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Software // Enterprise Applications
04:29 PM

Windows XP Service Pack 2: Is It Time Yet?

A Desktop Pipeline reviewer invites readers to step into the SP2 waters, and offers some suggestions on how to do it as safely as possible.

Pre-Installation Tips
Before you install SP2 (or any Windows upgrade), please follow these steps:

1. Consult Scot's Newsletter's 60 Useful Windows XP SP2 Links. Also, check the Scot's Newsletter Forums' Windows Forum for the latest word on issues and known problems.

2. Back up your personal data. My preference is for using imaging software like Norton Ghost for this purpose. Your backup should be made to a separate hard disk (another partition is OK, but a separate physical hard drive is better), network volume, or writable DVD.

3. Check with your system manufacturer about known issues with SP2 and your machine. Specific models of PCs may be more prone to SP2 trouble than others. So consult with your system manufacturer or major component makers.

4. Temporarily disable or uninstall software firewall and antivirus software before installing. I can't tell you how many times people have come to me with Windows upgrade problems who have not followed this step. If you neglect to do this, it doesn't mean an automatic meltdown of your PC, but the incidence of woes is very high if you don't -- higher than even many experienced PC users realize. After installation is complete, be sure to re-enable your security software.

Remember, Windows XP SP2 turns on its own Windows Firewall automatically. It is possible for two running software firewalls to conflict with each other, so that's a second reason to disable your firewall.

5. Check your hard drives for disk errors. In XP, that means running "chkdsk /f" from a command line. You'll need to restart your machine to allow this process to run on your boot volume.

6. Make a named Windows XP System Restore point beforehand: Basic Instructions on Working with System Restore.

7. Shut down all unnecessary applications. This comes under the heading "don't tempt fate." The admonition includes software with open windows and also those running in background. Most Windows services are not at issue, but application-installed background applications should be dumped where possible.

The easiest, surest way to do this is with the System Configuration Utility. Click Start > Run > Type "msconfig" and press Enter. Click the Startup tab. Remove checks beside items that you want to temporarily disable. If you're not sure whether to turn something off, don't. After you install SP2, remember to come back here and set things back the way they were. (Or uninstall some of these things if you don't want them. Before you uninstall, though, turn them back on on the Startup tab.)

For more information about items you find in the System Configuration Utility's Startup tab (or on the Ctrl-Alt-Del Windows Task Manager's Processes tab), please consult Scot's Newsletter Link of the Week-Award-winning Startup Contents' Full Database of background applications. It gives you information about programs running on your system based on the cryptic names that Windows reports. Startup Contents, by Paul Collins, is one of the most valuable Windows helps sites on the Internet.

Scot Finnie is Editor, Pipelines and TechWeb, as well as the author of Scot's Newsletter and previously an editor with Windows Magazine, ZDNet, and PC/Computing. He has been writing about Windows and other operating systems for two decades.

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