Over the past few months many users have emailed me asking how they can install Personal Web Server (PWS) on Windows XP Home edition. For those of you who are unfamiliar with PWS, it is a simple Web server Microsoft freely included with Windows 95/98/NT that could be used to develop ASP pages on those operating systems since they didn't support the full-blown Web server, Internet Information Services (IIS) that Windows NT Server, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Pro support.
Naturally, people buying a new computer that comes preinstalled with Windows XP Home edition may think that they can easily continue to hone their ASP skills through PWS much like they did with Windows 9X. Unfortunately this is not the case. ASP community regular James Shaw posted his findings to the [aspcommunity] listserv On January 8th, 2002:
I am an ardent Microsoft supporter and have dedicated all of my spare time to ASP and ASP.NET. However, I decided to send this warning to the ASPFriends lists so at least everyone is aware of an issue with Windows XP.
This wasn't the first time I've been asked, but this time I got a lot closer to the truth, and even spoke to David Berry, a Microsoft MVP, who told me "Microsoft PWS is officially dead...Microsoft decided to discontinue it in favor of supporting IIS. XP [Home] owners will need to upgrade to XP Pro to use IIS."
I find this totally amazing. Users that develop ASP under Windows 95/98/ME and PWS will undoubtedly feel betrayed when they discover that they can no longer run ASP *at all* on the delicious new XP. Of course 2000 or XP Pro is what developers should be developing on, but to cut off the amateur ASP developer seems spiteful and ill-conceived. Worse: I suspect that there is little or no difference between versions of XP - XP Home could easily run IIS if the relevant DLL's were shipped and a few more re-compiled. Maybe even a simple registry change might do it, although that probably would have been found by now.
When I started web development it was a big advantage that I could literally start programming ASP on day 1 with Windows 98. I would not have upgraded to NT just to see how ASP worked. I was comparing ASP, PHP and ColdFusion and a part of my decision came from how quickly, easily and cheaply I could learn.
It seems to me that the balance has now tipped ever-so-slightly. -- James Shaw -- http://CoverYourASP.com/ This upsets me a bit, mostly on a personal matter. Realize that I would have never gotten into programming if it weren't for the free version of GW-BASIC that came installed with MS-DOS 4.0 (I think that was the version) back when my family got its first computer in 1989 (or was it '88? I'm getting old.). After getting hooked with GW-BASIC and quickly realizing it's limitations, I went out and purchased Microsoft QuickBasic 4.5 a year or two later at the tender age of 11 - my first Microsoft product purchased. If it wasn't for that free version of GW-BASIC I wouldn't have started programming then and likely wouldn't have taken any programming classes in high school and likely wouldn't have majored in computer science at college, and likely wouldn't have discovered ASP, and then, if fate had dealt those cards, you all would be missing out on my commentary. ;-)
So I guess I wish, for future programmers out there who may be getting their first computer with XP Home, that there was a PWS or something similar so that they could give ASP (and preferrably ASP.NET) a try. If they really liked it, they'd be inclined to upgrade to Pro to get IIS.
Update! Alert reader Peter B. pointed out that, according to this Newsgroup posting you can install IIS on Windows XP Home, assuming you can get your hands on the iis.dl_ and iis.in_ files. (The newsgroup poster just grabbed them off of Windows 2000 Advanced Server.) Using this technique is pretty low-level, and is ntested and you should use it at your own risk. Thanks for the heads up, Peter!
Some readers are pleased that Windows XP Home doesn't come installed with a Web server. 4Guys reader Scott W. comments: "Just wanted to comment on your article about IIS or PWS not coming with XP Home edition... I think it's a good thing, personally. I have ATTBI cable internet service and I see tons of code red and nimda scans coming from infected servers whose owners are completely unaware (or don't care) that their systems have been compromised. I think it should take some effort to install and run a web server, so that those who don't understand or care about security will be less likely to try."
Thanks for your comments, Scott! If you have any comments let me know!