the PC operating system market to unfairly compete with companies such as Netscape.

In 1999, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second Edition, an interim release whose most notable feature was the addition of Internet Connection Sharing, which was a form of network address translation, allowing several machines on a LAN (Local Area Network) to share a single Internet connection. Hardware support through device drivers was increased. Many minor problems present in the original Windows 98 were found and fixed which make it, according to many, the most stable release of Windows 9x family.

Microsoft released Windows 2000, known during its development cycle as Windows NT 5.0, in February 2000. It was successfully deployed both on the server and the workstation markets. Amongst Windows 2000's most significant new features was Active Directory, a near-complete replacement of the NT 4.0 Windows Server domain model, which built on industry-standard technologies like DNS, LDAP, and Kerberos to connect machines to one another. Terminal Services, previously only available as a separate edition of NT 4, was expanded to all server versions. A number of features from Windows 98 were incorporated as well, such as an improved Device Manager, Windows Media Player, and a revised DirectX that made it possible for the first time for many modern games to work on the NT kernel. Windows 2000 is also the last NT-kernel Windows operating system to lack Product Activation.

While Windows 2000 upgrades were available for Windows 95 and Windows 98, it was not intended for home users. It lacked device drivers for many common consumer devices such as scanners and printers.

In September 2000, Microsoft introduced Windows Me (Millennium Edition), which upgraded Windows 98 with enhanced multimedia and Internet features. It also introduced the first version of System Restore, which allowed users to revert their system state to a previous "known-good" point in the case of system failure. System Restore was a notable feature that made its way into Windows XP. The first version of Windows Movie Maker was introduced as well.

Windows Me was conceived as a quick one-year project that served as a stopgap release between Windows 98 and Windows XP. Many of the new features were available from the Windows Update site as updates for older Windows versions, (System Restore and Windows Movie Maker were exceptions). As a result, Windows Me was not acknowledged as a unique Operating System along the lines of 95 or 98. Windows Me was widely criticised for serious stability issues, and for lacking real mode DOS support, to the point of being referred to as the "Mistake Edition". Windows Me was the last operating system to be based on the Windows 9x (monolithic) kernel and MS-DOS. It is also the last 32-bit release of Microsoft Windows that did not include Product Activation.

In 2001, Microsoft introduced Windows XP (code named "Whistler"). The merging of the Windows NT/2000 and Windows 95/98/Me lines was finally achieved with Windows XP. Windows XP uses the Windows NT 5.1 kernel, marking the entrance of the Windows NT core to the consumer market, to replace the aging 16/32-bit branch. The initial release met with considerable criticism, particularly in the area of security, leading to the release of three major Service Packs. Windows XP SP1 was released in September of 2002, SP2 came out in August, 2004 and SP3 came out in April, 2008. Service Pack 2 provided significant improvements and encouraged widespread adoption of XP among both home and business users. Windows XP lasted longer than any other version of Windows, from 2001 all the way to 2007 when Windows Vista was released to consumers. The Windows XP line of operating systems was succeeded by Windows Vista on 30 January 2007.

On 24 April 2003 Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003, a notable update to Windows 2000 Server encompassing many new security features, a new "Manage Your Server" wizard that simplifies configuring a machine for specific roles, and improved performance. It has the version number NT 5.2. A few services not essential for server environments are disabled by default for stability reasons, most noticeable are the "Windows Audio" and "Themes" services; Users have to enable them manually to get sound or the "Luna" look as per Windows XP. The hardware acceleration for display is also turned off by default, users have to turn the acceleration level up themselves if they trust the display card driver.

December 2005, Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 R2, which is actually Windows Server 2003 with SP1 (Service Pack 1) plus an add-on package. Among the new features are a number of management features for branch offices, file serving, printing and company-wide identity integration.

In July 2006, Microsoft released a thin-client version of Windows XP Service Pack 2, called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. The aim of WinFLP is to give companies a viable upgrade option for older PCs that are running Windows 95, 98, and Me that will be supported with patches and updates for the next several years. Most user applications will typically be run on a remote machine using Terminal Services or Citrix.

Windows Home Server (codenamed Q, Quattro) is a server product based on Windows Server 2003, designed for consumer use. The system was announced on 7 January 2007 by Bill Gates. Windows Home Server can be configured and monitored using a console program that can be installed on a client PC. Such features as Media Sharing, local and remote drive backup and file duplication are all listed as features.

The current client version of Windows, Windows Vista (codenamed Longhorn) was released on 30 November 2006 to business customers, with consumer versions following on 30 January 2007. Windows Vista intended to have enhanced security by introducing a new restricted user mode called User Account Control, replacing the "administrator-by-default" philosophy of Windows XP. Vista also features new graphics features, the Windows Aero GUI, new applications (such as Windows Calendar, Windows DVD Maker and some new games including Chess, Mahjong, and Purble Place), a revised and more secure version of Internet Explorer, a new version of Windows Media Player, and a large number of underlying architectural changes.

All editions (except Starter edition) are currently available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The biggest advantage of the 64-bit version is breaking the 4 gigabyte memory barrier, which 32-bit computers cannot fully access. In the first year after Vista's release, most installations were still 32-bit, due to poor driver support of the 64-bit version.

Windows Server 2008, released on 27 February 2008, was originally known as Windows Server Codename "Longhorn". Windows Server 2008 builds on the technological and security advances first introduced with Windows Vista, and is significantly more modular than its predecessor, Windows Server 2003.

Windows 7 is the next major release after Windows Vista and is planned for a three-year development timeframe. It was previously known by the code-names Blackcomb and Vienna.

On Wednesday January 7th, 2009 Steve Ballmer announced that a beta version of Windows 7 would be available for download Friday January 9th. By that Friday, Microsoft delayed making the beta version available by approximately one day, citing the need to beef up their server capacity due to overwhelming demand. Windows 7 beta (build 7000) was available for download from Microsoft.com until February 10th, 2009.

Some features of Windows 7 are faster boot-up, Device Stage, Windows Power Shell, less obtrusive User Account Control, Multi Touch, Home Group networking, Windows Gadget, Taskbar with application based thumbnails, and better power management for notebooks. Features previously included with Windows Vista and not in the Windows 7 beta include the Quick Launch toolbar and Windows Mail. A mail program is not provided with Windows 7 - Windows Live Mail can be downloaded for those wanting a free Microsoft mail client.

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Windows 2000

Windows 2000 supports disk quotas, which can be set via the "Quota" tab found in the hard disk properties dialog box.

Windows 2000 is a line of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on business desktops, notebook computers, and servers. Released on 17 February, 2000, it was the successor to Windows NT 4.0, and is the final release of Microsoft Windows to display the "Windows NT" designation. It was succeeded by Windows XP for desktop systems in October 2001 and Windows Server 2003 for servers in April 2003.

Four editions of Windows 2000 were released: Professional, Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server. Additionally, Microsoft sold Windows 2000 Advanced Server Limited Edition and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Limited Edition, which were released in 2001 and run on 64-bit Intel Itanium microprocessors. While each edition of Windows 2000 was targeted to a different market, they share a core set of features, including many system utilities such as the Microsoft Management Console and standard system administration applications. Support for people with disabilities has been improved over Windows NT 4.0 with a number of new assistive technologies, and Microsoft increased support for different languages and locale information. All versions of the operating system support the Windows NT filesystem, NTFS 3.0, the Encrypting File System, as well as basic and dynamic disk storage. The Windows 2000 Server family has additional features, including the ability to provide Active Directory services (a hierarchical framework of resources), Distributed File System (a file system that supports sharing of files) and fault-redundant storage volumes. Windows 2000 can be installed through either a manual or unattended installation. Unattended installations rely on the use of answer files to fill in installation information, and can be performed through a bootable CD using Microsoft Systems Management Server, by the System Preparation Tool.

Microsoft marketed Windows 2000 as the most secure Windows version ever, but it became the target of a number of high-profile virus attacks such as Code Red and Nimda. Almost nine years after its release, it continues to receive patches for security vulnerabilities nearly every month.

Windows 2000 is a continuation of the Microsoft Windows NT family of operating systems, replacing Windows NT 4.0. Originally called Windows NT 5.0, then Windows NT 2000, Microsoft changed the name to Windows 2000 on 27 October 1998. It is also the first Windows version that has been released without a code name, though Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 was codenamed "Asteroid" and Windows 2000 64-bit was codenamed "Janus" (not to be confused with Windows 3.1, which had the same codename). The first beta for Windows 2000 was released in September 1997 and several further betas followed until Beta 3 which was released on 29 April 1999. During the development, there was a DEC Alpha build of Windows 2000 but it was abandoned with the second beta. From here, Microsoft issued three release candidates between July and November 1999, and finally released the operating system to partners on 12 December 1999. The public could buy the full version of Windows 2000 on 17 February 2000. Three days before this event, which Microsoft advertised as "a standard in reliability", a leaked memo from Microsoft reported on by Mary Jo Foley revealed that Windows 2000 had "over 63,000 potential known defects". After Foley's article was published, Microsoft blacklisted her for a considerable time: InformationWeek summarized the release "our tests show the successor to NT 4.0 is everything we hoped it would be. Of course, it isn't perfect either." Wired News later described the results of the February launch as "lackluster". Novell criticized Microsoft's Active Directory, the new directory service architecture as less scalable or reliable than its own Novell Directory Services (NDS) alternative.

Windows 2000 was first planned to replace both Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0. However, that changed later. Instead, an updated version of Windows 98 called Windows 98 Second Edition was released in 1999 and Windows Me was released in late 2000. Close to the release of Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, Microsoft released Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, targeted at large-scale computing systems with support for 32 processors, on 29 September 2000.

Despite the warnings, the archive containing the leaked code spread widely on the file-sharing networks. On 16 February 2004, an exploit "allegedly discovered by an individual studying the leaked source code" for certain versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer was reported.

Windows 2000 introduced many of the new features of Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE into the NT line, such as the Windows Desktop Update, Internet Explorer 5, Outlook Express, NetMeeting, FAT32 support, Windows Driver Model, Internet Connection Sharing, Windows Media Player, WebDAV support etc. Certain new features are common across all editions of Windows 2000, among them NTFS 3.0, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), UDF support, the Encrypting File System (EFS), Logical Disk Manager, Image Color Management 2.0, support for PostScript 3-based printers, OpenType (.OTF) and Type 1 PostScript (.PFB) font support, the Data protection API (DPAPI), an LDAP/Active Directory-enabled Address Book, usability enhancements and multi-language and locale support. Windows 2000 also comes with several system utilities. Microsoft also introduced a new feature to protect critical system files, called Windows File Protection. This protects critical Windows system files by preventing programs other than Microsoft's operating system update mechanisms such as the Package Installer, Windows Installer and other update components from modifying them.

Microsoft recognized that a serious error or a stop error could cause problems for servers that needed to be constantly running and so provided a system setting that would allow the server to automatically reboot when a stop error occurred. Also included is an option to dump any of the first 64 KB of memory to disk (the smallest amount of memory that is useful for debugging purposes, also known as a minidump), a dump of only the kernel's memory, or a dump of the entire contents of memory to disk, as well as write that this event happened to the Windows 2000 event log. In order to improve performance on servers running Windows 2000, Microsoft gave administrators the choice of optimizing the operating system's memory and processor usage patterns for background services or for applications. Windows 2000 also introduced core system administration and management features as the Windows Installer, Windows Management Instrumentation and Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) into the operating system.

Windows Explorer has been enhanced in several ways in Windows 2000. It is the first Windows NT release to include Active Desktop, first introduced as a part of Internet Explorer 4.0 (specifically Windows Desktop Update), and only pre-installed in Windows 98 by that time. It allowed users to customize the way folders look and behave by using HTML templates, having the file extension HTT. This feature was abused by computer viruses that employed malicious scripts, Java applets, or ActiveX controls in folder template files as their infection vector. Two such viruses are VBS/Roor-C and VBS.Redlof.a. The "Web-style" folders view, with the left Explorer pane displaying details for the object currently selected, is turned on by default in Windows 2000. For certain file types, such as pictures and media files, the preview is also displayed in the left pane. Until the dedicated interactive preview pane appeared in Windows Vista, Windows 2000 had been the only Windows release to feature an interactive media player as the previewer for sound and video files. However, such a previewer can be enabled in Windows Me and Windows XP through the use of third-party shell extensions, as the updated Windows Explorer allows for custom thumbnail previewers and tooltip handlers. The default file tooltip displays file title, author, subject and comments; this metadata may be read from a special NTFS stream, if the file is on an NTFS volume, or from an OLE structured storage stream, if the file is a structured storage document. All Microsoft Office documents since Office 95 make use of structured storage, so their metadata is displayable in the Windows 2000 Explorer default tooltip. File shortcuts can also store comments which are displayed as a tooltip when the mouse hovers over the shortcut.

The right pane of Windows 2000 Explorer, which usually just lists files and folders, can also be customized. For example, the contents of the system folders aren't displayed by default, instead showing in the right pane a warning to the user that modifying the contents of the system folders could harm their computer. It's possible to define additional Explorer panes by using DIV elements in folder template files Other Explorer UI elements that can be customized include columns in "Details" view, icon overlays, and search providers: the new DHTML-based search pane is integrated into Windows 2000 Explorer, unlike the separate search dialog found in all previous Explorer versions. This degree of customizability is new to Windows 2000; neither Windows 98 nor the Desktop Update could provide it. The Indexing Service has also been integrated into the operating system and the search pane built into Explorer allows searching files indexed by its database.

Microsoft released the version 3.0 of NTFS (sometimes incorrectly called NTFS 5 in relation to the kernel version number) as part of Windows 2000; this introduced disk quotas (provided by QuotaAdvisor), file-system-level encryption, sparse files and reparse points. Sparse files allow for the efficient storage of data sets that are very large yet contain many areas that only have zeros. Reparse points allow the object manager to reset a file namespace lookup and let file system drivers implement changed functionality in a transparent manner. Reparse points are used to implement volume mount points, junctions, Hierarchical Storage Management, Native Structured Storage and Single Instance Storage. Volume mount points and directory junctions allow for a file to be transparently referred from one file or directory location to another.

The Encrypting File System (EFS) introduced strong file system-level encryption to Windows. It allows any folder or drive on an NTFS volume to be encrypted transparently by the user. EFS works together with the EFS service, Microsoft's CryptoAPI and the EFS File System Runtime Library (FSRTL). To date, its encryption has not been compromised.

EFS works by encrypting a file with a bulk symmetric key (also known as the File Encryption Key, or FEK), which is used because it takes less time to encrypt and decrypt large amounts of data than if an asymmetric key cipher were used. The symmetric key used to encrypt the file is then encrypted with a public key associated with the user who encrypted the file, and this encrypted data is stored in the header of the encrypted file. To decrypt the file, the file system uses the private key of the user to decrypt the symmetric key stored in the file header. It then uses the symmetric key to decrypt the file. Because this is done at the file system level, it is transparent to the user.

For a user losing access to their key, support for recovery agents that can decrypt files is built in to EFS. A Recovery Agent is a user who is authorized by a public key recovery certificate to decrypt files belonging to other users using a special private key. By default, local administrators are recovery agents however they can be customized using Group Policy.

Windows 2000 introduced the Multilingual User Interface (MUI). Besides English, Windows 2000 incorporates support for Arabic, Armenian, Baltic, Central European, Cyrillic, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Indic, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkic, Vietnamese and Western European languages. It also has support for many different locales.

Windows 2000 included version 7.0 of the DirectX API, commonly used by game developers on Windows 98. The last version of DirectX that Windows 2000 supports is DirectX 9.0c (Shader Model 3.0), that shipped with Windows XP Service Pack 2. Currently, Microsoft publishes quarterly updates to DirectX 9.0c; these updates contain bug fixes to the core runtime and some additional libraries such as D3DX, XAudio 2, XInput and Managed DirectX components. The majority of games written for recent versions of DirectX can therefore run on Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 introduced the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which is used to create, save, and open administrative tools. Each of these is called a console, and most allow an administrator to administer other Windows 2000 computers from one centralised computer. Each console can contain one or many specific administrative tools, called snap-ins. These can be either standalone (with one function), or an extension (adding functions to an existing snap-in). In order to provide the ability to control what snap-ins can be seen in a console, the MMC allows consoles to be created in author mode or user mode. Author mode allows snap-ins to be added, new windows to be created, all portions of the console tree to be displayed and consoles to be saved. User mode allows consoles to be distributed with restrictions applied. User mode consoles can grant full access to the user for any change, or they can grant limited access, preventing users from adding snapins to the console though they can view multiple windows in a console. Alternatively users can be granted limited access, preventing them from adding to the console and stopping them from viewing multiple windows in a single console.

The main tools that come with Windows 2000 can be found in the Computer Management console (in Administrative Tools in the Control Panel). This contains the Event Viewer—a means of seeing events and the Windows equivalent of a log file, a system information utility, a backup utility, Task Scheduler and management consoles to view open shared folders and shared folder sessions, configure and manage COM+ applications, configure Group Policy, manage all the local users and user groups, and a device manager. It contains Disk Management and Removable Storage snap-ins, a disk defragmenter as well as a performance diagnostic console, which displays graphs of system performance and configures data logs and alerts. It also contains a service configuration console, which allows users to view all installed services and to stop and start them, as well as configure what those services should do when the computer starts.

Windows 2000 comes with two utilities to edit the Windows registry, REGEDIT.EXE and REGEDT32.EXE. REGEDIT has been directly ported from Windows 98, and therefore does not support editing registry permissions. REGEDT32 has the older multiple document interface (MDI) and can edit registry permissions in the same manner that Windows NT's REGEDT32 program could. REGEDIT has a left-side tree view of the Windows registry, lists all loaded hives and represents the three components of a value (its name, type, and data) as separate columns of a table. REGEDT32 has a left-side tree view, but each hive has its own window, so the tree displays only keys and it represents values as a list of strings. REGEDIT supports right-clicking of entries in a tree view to adjust properties and other settings. REGEDT32 requires all actions to be performed from the top menu bar. Windows XP is the first system to integrate these two programs into a single utility, adopting the REGEDIT behavior with the additional NT features.

The System File Checker (SFC) also comes with Windows 2000. It is a command line utility that scans system files and verifies whether they were signed by Microsoft and works in conjunction with the Windows File Protection mechanism. It can also repopulate and repair all the files in the Dllcache folder.

The Recovery Console is run from outside the installed copy of Windows to perform maintenance tasks that can neither be run from within it nor feasibly be run from another computer or copy of Windows 2000. It is usually used to recover the system from problems that cause booting to fail, which would render other tools useless.

It has a simple command line interface, used to check and repair the hard drive(s) , repair boot information (including NTLDR) , replace corrupted system files with fresh copies from the CD, or enable/disable services and drivers for the next boot.

The Windows 2000 server family consists of Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

The Server editions include more features and components, including the Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) , Active Directory support and fault-tolerant storage.

The Distributed File System (DFS) allows shares in multiple different locations to be logically grouped under one folder, or DFS root. When users try to access a network share off the DFS root, the user is really looking at a DFS link and the DFS server transparently redirects them to the correct file server and share. A DFS root can only exist on a Windows 2000 version that is part of the server family, and only one DFS root can exist on that server.

There can be two ways of implementing a DFS namespace on Windows 2000: either through a standalone DFS root or a domain-based DFS root. Standalone DFS allows for only DFS roots on the local computer, and thus does not use Active Directory. Domain-based DFS roots exist within Active Directory and can have their information distributed to other domain controllers within the domain — this provides fault tolerance to DFS. DFS roots that exist on a domain must be hosted on a domain controller or on a domain member server. The file and root information is replicated via the Microsoft File Replication Service (FRS).

A new way of organizing Windows network domains, or groups of resources, called Active Directory, is introduced with Windows 2000 to replace Windows NT's earlier domain model. Active Directory's hierarchical nature allowed administrators a built-in way to manage user and computer policies and user accounts, and to automatically deploy programs and updates with a greater degree of scalability and centralization than provided in previous Windows versions. It is one of the main reasons many corporations migrated to Windows 2000. User information stored in Active Directory also provided a convenient phone book-like function to end users. Active Directory domains can vary from small installations with a few hundred objects, to large installations with millions. Active Directory can organise and link groups of domains into a contiguous domain name space to form trees. Groups of trees outside of the same namespace can be linked together to form forests.

Active Directory services could only be installed on a Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, or Datacenter Server computer, and cannot be installed on a Windows 2000 Professional computer. However, Windows 2000 Professional is the first client operating system able to exploit Active Directory's new features. As part of an organization's migration, Windows NT clients continued to function until all clients were upgraded to Windows 2000 Professional, at which point the Active Directory domain could be switched to native mode and maximum functionality achieved.

Active Directory requires a DNS server that supports SRV resource records, or that an organization's existing DNS infrastructure be upgraded to support this. There must be one or more domain controllers to hold the Active Directory database and provide Active Directory directory services.

Windows 2000 can be deployed to a site via various methods. It can be installed onto servers via traditional media (such as CD) or via distribution folders that reside on a shared folder. Installations can be attended or unattended. During a manual installation, the administrator must specify configuration options. Unattended installations are scripted via an answer file, or a predefined script in the form of an INI file that has all the options filled in. An answer file can be created manually or using the graphical Setup manager. The Winnt.exe or Winnt32.exe program then uses that answer file to automate the installation. Unattended installations can be performed via a bootable CD, using Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) , via the System Preparation Tool (Sysprep), via the Winnt32.exe program using the /syspart switch or via Remote Installation Services (RIS). The ability to slipstream a service pack into the original operating system setup files is also introduced in Windows 2000.

The Sysprep method is started on a standardized reference computer — though the hardware need not be similar — and it copies the required installation files from the reference computer to the target computers. The hard drive does not need to be in the target computer and may be swapped out to it at any time, with the hardware configured later. The Winnt.exe program must also be passed a /unattend switch that points to a valid answer file and a /s file that points to one or more valid installation sources.

Systems Management Server can be used to upgrade multiple computers to Windows 2000. These must be running Windows NT 3.51, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98 or Windows 95 OSR2.x along with the SMS client agent that can receive software installation operations. Using SMS allows installations over a wide area and provides centralised control over upgrades to systems.

Remote Installation Services (RIS) are a means to automatically install Windows 2000 Professional (and not Windows 2000 Server) to a local computer over a network from a central server. Images do not have to support specific hardware configurations and the security settings can be configured after the computer reboots as the service generates a new unique security ID (SID) for the machine. This is required so that local accounts are given the right identifier and do not clash with other Windows 2000 Professional computers on a network. RIS requires that client computers are able to boot over the network via either a network interface card that has a Pre-Boot Execution Environment (PXE) boot ROM installed or that the client computer has a network card installed that is supported by the remote boot disk generator. The remote computer must also meet the Net PC specification. The server that RIS runs on must be Windows 2000 Server and it must be able to access a network DNS Service, a DHCP service and the Active Directory services.

Microsoft released various editions of Windows 2000 for different markets and business needs: Professional, Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter Server. Each was packaged separately.

Windows 2000 Professional was designed as the desktop operating system for businesses and power users. It is the client version of Windows 2000. It offers greater security and stability than many of the previous Windows desktop operating systems. It supports up to two processors, and can address up to 4 GB of RAM. The system requirements are a Pentium processor of 133 MHz or greater, at least 32 MB of RAM, 650 MB of hard drive space, and a CD-ROM drive (recommended: Pentium II, 128 MB of RAM, 2 GB of hard drive space, and CD-ROM drive).

Windows 2000 Server SKUs share the same user interface with Windows 2000 Professional, but contain additional components for the computer to perform server roles and run infrastructure and application software. A significant new component introduced in the server SKUs is Active Directory, which is an enterprise-wide directory service based on LDAP. Additionally, Microsoft integrated Kerberos network authentication, replacing the often-criticised NTLM authentication system used in previous versions. This also provided a purely transitive-trust relationship between Windows 2000 domains in a forest (a collection of one or more Windows 2000 domains that share a common schema, configuration, and global catalog, being linked with two-way transitive trusts). Furthermore, Windows 2000 introduced a Domain Name Server which allows dynamic registration of IP addresses. Windows 2000 Server requires 128 MB of RAM and 1 GB hard disk space, however requirements may be higher depending on installed components.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server is a variant of Windows 2000 Server operating system designed for medium-to-large businesses. It offers clustering infrastructure for high availability and scalability of applications and services, including main memory support of up to 8 gigabytes (GB) on Physical Address Extension (PAE) systems and the ability to do 8-way SMP. It supports TCP/IP load balancing and enhanced two-node server clusters based on the Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) in Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition. Limited number of copies of an IA-64 version, called Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Limited Edition were made available via OEMs. System requirements are similar to those of Windows 2000 Server , however they may need to be higher to scale to larger infrastructure.

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is a variant of Windows 2000 Server designed for large businesses that move large quantities of confidential or sensitive data frequently via a central server. Like Advanced Server, it supports clustering, failover and load balancing. Limited number of copies of an IA-64 version, called Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Limited Edition were made available via OEMs. Its minimum system requirements are normal, but it was designed to be capable of handing advanced, fault-tolerant and scalable hardware—for instance computers with up to 32 CPUs and 64 GBs RAM, with rigorous system testing and qualification, hardware partitioning, coordinated maintenance and change control.

In October 2002, Microsoft commissioned IDC to determine the total cost of ownership (TCO) for enterprise applications on Windows 2000 versus the TCO of the same applications on Linux. IDC's report is based on telephone interviews of IT executives and managers of 104 North American companies in which they determined what they were using for a specific workload for file, print, security and networking services. IDC determined that the four areas where Windows 2000 had a better TCO than Linux — over a period of five years for an average organization of 100 employees — were file, print, network infrastructure and security infrastructure. They determined, however, that Linux had a better TCO than Windows 2000 for web serving. The report also found that the greatest cost was not in the procurement of software and hardware, but in staffing costs and downtime. While the report applied a 40% productivity factor during IT infrastructure downtime, recognizing that employees are not entirely unproductive, it did not consider the impact of downtime on the profitability of the business. The report stated that Linux servers had less unplanned downtime than Windows 2000 servers. It found that most Linux servers ran less workload per server than Windows 2000 servers and also that none of the businesses interviewed used 4-way SMP Linux computers. The report also did not take into account specific application servers — servers that need low maintenance and are provided by a specific vendor. The report did emphasize that TCO was only one factor in considering whether to use a particular IT platform, and also noted that as management and server software improved and became better packaged the overall picture shown could change.

Windows 2000 has now been superseded by newer Microsoft operating systems: Windows 2000 Server products by Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 Professional by Windows XP Professional.

The Windows 2000 family of operating systems moved from mainstream support to the extended support phase on 30 June 2005. Microsoft says that this marks the progression of Windows 2000 through the Windows lifecycle policy. Under mainstream support, Microsoft freely provides design changes if any, service packs and non-security related updates in addition to security updates, whereas in extended support, service packs are not provided and non-security updates require contacting the support personnel by e-mail or phone. Under the extended support phase, Microsoft continues to provide critical security updates every month for all components of Windows 2000 (including Internet Explorer 5.01 SP4) and paid per-incident support for technical issues. Because of Windows 2000's age, Microsoft is not offering current components such as Internet Explorer 7 for it. They claim that IE 7 relies on security features designed only for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista, and thus porting to the Windows 2000 platform would be non-trivial. Microsoft is strongly advising all users still running Windows 2000 Professional and Server to consider upgrading their operating systems to current operating systems for increased security. While users of Windows 2000 are eligible to receive the upgrade license for Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, neither of these operating systems can directly perform an upgrade installation from Windows 2000; a clean installation must be performed on computers running Windows 2000.

All Windows 2000 support including security updates and security-related hotfixes will be terminated on 13 July 2010.

Windows 2000 has received four full service packs and one rollup update package following SP4, which is the last service pack. These were: SP1 on 15 August 2000, SP2 on 16 May 2001, SP3 on 29 August 2002 and SP4 on 26 June 2003. Microsoft phased out all development of its Java Virtual Machine (JVM) from Windows 2000 in SP3. Internet Explorer 5.01 has also been upgraded to the corresponding service pack level.

Many Windows 2000 users were hoping for a fifth service pack, but Microsoft cancelled this project early in its development, and instead released Update Rollup 1 for SP4, a collection of all the security-related hotfixes and some other significant issues. The Update Rollup, however, does not include all non-security related hotfixes and is not subjected to the same extensive regression testing as a full service pack. Microsoft states that this update will meet customers' needs better than a whole new service pack, and will still help Windows 2000 customers secure their PCs, reduce support costs, and support existing computer hardware.

Although Windows 2000 is the last NT-based version of Microsoft Windows which does not include Windows Product Activation, Microsoft has introduced Windows Genuine Advantage for certain downloads and non-critical updates from the Download Center for Windows 2000.

A number of potential security issues have been noted in Windows 2000. A common complaint is that "by default, Windows 2000 installations contain numerous potential security problems. Many unneeded services are installed and enabled, and there is no active local security policy". In addition to insecure defaults, according to the SANS Institute, the most common flaws discovered are remotely exploitable buffer overflow vulnerabilities. Other criticized flaws include the use of vulnerable encryption techniques.

Computer worms first became publicized when Windows 2000 was the dominant server operating system. Code Red and Code Red II were famous (and much discussed) worms that exploited vulnerabilities of the Windows Indexing Service of Windows 2000's Internet Information Services (IIS). In August 2003, two major worms called Sobig and Blaster began to attack millions of Microsoft Windows computers, resulting in the largest downtime and clean-up cost to that date. The 2005 Zotob worm was blamed for security compromises on Windows 2000 machines at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New York Times Company, ABC and CNN.

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Source : Wikipedia