Upgrading to XP: what you should know

So you're interested in upgrading to Windows XP? You need to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Is my system capable of running Windows XP? To answer this question download and run the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor. NOTE: This download is quite large so slow modem users beware!
  2. Is my screen reader capable of running under Windows XP? The simple answer to this question is that public betas of both JAWS For Windows and Window-Eyes are available. The status of beta software typically changes rapidly however so please visit your screen reader vendor's home page or call them.
  3. What edition of Windows XP should I run? Microsoft provides a brief document aimed at helping you make this decision. It is brief almost to the point of uselessness, but you should read it to make sure you understand Microsoft's intended use for each version of XP. To read this document visit Microsoft's Which Edition is Right for You page.
  4. Do I want an upgrade package or a full package? As you can see, the good old days of purchasing MS-DOS for one price are long gone! This decision will, of course, impact your final cost. Probably you will want an upgrade package (which is less expensive). Upgrade packages are intended for people currently running Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows Melenium, Windows NT or Windows 2000. Windows 95 users must purchase a full package. If you install an upgrade package on a system currently running Windows 98 (or any of the other qualifying operating systems) that system can be upgraded to Windows XP. If you install an upgrade package on a completely clean system the installer will verify that you own a qualifying operating system by asking you to insert the CD-ROM for that operating system. Full packages need not check for previous operating systems. I have not determined if a full package has the ability to upgrade a previously installed operating system.
  5. What will upgrading cost me? In addition to all the versions discussed above students and teachers can get an academic discount on Windows XP. Prices vary widely. For current street prices click the following links: Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional. Prices provided by PriceWatch.com.
  6. How on earth am I supposed to learn how to use this new operating system? The book Microsoft® Windows® XP Inside Out is a nearly 1300 page book from Microsoft Press. It contains the entire text of the book in an easy-to-access electronic format on the included CD-ROM. Read MS Press's description of this book or Buy from Amazon.com. If you'd like an overview of the operating system, Smart Computing's February issue has extensive coverage of the topic. Check out this article for: an introduction, using XP, tips and how-to's, trouble shooting and additional help.
  7. If you've been using a computer for any length of time you are probably aware of the importance of running virus protection software. Since Windows XP uses many new components (including file systems) it is necessary for you to have a virus checker that is specifically designed to run under Windows XP. Click below for street prices on Norton SystemWorks 2002 and McAfee VirusScan.
  8. Screen reader considerations for JFW users: If you're a JFW user, and you plan to run Windows XP Professional and your current authorization of JFW does not permit you to run Windows NT or Windows 2000, you will need a new, more expensive, JFW authorization. Contact Freedom Scientific for details.
  9. Screen reader considerations for Window-Eyes users: If you are a Window-Eyes user you should note that GW Micro has a new pricing structure for Window-Eyes. Check out their web page for prices and other information.

Some downloads you may want to check out

The following is a list of downloads that are available for Windows XP. I have listed items here that are either specific XP downloads or are software or driver updates for Windows XP. Neither I, nor VIBUG, guarantee anything.

NOTE: Windows XP does not contain two major components that many people may want. The first is a component that allows Windows Media Player to create MP3 files and the second is a component for playing DVD movies in your DVD drive. These components are available from several sources and cost between $10 and $20. I am not including links to vendors of these components here because Windows XP directs you to these vendors if you're interested.


Installation note

One of the most common questions blind users ask when operating system upgrades become available is, "Can I install this without sighted assistance?" The answer to this question is not an easy one because there are countless ways of installing an operating system as complex as Windows XP. I have performed two installations completely without sighted assistance and they are very briefly described here.

The key to both installations was the creation of an answer file that can be fed to the Windows XP installer. Creation of this file is quite involved. I have provided one that you will need to modify before using. At a minimum you will need to enter your Windows XP CD-key and change your name. Also, the file as provided here will perform a complete installation of Windows XP and remove absolutely everything on your system! This answer file will repartition your hard drive deleting everything in the process so make sure you know what you're doing before you use it!

Use of an answer file is not for the new computer user. Please seek sighted assistance if you are not an advanced user with plenty of computer experience and knowledge of the windows installation process!


If you have questions or comments on this page, or if you would like something added, modified, removed or whatever, please contact John Mattioli directly.

Last modified on Friday, January 11, 2002.