Many programs that you install are automatically run when you start your computer and load Windows. For the majority of cases, this type of behavior is fine. Unfortunately, there are programs that are not legitimate, such as spyware, hijackers, Trojans, worms, viruses, that load in this manner as well. It is therefore important that you check regularly your startup registry keys regularly. Windows does offer a program that will list programs that are automatically started from SOME of these locations. This program, Msconfig.exe, unfortunately, though, only lists programs from a limited amount of startup keys.
Windows XP comes with a built-in firewall called Windows Firewall. For people who do not want to spend the money on a commercial software firewall, this firewall will be more than enough to protect your computer. By default, Windows Firewall disables all incoming traffic to your computer, including ICMP traffic, which consists of pings. Just like all other firewall's you can specify which services/ports you would like to have open so that other computers can connect to yours. This will allow you to open up ports for services like web servers, mail servers, game servers, etc. Windows Firewall comes configured with basic services that you can enable to be opened, and you also have the ability to add other rules for incoming traffic that are not already configured. If you would like, you also have the ability to enable incoming ICMP traffic, so that you can ping and traceroute to your computer.
A very useful tool that comes built-in to Windows XP is the inherent zip support. This allows you to view, create, and extract zip files without having a third party tool. There are times that you will want to use a third-party zip compression program, and at those times, the built-in zip support may conflict. If this is the case, you can follow these steps to disable or re-enable the built-in zip support for Windows XP.
A lot of people are confused when it comes time to upgrade their computer and do not know if they should upgrade to Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional. For most people the answer is simple, XP home, as it is more than sufficient for their needs. Some people do, though, gain the extra benefit to the features found only in XP Professional.