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Computing: Windows XP Service Pack 2 Lands

Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP Home & Professional.

Service Packs are usually benign collections of bug fixes wrapped into a single, easy to install package, but Service Pack 2 is almost a new operating system release due to the substantial work Microsoft has done to counter years of increased hacking, phishing and virus/worm attacks.

In addition to innumerable internal tweaks and reworkings, Service Pack 2 also includes new versions of Internet Explorer (with popup blocking), Outlook Express, Media Player, DirectX and Movie Maker, a significantly revved-up firewall and Automatic Updates will be turned on by default.

Because Service Pack 2 is not merely a collection of fixes, it is expected to create its fair share of disruption to other applications. Many vendors will need to update their products to work properly, so you may find yourself in an update frenzy for a while.

While the internet would be a safer place if everybody installed Service Pack 2 immediately, the reality is that this will not be the case. Businesses will need to test Service Pack 2 with their line-of-business applications, or at least obtain assurances from their suppliers, and home users may be intimidated by the inevitable warnings that will flood from the media. It may take a year or more before enough XP systems are updated to have the intended effect.

However, in the next six months, the most useful application of Service Pack 2 will be on new machines so they can be shipped from the factory fully patched, firewalled and secured “out of the box”. So if you buy a new machine, ensure it has Service Pack 2 preinstalled.

For existing systems, if Windows XP has the latest patches, up-to-date antivirus protection and a firewall on the internet connection, your need for Service Pack 2 in the short term is reduced.

Nevertheless, Service Pack 2 is an extremely important update and you need to make time to deploy it in your organisation soon. It should be easy to obtain, despite its 260Mb size, since most computer magazines will have copies, Microsoft will be posting free CDs and of course if you have broadband it’s not a huge problem to download. Cadzow 2000 CDs issued from now will also have a copy.

Upgrade Procedure

Broadly the procedure is:

  • Make a list of each of the programs you use (eg. Word processor, spreadsheet, accounting, CD burner, sharemarket, email and so on) and check each vendor's website for any updates or advisories related to Service Pack 2. Even if there are no specific advisories, download and install the latest patches for those programs.

  • Review the list of articles below under “Technical Resources” for any references to programs you use.

  • Update your antivirus program so that both the signatures and the program are fully up to date (some anti-virus programs do not update the program when downloading signature updates and this may require a separate download).

  • Perform a full virus scan. If any viruses are found, reboot after cleaning and scan again.

  • Perform a full spyware scan. If any spyware is found, reboot after cleaning and scan again.

  • Install Service Pack 2.

Technical Resources

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