Breaking through the Windows conundrum

5th January 2001 at 00:00
When you look at buying a PC today, the choice of Windows packages to go with it can be confusing. Roger Frost demystifies some of the important variations on offer

Buying a PC today brings a choice of Windows 98; Windows ME and Windows 2000. Life used to be straightforward when you got what you were given. But now there's a choice and it's befuddled some people in schools by labelling Windows ME as the one for "home" and Windows 2000 for "business".

Microsoft's most recent Windows Millennium Edition (ME) is the all-rounder and, indeed, is ideal for the home. It's for those that, over and above good old typing, use a computer to play games, or handle media such as music, video and photographs. It includes a heap of software "drivers" for cameras, and other hardware - and the odds are good for plugging in new equipment to have it up and working quickly and without problems.

There's also built-in software to handle this - Windows Media Player lets you record music from CDs to use, say, as a background to a PowerPoint presentation. Kodak's Imaging software helps transfer pictures from a still camera while Windows Movie Maker can capture video from a webcam or other hardware. Compared with past versions of Windows, it was surprising how many gizmos I could plug in and get working.

If one printer and one video card knocked my success rate, the overall score added up to less hassle. ME is also for those that like the idea of a computer servicing itself "under the bonnet". Timers are built ino the system to peep at the Internet and download software upgrades, and the system also keeps an eye open should, say, some program try to mess with important files on the system.

Should something go awry, there's a system restore utility that lets you go back to last week say, when everything was working well. If you often try out free demos and software, this is brilliant - as it helps keep the system clean and tidy. If only real life was like this.

There is also lots of help for those with more than one machine as you can connect them together like a network. Put an inexpensive (pound;20) network card in each machine, wire them together and Windows ME will make a fine job of giving you a brilliant network: henceforth you can share the printer, share one modem to the Internet and back-up files on each other's machines.

The bottom line is that Windows ME stacks up very well beside the other versions of Windows. Those that tinker with computers, and rarely miss a download from Microsoft's Internet site, will find the choice between Windows ME, 98 or Windows 2000 one of expediency. Each can be made to do the same thing, if you're OK with machines.

If both are best-yet software, the choice between the home and business systems isn't so much about where you work, but how much support you can count on. If you've aspirations to do more than type, surf, and just want to get on with it, consider Windows ME.

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