Daring to install Windows XP Service Pack 2

I’ve just taken the plunge and installed Service Pack 2 in Windows XP, convinced that my PC would never work again after I had done it. I did (almost) all the things you’re warned to do before installing SP2, although I confess that I didn’t brave the mysteries of trying to up-date my BIOS or my drivers: but I backed up all my files, set a new system restore point (although SP2 does this for you anyway), ran a virus checker over the whole system, ran Ad-Aware to eliminate trojans, spyware, adware, tracking cookies and other non-virus nasties that try to take control of the computer, ran checkdisk and defrag… and when I had run out of excuses, I took a deep breath and installed the new service pack — almost a whole new operating system, really — from the CD I had ordered from Microsoft. Even with my fairly fast processor, lots of memory and masses of space on the hard disk, it took well over an hour. Several times I thought it had frozen, but it eventually resumed its activity, and it now seems to be up and running. Haven’t yet come across any of the notorious incompatibilities with my existing programs, but it’s early days!

If anyone reading this is using Windows XP, has installed SP1 but not yet SP2, I would encourage you to grit your teeth and do it. Before you do, I suggest you read the advice from Microsoft on what you need to know and do beforehand. Don’t try to download this monster from the Microsoft website, especially if you only have a dial-up connection – it would take many hours with all the risks of interruption. Order the CD from Microsoft: it’s free, and you can of course re-use it. (If anyone reading this wants to borrow mine and knows my snail-mail address, drop me a line or email me quoting my snailmail address and I’ll be glad to lend it to you.)

29 October 2004

5 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    SP2 . I tried to install three times, but failed. My computer went berzerk. But then I had a brain-wave. I did a “Repair” on Win XP based on an MS Forum suggestion that you don’t click “Repair” first time, but only second time. When finished, I had WIN XP on my computer in its pristine 2002 condition. I then installed SP2 with the MS CD-ROM which apparently has all the uopdates, including both SP1 and SP2, unlike the downloaded version which only has SP2. The result was perfect. I have been told I was “very lucky” and that what I did was “not to be recommended”.

  2. Brian,
    Don’t lose any sleep. I’ve been running SP2 for nearly a month. No horribles (touch thingy) and I reckon my PC loads much, much faster.
    I also took the opportunity of getting rid..I’m not sure how completely…of the wretched Norton anti-virus software and replaced it with AVG’s free stuff from Grisoft.


  3. Brian says:

    Thanks for these interesting comments. I sympathise with the ordeal experienced by ‘anonymous’, having pessimistically expected something of the sort: and I don’t even know how to operate this ‘Repair’ function on WinXP! (Probably just as well, knowing my luck.) But I’m surprised by Tony’s rejection of Norton anti-virus, which I find unobjectionable and seemingly effective, at least provided that one remembers to update the virus definition files every day, using http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/download/pages/US-N95.html (!). It would be interesting to know in what ways AVG is superior, apart of course from being free?

    Funny to think of people all over the world agonising about whether to risk installing SP2. Not really funny, actually. Looking at all those utterly unintelligible Microsoft web pages with yards of warnings and advice, each injunction forcing you to look at yet more unintelligible pages, one wonders how the ghastly Windows system has contrived to establish itself as the world standard.

    30 Oct 04

  4. Brian,
    I may just be lucky, but in the last five years my home PC and laptop have only been infected twice. I make it an unbreakable rule never to open any e-mail attachment unless its e-mailer is known to me.I have a list of five super-trusted correspondents Most folk who are always complaining about virus infections just allow curiosity to overcome sense. They know they should not be clicking on that e-mail but they just can’t resist.
    I’ve used Symantec’s Norton Internet Security 2003 until a month ago when I installed SP2. Unlike SP2, I had difficulty in installing the programme. For some reason it wanted to keep dialling the “Live Update� every time I logged on to the Internet. This appears to be a common fault! I’ve no doubt there are still .nav files lurking on the hard drive somewhere. I understand the windows “remove programmes� doesn’t clear ‘em all out.
    It did its stuff, but that comes at a cost. Not just the cash to Symantec for the programme and the annual updates, but the size of the thing. It took 90MB of my hard drive. The package comes bundled with a firewall, “privacy control�, spam alert and something called “parental control. With XP SP2 I now no longer need the firewall and I must congratulate the chaps at Wanadoo for keeping 99.9% of spam out of my inbox. In the last month only a couple have penetrated their filters. I use Spybot Search and Destroy to deal with spyware et.c. Norton’s two hundred and odd page “Users Guide� gives the game away for me. It’s just got too many bits in it that I would simply not use. I think it’s over-engineered for most home users.
    AVG’s anti-virus contains a scheduler that tests your PC. You can set it up to download updates, though the SP2 reminder from its wonderful “Security Centre� is a good back up!
    If you want to see some NAV gripes have a look at http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1187813,00.html.
    There is a review of AVG at http://www.maximumpc.com/reviews/software_apps/review_2004-03-08a.html

  5. Brian says:


    Thanks again. Basically I just use Norton Anti-Virus as a stand-alone application and I have found it very reliable (so far!). I have the Norton Firewall on a CD but I have never installed it, fearing conflict with both the firewalls built in to Windows XP (even before SP2) and also my wireless router. I too run Spybot S&D from time to time, as well as Ad-Aware, to get rid of spyware, Adware, etc. I do have Norton Utlilities for Speed-disk (which I think superior to MS defrag) and Disk Doctor (which I also think, perhaps wrongly, better than Checkdsk) but I don’t allow them to run automatically at pre-set times, just use them when I think it necessary. As for Live Update, you can turn off the sometimes tiresome automatic launch of its definition files up-date by opening ‘Symantec Liveupdate’ in Control Panel. It’s worth running Live Update manually from time to time for updates of the various Norton AV component programs, but for the vital virus definition files, I regard it as essential to up-date them every day by downloading them from the Symantec website, which only takes a couple of minutes (rather longer on a dial-up connection of course). Rather oddly, Live Update updates the virus definition files only weekly, not daily. Can you update the definition files daily in AVG, I wonder?

    I have disabled the bar installed by SP2 in Outlook Express to prevent it from downloading messages in HTML (which of course can in theory carry virus infections without the need for an attachment) and, even worse, rejects messages that have attachments. I prefer to rely on Norton plus my invariable practice, like yours, of deleting unopened emails from anyone I don’t know.

    Anyway, like you, I have been virtually free from virus infections for years now. But something vile will slip through one day, no doubt, making me wish I was more diligent about backing up all my data files on CD! (I do it, but probably not often enough for safety.)

    I sometimes think we spend more time trying to keep our computers running than actually using them for constructive activity!


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