Mastering Windows XP Professional

A guide to installing, supporting, and maintaining Windows XP Professional in your Active Directory or NT-based domain for support professionals


XP Professional—for support professionals.

Go beyond Mark's bestselling Mastering Windows XP Professional to learn the details you need to support XP.  In addition to tips and tricks you'll learn the "so that's how it works!" concepts and see the "so that's how to do it!" demos that will enable you to make implementing, managing and troubleshooting XP a snap.

a two-day course by Mark Minasi, author of Mastering Windows XP Professional from Sybex and Windows and .NET Magazine columnist

Schedule of Dates and Cities On-Site or Public?    Course Objectives    Course Duration    Prerequisites   Course Outline    Course Materials    Arranging a Class

Would you like to come to a public class, or should be bring the class to you?

This course is offered both as a public class and as an on-site seminar -- that is, we'll come to your organization and teach this class to your techies.  For details on where we're running public classes, visit or drop us a line at if you'd like us to mail you when public dates become available.

To schedule a class on your site, please contact our office at or call (757) 426-1431 between the hours of 12 Noon - 5 PM Eastern time, weekdays.  Thanks!

Course Objectives

At first glance, XP seems nothing more than a pretty new face. And while it's true that it's not as large a leap from Windows 2000 as 2000 was from NT 4.0, XP offers some visible upgrades over 2000 Pro and is of course an undeniable improvement over Win 9x, ME, or NT 4.0 desktops.  But it'd be easy to miss those new benefits.  This course zeroes in on the new benefits (and, occasionally, pitfalls) of XP Professional.

The course's objectives are simple:  to take existing desktop support professionals and make them skilled at supporting XP desktops.  Unlike most XP classes, it's not certification-oriented how-to-pass-an-exam class, it's a how-to-get-your-job-done-as-quickly-as-possible class.

Course Duration

As always, we've held the course's length to just two days.  More time would be great, but we know that today's IT schedules and budgets can't support classes longer than that.  This way, you save money from the shorter class, and your techies aren't off-line for as many days.  Two days also means that it's possible to teach the entirety of even the busiest desktop support staff in less than a week:  in just four days, you can schedule two classes back-to-back and train one half of the support staff at a time. 


This course assumes some familiarity with desktop support in an NT 4, Windows 9x or 2000-based domain networking environment.

Most of the folks that we see going to XP are either coming from environments that currently run Windows 9x, NT, or, less often, Windows 2000 Pro on their desktops, and some version of NT Server -- NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 Server -- in the back office.   That's who this class is geared to.  

A Demonstration-Driven Approach

This course is heavily skills-driven.  To that end, we employ frequent demonstrations and in many cases the accompanying PowerPoint presentation includes instructions to duplicate those presentations as well as sample screen shots, making it simple to take the course handbook back later and solidify what you've learned.

Course Outline

  1. Overview and Introduction
  2. What we'll cover, some tools that you'll need to be able to use XP policies (an essential item) on your Windows 2000-based Active Directory.

  3. XP Networking: what's new in XP networking
  4. Even old hands at Windows 2000 support will need to know about XP's new networking features, both because of what they do for you and to you!

    1. Network Bridge
    2. Wireless 802.11b support
    3. The System account's new siblings: LocalSystem and Network Service
    4. Internet Connection Firewall
    5. Securing a workstation without ICF -- IPSec
    6. Using Netstat's new powers to smoke out the bad guys and close up network holes
    7. XP's new take on passwords (significant changes, including a neat new "credentials store")
    8. NET USE's new features
    9. TCP/IP stack cleanup
  5. Understanding Group Policies
  6. The single most important technology that Windows 2000 introduced for desktop support, and that XP expands upon tremendously, is group policies.  This section explains them from A to Z.  Group policies were a useful tool under 2K, but XP expands the number of policies available from the mid-300s to about 500 and tops it all off with a much-needed GP troubleshooting tool, GPRESULT — and yes, it's much more powerful than the one in the 2000 Resource Kit.  Put simply, if you don't get GPs, you don't get XP support.

    1. Introducing group policies:  GP mechanics
      1. How policies work:  DLL-based versus Registry-based
      2. Local policies
      3. Numbers of policies versus numbers of effects (policy planning)
      4. Policy precedence:  sites, domains, OUs
      5. Policy order within a container:  which policy applies first in a domain?
      6. Fine-tuning policies:  policy filtering
      7. Altering precedence -- no override and block policy inheritance
      8. Where policies live:  the Group Policy Template and the Group Policy Container
    2. Using group policies to protect user data, simplify rollouts and support roaming users with folder redirection
    3. Using group policies to distribute software
    4. Group policy design issues
    5. Group policy troubleshooting
    6. XP's new GP tools
      1. GPUPDATE
      2. GPRESULT: we've finally got a Result Set Of Policies Tool!
      4. XP's Resultant Set Of Policies snap-in: worth the price of admission!
  7. Managing User Settings
  8. It's always been true — and probably always will be true — that the two most effective Windows repair methods are reboot and reinstall. But it's also true that reinstalls are a pain. While Microsoft has made the process of wiping and rebuilding a system far easier with tools like Remote Installation Services and Sysprep in tandem with disk cloning tools like Ghost or Drive Image Pro, installing a fresh OS isn't the hard part — getting the system back the way the user had it all set up is the tough part.

    Microsoft actually offers three tools to assist in that:  roaming profiles, group policy desktop settings, and two user state migration tools.  Any or all of them can make getting a user's desktop back to "normal" far easier than it once was.  Many shops don't use roaming profiles because they tried them and didn't like them -- but the trick is to set them up in a certain way, and you'll see how here.

    Roaming profiles have been available since NT 4.0, but XP offers yet another way make a new, rebuilt, or upgraded machine "feel like home" -- two tools that Microsoft says let you "migrate the user state." They're a neat pair of tools that are well worth knowing -- the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard and the User State Migration Tool. Both make it quite easy to migrate user settings to an XP box from a Windows 9x, ME, NT 4, 2000 Pro, or XP box.

    1. What the heck is a "user state?"
    2. Understanding roaming profiles
      1. What's in a profile
      2. Local versus roaming profiles
      3. Folders that never roam
      4. Domain users with and without roaming profiles
      5. Setting up template profiles so every user gets the same initial desktop
      6. Machine-specific default profiles versus domain-wide default profiles
      7. Copying profiles:  from the GUI and with moveuser
      8. Using XP group policies to control profiles
      9. Setting up a file server to share profiles reliably
      10. Troubleshooting malfunctioning roaming profiles
    3. Understanding folder redirection
      1. How redirected folders differ from profiles
      2. When to use profiles with redirected folders or just redirected folders by themselves
      3. Setting up redirected folders
      4. Troubleshooting malfunctioning redirected folders
    4. Introducing the two user state control tools
      1. Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
      2. User State Migration Tool
    5. Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
      1. What it does
      2. How to use it
      3. Where it makes sense
    6. The User State Migration Tool
      1. How USMT differs from FSTW and from Windows 2000's USMT
      2. Its components: SCANSTATE and LOADSTATE
      3. Installing USMT
      4. Working with its special requirements
      5. SCANSTATE and LOADSTATE syntax
      6. Customizing USMT via INF files
  9. Application Control: Software Restriction Policies
  10. What do desktop support people need to help keep their user's desktops stable? What's that you say — desktop lockdown? Sure, that's a common answer. But the fact is we don't care all that much what users do with their desktops, settings-wise. (Unless they set all of their desktop and font colors to black. That's kinda troublesome.) No, in many cases we just want to keep certain programs off the desktop. But NT's intrinsic structure — and remember that XP Pro is nothing more than just NT 5.1 Workstation — makes it flatly impossible to keep users from installing any software at all. So XP takes a different tack — it lets an administrator control very closely what can and cannot run on a desktop.

    It does that through a bushel of new policies that fall under the heading of "software restriction policies." These might be XP's single most appealing feature for support folks, but sadly very few seem to know about them, and there's no wonder about that: while they are indeed powerful, they're also fairly cryptic. This section demystifies them.

    1. What software restriction policies are
    2. How to control them: locally and domain-based
    3. Setting up software restriction policies
    4. Restricting a single program
    5. Building restriction rules
    6. Path rules
    7. Hash rules
    8. Zone rules
    9. Certificate rules
    10. Understanding which wins when rules conflict
    11. Troubleshooting non-working rules
    12. Logging and tracking software restrictions
  11. Application Compatibility: Making Your Old Programs work on XP
  12. Too often, upgrading to a new operating system meant not only swapping out an OS but swapping out our applications — some little OS quirk kept an circa 1995 program from running, forcing us to leave a few systems behind when upgrading. ("What's a Windows 95 system doing here, didn't you guys upgrade?" "Yeah, but our marketing contact tracking database program only runs on Wintendo, so there's no choice. We just pray the system never dies.") Windows 2000 Pro had a few tools for backwards compatibility, but XP goes light-years beyond that with its built-in "Application Compatibility Toolkit." It contains 199 different on-the-fly "fixes" to solve incompatibilities with older apps.

    1. What the Toolkit handles: Windows apps — not DOS apps
    2. DOS apps and PIFs: little change
    3. The Toolkit's approach: "fixes" and "layers"
    4. The first tool: Application Verifier
    5. Understanding and using the Program Compatibility Wizard
    6. Using QfixApp to create a fix database
    7. Maintaining and applying fix databases wiht the Compatibility Administration Tool
    8. Automated fix rollouts with sdbinst.exe
  13. Remote Control and Remote Administration
  14. Windows 2000 brought a much-needed tool for remote control of servers: a built-in Terminal Services feature. But desktops were left with only minimal remote support in the form of NetMeeting. XP sets things to rights with not one but two different remote control features — Remote Desktop Connection and Remote Assistance.

    1. Remote hotfix rollout with Software Update Service
    2. Remote Desktop versus Remote Control
    3. How Remote Desktop works
    4. Configuring Remote Desktop
    5. Using Internet Explorer as a Remote Desktop client — control your desktop from anywhere you can get to the Web
    6. Remote Assistance: the help desk's friend
      1. Extra features: file transfer, chat, voice chat
      2. Two ways to get help: solicited and offered
      3. Configuring solicitations
      4. Securing RA
      5. Connecting to a Remote Assistance computer
      6. Offering help: configuring systems to accept offers
      7. Managing Remote Assistance request tickets
    7. Yet another remote tool: systeminfo.exe
  15.  Tuning and Monitoring XP
  16. We spend tons of money on hardware and software for our desktops (and servers, for that matter), but are often unsure of whether or not we're getting the most from our investment.  Ever given up on Performance Monitor because you can't figure out which of the millions of things that it offers to watch?  This section will answer that question.

    1. What you can adjust and what you can watch in XP
    2. Understanding and using alerts
    3. Tweaks versus upgrades
    4. Zeroing in on the Big Four
      1. CPU
      2. RAM
      3. Disk
      4. Network
    5. Particular tuning issues
      1. Sizing a pagefile
      2. Determining if you have enough RAM
      3. Adjusting TCP window buffer size for maximum throughput (every network can use a different size)
  17. Failure Recovery: what to do when a system won't boot, freezes up, or blue screens
  18. Despite our best efforts, buggy software and drivers, faulty hardware or power sometimes keeps our systems from coming up or staying up. In this section, learn what you can do to smoke out the troubles that keep systems from running.

    1. System won't start
      1. Making an XP boot floppy
      2. Using Safe Mode
      3. Controlling Safe Mode — choosing what does and doesn't run in Safe Mode
      4. Recovery Console (including the annoying new XP bug that can keep RC from working)
      5. XP's DOS boot disk feature
    2. Erratic Systems
      1. Hardware sources
      2. Minimizing automatic startup programs with MSCONFIG
      3. Using System Restore and checkpoints
      4. Configuring System Restore so it doesn't accidentally erase your files
    3. Handling Blue Screens
      1. What causes blue screens
      2. Controlling the crash dump files
      3. Crash dump files and pagefiles
      4. Analyzing the dump: let Microsoft do it for free
      5. Analyzing a dump yourself
    4. Solving system lockups
  19. XP Storage Changes
  20. Windows 2000 brought two new tools (Offline Files and Encrypted File System) that were good but that needed some work. XP improves upon them but brings some issues of its own. And while XP can support fast drives, it sometimes needs a kick in the pants to realize that they are fast drives. But that's not all... this section takes up all the new stuff in XP storage!

    1. Offline Files improvements
    2. EFS changes and worries: why you may want to disable it altogether
    3. Maximizing disk performance and enabling ATA/66 performance
    4. Protecting your drives from those strange "hacker directories"
    5. XP's command-line defragger
    6. Why XP communicates so slowly with NT 4.0 file servers... and what to do about it
  21. Optimizing XP Desktop Video
    1. Laptops now get two "virtual desktops"
    2. Speeding up the Desktop by shutting off the hidden junk
    3. ClearType: a must-do for LCD screens
  22. Command Line Gold: Toys for Us Command-Line Junkies
  23. A quick roundup of some new enhancements to the command line. It's not your father's C:\> any more -- if you've not looked at XP's command-line tools (Openfiles and Eventquery are two useful examples) then you'll be extremely surprised!

  24. XP Potpourri
  25. A pile of fast tips and tricks to solve some bedeviling problems and speed up your system

Certification Preparation

This is not an "exam cram" class.  Our goal in this class is to help your network professionals acquire essential job-related skills rather than to focus on particular testing concepts.  Don't misunderstand there's nothing wrong with exam-focused classes but this class isn't one of them.  Its focus is to help your administrators plan for and learn to manage XP desktops in an Windows 2000 or Server 2003-based network.

Course Materials

The class works from PowerPoint presentations with many demonstrations.  

Arranging a Course

Please contact our office at (757) 426-1431 or to discuss scheduling and fees.