Langa Letter: Real-Life Experiences With XP's SP2 - InformationWeek
Software // Enterprise Applications
11:04 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa

Langa Letter: Real-Life Experiences With XP's SP2

Forget the ivory-tower pundits--here are first-hand reports from the trenches, relayed by your peers who've already installed the new Service Pack.

Sample SP2 Problem Reports
Hi, Fred... I thought I would drop you a quick note on the first operational problem I have come across with XP SP2. I operate a small computer consultancy as well as manage network security for a federal government agency and one of the ways I customize XP installations is to alter the Start button with custom names. One of the sites that has these instructions is (great site) and the process renames EXPLORER.EXE after alteration and edits the registry to cause the renamed explorer to be called during boot. Unfortunately, XP SP2 apparently installs a new explorer.exe without changing the registry call. The old, edited, renamed explorer.exe isn't compatible with the new service pack code base and hangs the PC ... prior to any GUI load. This has made it very difficult to correct once XP SP2 has been installed. Users of this particular tweak will need to edit the registry to call the original, unaltered explorer prior to installing XP SP2 and then go through the modification process again if they still desire a customized button. Hope this helps some folks avoid this pitfall.

John Gambriel, USDA - OCIO, Cyber Security

Hi, Fred: I'd like to pass this along--Win SP2 doesn't play nice with any system that uses L2TP (Level 2 Tunnel Protocol) VPN to connect to a NAT-T fixed server or host. SP2 hoses the NAT-T fix and renders connection next to impossible; you might want to pass this along. Good luck to those brave readers who install SP2 without waiting until at least November for all the bug fixes. Please, everyone: Turn auto update off for a few months.

Phil Jacobs

Hi, Fred, You ask for users' input about SP2. Well, as a consultant, I have to keep on the "Cutting Edge", so I took the big jump and installed it.

Now, quick info about the system: 3.0c GHz, 1 gig of ram, 256 MB DDR 400, G-force 5700 home built system. I installed SP2 almost two weeks ago. The system seemed to be fine, everything seemed to work. But I started noticing things. Windows Media player: If I click on a video file to run, it may start, or it may just hang and have to be eventually killed in the process list. If I kill the process and then try to restart by clicking on the video, it will lock up again. I have to wait for up to 5 minutes for it to "Clear out". I also found that if I triple click it's better, about 50/50 for program starts.

My wireless mouse and keyboard unit started flashing constantly, and this kills the batteries in the devices within days. This occurs constantly now. At first, it was just a little thing, I noticed that the unit that is plugged in was flashing... I then noticed that my mouse was flashing back. All this while I wasn't touching it and it had been sitting for a good 15 minutes. Usually, if left that long, I have to click on the mouse to re-activate it. But it was instantly responsive. So, I removed the batteries from the units, and still the box kept on flashing. I also run a 4 port Kvm switch, and thought this might be the culprit, so I took it out of the mix, but the unit still flashes, and the mouse and keyboard's batteries die within 48 hours. Funny thing, if I switched the KVM from that system to the other XP or one of the 2 Linux systems, it stopped flashing. I've used the KVM and the Wireless mouse for well over 6 months now, so, I didn't think they were the problem.

My Internet speed has dropped drastically to that system. I have the Extreme DSL package. I have 2 XP systems, and I can view Web sites in half the time on the system without SP2. It's also half the machine. P4 1.5. I have run every conceivable adware/spyware program to keep it clean. I run Diskeeper to keep the drive unfragmented, but now after two weeks the system is jerky, gets unresponsive, kind of freezes, and then suddenly everything I clicked on pops up. This continues to occur and gets worse to the point where I just have to reboot it. Again, this only occurred since the SP2 install. Prior, my machine was tested and was as smooth as you could want. I have no idea why it's acting jerky... I've run through the process list and can't find any service that's using any time up... the system idle is always at or around 98%. My CPU usage is a bit higher now, normally averaged around 6% to 8%, and now is averaging around 10% to 12%.

MS Office products... Now this is interesting, as I have a mismatch of Office. Primary is Office XP, but I have recently upgraded to Outlook 2003 and FrontPage 2003, which were quite a bit different, so, of course I had to get them to keep up with my clients. After about 2-3 months of running these programs with no incidents at all, after the SP2 install, I suddenly had to reload the CD, as the programs said they had files 'missing'. It has done this now 4 times with Outlook 2003 and FrontPage 2003, and three times with the Office XP CD. Each time was an individual case. I haven't installed anything new, or made any changes, but when I start Outlook or FrontPage, it will randomly ask for the CDs to be put in so it can "Copy" some missing files. What's deleting these files? At first I thought it was something MS did to check on possibly pirated software, but this is a little beyond...I mean, I think after the first time, I proved I had the originals. I've rebooted my computer now more in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 3 months. I have currently 15 incidents open with Microsoft.

For those that haven't loaded it, don't. I'm very careful with my computers. I run Adaware, Spybot, Diskeeper, Norton AV Corporate and AVG. Right now, I'm looking to wiping this computer out and re-installing it. Thank goodness it's my test machine and not used for anything else at the moment. Sorry, you asked. ;)

Chip Hearn, CH Computer Networking Inc.

Fred -- I installed SP2 and had to remove it almost immediately. It let me access OE and that was it. I could open most of my programs but couldn't open IE 6, at all, so I couldn't surf the Web from there. I should have listened to you and waited. Luckily, I had a back up to restore to my original configuration.

Lorne Larkin

Fred, I just wanted to let you know of my experience with Windows XP SP2. I installed it on three of my machines, two desktops and a laptop. It installed OK on all three machines and at first seemed to work OK on all of them. But on one of the desktops I started having problems when I tried to access any Web pages using Internet Explorer. I compared the security settings between the three systems and they all were set exactly the same, as was the firewall and other settings. After some time, I decided to uninstall SP2 using the uninstall in the add/remove folder. I was completely surprised that after about 45 minutes and a reboot that I was sitting right back at the system as it was before I began the upgrade. I don't know what might have been the problem, but once I was back at SP1, all Web browsing worked just as expected.

Ken Mitchell

Fred, Well, I was one of those who went ahead and installed SP2. And naturally had a problem. It appeared all was fine. The auto-update screen came up, checked that, went to the next screen where it lists your firewall, antivirus, etc., read through that, looked, and didn't see anything saying next or exit, so I clicked the x in upper right corner, then nothing. All I had was my desktop wallpaper, no taskbar or anything! I pulled up task manager and it showed all my processes running as normal. Needless to say, I had to boot in safe mode and un-install SP2.


Hi, Fred! Just a note about XP SP2. I repair and troubleshoot PCs for a living, so I see all sorts of strange things. Had a PC which keeps rebooting--turns out it was "updated" with SP2. Managed to get to the Windows Desktop and discovered that it was riddled with 27 different Trojans and 79 spyware/malware issues. It also sported a cracked, but disabled, copy of Norton AV 2003/2004 (don't know if the Trojans had disabled it--that happens!--or whether SP2 had). Pretty certain these issues were why SP2 failed--couldn't reinstall SP2 at all and, after an 8-hour stint, was informed that I couldn't uninstall it, either! Had to install a parallel copy of the operating system, upgrade that straight away to SP2, copy all the user's documents over, and delete the old installation. Seems to me that the best way to install SP2 is to install it on a virgin installation, then install software, etc. I'm dreading installing SP2 on my production PC (never had a virus or intrusion--router, firewall, AV & Spybot S&D). Only got 120 days or so left before I have to bite the bullet :(

Kind regards,
Nigel Perels

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