Should I install the new Windows XP Service Pack 2 or wait for others to test it out before I take the plunge?
This question was answered on August 12, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
It’s no secret that Microsoft’s Windows XP has been plagued with security issues since its release in late 2001.
Dozens of critical vulnerabilities have been repeatedly exposed to the point that many of the features that were built into the operating system had to be disabled or removed in order to secure it.
In a response to all of the security issues surrounding Windows XP, Microsoft has been in the labs developing a comprehensive update package (called a Service Pack) to address the many areas of concern.
Some of the more important improvements include a proactive approach to protection with improved manageability, updates to the Internet Explorer and Outlook Express programs and a more user-friendly interface for wireless users.
The ‘Internet Connection Firewall’ becomes enabled by default, which will improve security for the average user that has no idea what a firewall is or does
The ‘Messenger’ service (not to be confused with the MSN Messenger instant messaging program) that allowed companies to pop-up ads on a system that was connected to the Internet, regardless of whether a browser was open is now disabled and a pop-up blocker is added to Internet Explorer.
All of the real technical ‘holes’ that were the root of many of the vulnerabilities have been plugged.
One of the first things that will come up on the screen after you first install SP2 is the Windows Security Center, which allows even a novice user to manage the primary security elements of the system.
Any time a Service Pack is released, there is always great concern because of the comprehensive nature of the updates and the fact that the more you change, the more likely you will run into a problem.
The ‘beta’ or pre-release versions have been in circulation for a while for testing purposes The public release of the final version will begin to download automatically on Monday, August 16th on any system that is set to automatically update.
The majority of the issues that have been reported surround out-of-the-ordinary situations for the average home user.
Compatibility issues were found with items such as older, customized software programs, very sophisticated web-based applications or high-level corporate networking configurations.
According to a survey at the Internet Storm Center website, of those that did install SP2:
46% had no problems
28% had small problems
8% had big problems, but solvable
7% had big problems, could not use/install
6% had to rebuild system
4% no opinion
Of the machines that we have installed it on, none of them have experienced any problems, but we also tend to have well maintained systems.
The average user’s computer tends to have lots of extra programs, spyware, adware, viruses and those are the variables that are likely to cause the most problems.
If you are experiencing any kind of an on-going problem with your computer, it would be wise to get those issues fixed before attempting to install SP2 and whatever you do, make sure and backup your critical data before you do anything!
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on August 12, 2004