Service Pack 2 - Is It For You?

You fire up your computer, and there in the corner, the long-delayed, and somewhat dreaded, windows XP Service Pack 2 update.   Affectionately known as SP2 - Microsoft's promised land for refuge from the unsafe world of Windows-based computing.

SP2's infamous sibling, Service Pack 1, managed to break a lot of computers, so many are thinking, I'll just wait, until Microsoft puts out its inevitable fixes. Microsoft says, the reason for SP2's numerous delays, was to avoid a repeat of the SP1 fiasco - the company says this fix is fixed.

So, what can you expect if you do take the plunge? Don't expect a "quick fix". The 220 megabite download will take about an hour, over a broadband connection, so modem users, beware!  But, at least you can do other things on your computer, as the file loads and installs.

So far, there have been few trouble reports - mostly associated with SP2's new built in firewall. It's on by default, and people running other, 3rd-party firewalls, have reported application and browser errors, until they turn off one of the firewalls. And if you use Virtual Private Networking to connect with your work computer, you'll have to turn off XP's firewall. There have also been problems reported with SP2 recognizing so called "soft modems" or "winmodems".

If you install the update, and decide you want to get rid of it, be careful. Do not use XP's restore tool. Use the "add or remove programs" tool, in XP's control panel. Otherwise, you'll find yourself re-installing your operating system, from scratch. Which brings up the point - you DID back up important files, and set a restore point, before you started all this, didn't you??  Of course you did!  But remember, do NOT use that restore point until AFTER you have removed the upgrade.

With the potential for problems, is it worth the bother? Probably. In addition to a lot of "under the hood" security improvements, SP2 enhances XP's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and multi-media usability. There's an improved firewall, and Internet Explorer has built-in blocking of pop-ups and unwanted plug-ins. They're not as good as third-party versions, but they do work.  And, users will see frequent "do you really want to do this" warnings, when dealing with downloads and installations.

To better weigh the potential benefits, or problems, take some time to read about the upgrade, before you install it.  You'll find a link to Microsoft's SP2 web page, above, in the "Also on the Web" box.