Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)
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WINDOWS XP SP2
WINDOWS TIPS & TRICKS
If you buy a new computer or a new copy of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional Edition, it will be the Service Pack 2 (SP2) version. But if you have an original version of Windows XP or one that has been updated to include Service Pack 1 (SP1), you have to download the SP2 update and install it, or install it from an SP2 update CD. To find out what changes SP2 introdues, read the following article:
Changes to Functionality in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 -
I have been using a new self-built computer with Windows XP SP2 Home Edition since May 2005, and it hasn't given me any problems at all. It is without a doubt the easiest version of Windows to use that I have ever installed and used. The computer had some new and some elderly components, including a V.90 dial-up modem, and some elderly peripherals, such as a ten-year-old mono inkjet printer, and it loaded the device drivers for them itself (for the modem), or had the drivers in its driver library (for the non-plug-and-play printer).
Since Microsoft first released Service Pack 2 (SP2) upgrade for Windows XP in early August 2004, it has made it available through various channels.
For most users, it should be available from Microsoft Update. It is a large update of well over 100MB, so people who use a dial-up connection shouldn't allow the update to be downloaded and installed automatically. Microsoft has also opened their CD-order site, where it's possible to order a copy of SP2 on a CD. Microsoft ships the CD free of charge. Click here! for the details on Microsoft's site.
PC magazines, such as Computer Shopper: Issue 201, have made it available on their cover CDs.
SP2 is a complete update, so you can even install it on an installation of the original (pre-SP1) Windows XP. SP2 should bring your system up to date in one step without having to install SP1 first.
"The first questions that many customers ask once they decide to deploy Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) are whether their existing applications are compatible and how expensive it will be to determine if they are. The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 4.0 was designed to help IT Professionals minimize the risks associated with changes to the operating system and to deploy Windows XP SP2 quickly so they can realize the value of the investments Microsoft has made in securing the desktop from threats such as viruses, worms, and spyware." -
Win XP SP2 FAQs & Best Practices - http://aumha.org/win5/a/sp2faq.htm
If you want to read about the problems being experienced by SP2 systems, visit this page:
Service Pack 2: how was your upgrade? - http://www.windowsbbs.com/showthread.php?t=34478
Why does Windows XP slow down to a crawl when I install the Service Pack 2 (SP2) update? is a Q&A on this site.
Several updates and Knowledge Base articles have already been made available. Click here! to go to links to them on this site.
Remove spyware and disable or uninstall security software before installing SP2
1. - Microsoft recommends that users scan their systems with updated spyware/malware tools before installing SP2. Some computers lock up when SP2 is installed with certain spyware in residence, and spyware programs can interfere with the new security features that SP2 installs by default.
Note well that you may have to run your spyware removal tools, (Spybot and Ad-Aware) in Safe Mode in order to remove some spyware and adware. You can do that by pressing the F8 key just before Windows 98 or Windows XP starts to load at start-up. A boot menu presents itself with several boot options, including Safe Mode. Then just run the tools as usual.
2. - "Temporarily disable or uninstall software firewall and antivirus software before installing SP2. 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 melt down 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." - Scot Finnie - Scot's Newsletter
If you enable your firewall, remember to disable the Windows Firewall. You should also disable all of the start-up programs except the System Tray. You can do that entering msconfig in the Start => Run box. Look under the Startup tab. You should also create a restore point in System Restore, and create restorable backups of the kinds that are usually recommended.
Scot Finnie has this advice about whether or not to install SP2:
"The two main reasons not to install XP SP2, at least not right away, are:
1. Installation Woes and Other Problems
2. Web Browsing, Email, and Other Application Inconveniences."
But he also says in the same newsletter that "The vast majority of people have encountered no serious issues with SP2. Remember, people who have no problems don't post in newsgroups, etc. It's just another day for them. And this phenomenon, that negative experiences are magnified, skews our sense of the real-world experience toward the negative. Be careful not to get sucked all the way into the buzz; it's not statistically representative."
See his 60 Useful Windows XP SP2 Links:
But if you want to or have to remove SP2, visit the MS Knowledge Base article: How to remove Windows XP Service Pack 2 from your computer:
If "You receive an "Access is denied" error message when you try to install Windows XP Service Pack 2":
Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2:
"Windows XP SP2 introduces new security technologies to better enable Windows XP computers to withstand viruses, worms and other kinds of attacks. This guide will assist IT Professionals to test and mitigate application compatibility issues arising from these more stringent security technologies." - Click here! to go to the download page.
Microsoft has also published additional documents/tools to help individual users or system administrators with the deployment of SP2. Enter the Title of a particular tool in the table below in the Search box at http://support.microsoft.com/ to find the download if it still exists. Some of the links I had in the table no longer exist, so I have removed all of them so as not to make it look sloppy.
| || |
|Troubleshooting Windows Firewall in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2||This document describes how Windows Firewall works, the common problems with using Windows Firewall, and the set of tools used to troubleshoot Windows Firewall issues.|
|Application Compatibility Guide for Windows XP SP 2||Windows XP SP2 introduces new security technologies to better enable Windows XP computers to withstand viruses, worms and other kinds of attacks. This guide will assist IT Professionals to test and mitigate application compatibility issues arising from these more stringent security technologies.|
|Windows XP Service Pack 2 Support Tools||The Windows Support Tools for Microsoft Windows XP are intended for use by Microsoft support personnel and experienced users to assist in diagnosing and resolving computer problems.|
|Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2||This spreadsheet lists the full set of Group Policy settings described in Administrative Template (.adm) files shipped with Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2.|
|Managing Windows XP Service Pack 2 Features Using Group Policy||This white paper includes information about assessing, deploying, and using the new Group Policy settings delivered with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2).|
|Deploying Windows Firewall Settings for Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2||Windows XP Service Pack 2 provides Windows Firewall, an enhanced firewall that is enabled by default. This white paper describes the methods used to deploy Windows Firewall settings in a managed environment.|
|Toolkit to Temporarily Block Delivery of Windows XP SP2 to a PC Through Automatic Updates and Windows||While recognizing the security benefits of Windows XP SP2, some organizations have requested the ability to temporarily disable delivery of this update via Automatic Updates (AU) and Windows Update (WU).|
|Executable to Temporarily Block Delivery of Windows XP SP2 to a PC Through Automatic Updates and Windows Update||This Microsoft signed executable creates the registry value and sets the associated value that temporarily blocks the delivery Windows XP SP2 to the system via Automatic Updates (AU) or Windows Update (WU).|
|Executable to Un-block Delivery of Windows XP SP2 to a PC Through Automatic Updates and Windows Update||This Microsoft signed executable removes the previously created registry value that temporarily blocked the delivery Windows XP SP2 to the system via Automatic Updates (AU) or Windows Update (WU).|
This free service pack delivers the latest security updates and innovations from Microsoft, establishes strong security settings that are enabled by default, and adds new security features that protect computers running Windows XP from hackers, viruses, and other security risks.
To avoid any problems that may come to light, it's advisable to wait at least thirty days before installing this major upgrade to Windows XP. A good tip to remember before installing it is to turn off or disable as many applications running on the computer as possible, espcially the start-up programs that Windows loads at start-up, and which can be be seen by entering msconfig in the Start => Run box. Shut down any software firewall, virus scanner, and any other applications that may be running. The reason for this is that if a program is in the process of using a specific Windows system file that file will be protected from being overwritten, thereby halting the SP2 installation process, which could make recovering the system problematic.
The security improvements are the most important aspects of the new service pack. For instance, the firewall that comes with Windows XP has been improved, has had its name changed from Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) to Windows Firewall, which is installed by default instead of having to be enabled. If you prefer to use one of the many third-party firewalls available, disabling it is a simple matter.
Unlike most Windows service packs, SP2 adds several new functions. There are four main areas where Microsoft has made changes and additions: (1) Automatic Updates - detection of the required updates has been improved and the facility is set to operate automatically by default (2) ICF is now the the improved Windows Firewall (3) the wireless networking controls have been improved (4) a pop-up blocker has been added to Internet Explorer.
The Windows Messenger Service is used to convey messages over a network, and should not be confused with Windows Messenger, the instant-messaging web client. It is turned off by default in SP2, because it has been used for spam pop-ups for some time, and has the potential to be exploited by computer hackers and malware.
When you install SP2 and reboot, you are presented with these two choices with regard to the Automatic Updates feature that downloads and installs security patches and bug-fixes automatically:
1. Yes, help me protect my PC by automatically downloading and installing updates (strongly recommended)
2. Ask me again later
The new Automatic Updates configuration screen: http://i.cmpnet.com/securitypipeline/stories/winxpsp2b1/xpsp2b10.jpg
In Windows XP SP2, Automatic Updates is an item in the Control Panel, so you won't have to search for it in order change its options.
In order not to miss installing critical updates,you should set Automatic Updates to obtain updates when the computer is expected to be online, because, by default, it automatically tries to download and install them at 3.0 AM every day.
It's advisable to turn Automatic Updates on, but inadvisable to set it to the automatic install option, because, in case a patch or update causes problems, you only want the automatic notification of an update to appear. This notifies you when a new critical update has been released with a little window that opens up in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. With this feature enabled, you'll rarely need to use Microsoft Update because the details of an an update are provided before you, the user, make the choice to install it. You can also inform the notifier not to send you reminders about an update that you've decided that you don't want, and even then have the option to change your mind about that decision.
The Release Notes for Windows XP SP2 on the Microsoft Knowledge Base can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=835935. This article also contains links to a "List of fixes included in Service Pack 2 for Windows XP".
The network installation (August 2004, only in English and German, but other languages will soon be available) is a huge 266MB download that includes all of the Windows XP SP2 files needed for installation on Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Media Center Edition. It's ideal for professional network administrators who require a downloadable copy of SP2 that they can use for network deployment.
The network installation is preferable to an Automatic Update or Microsoft Update for several reasons. Firstly, it's a local installer that can be used repeatedly. After the initial download, the user doesn't have to be online while the installation is performed. Secondly, installing the service pack in this way should result in more reliable installations. Online installations can fail because of the vagaries of the Internet. Microsoft has done what it can to make its online setup process resumable, but there are already reports of problems with online installalations of SP2.
Note: Microsoft does not recommend the installation of the download of the network installation on a single computer, so if you decide to try using it, make sure that you can recover the system if anything goes wrong.
Release notes for Windows XP Service Pack 2 - http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=835935
For support, see Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) Support Center.
Slipstreaming is the process that integrates a service pack into the existing installation so that with every new installation the updated version of Windows is installed. If this is not done, the user has to install Windows XP from its CD and then install the service packs. Slipstreaming is usually done on network shares on corporate systems. However, it can now be done easily with the help of a CD writer. Microsoft has added the ability to slipstream a service pack to existing editions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
For an illustrated tutorial on "Slipstreaming SP2 in a current Windows XP install share" see: Slipstreaming Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Create Bootable CD.
The "Security Center" that is expected to be part of SP2 will advise users if it detects inadequacies in the security updates installed and the levels of firewall and antivirus protection being employed.
SP2 adds a feature called Data Execution Protection (DEP) to Windows XP. If the processor(s) being used support making individual memory areas "non-executable" in order to prevent the running of malicious code or programs, then you'll be able to enable this new feature. All of AMD's Athlon 64 and Opteron 64-bit processors support it.
AMD's 64-bit generation of processors track and monitor the areas of RAM allocated by Windows for the exclusive use of program instructions and data. With SP2 installed Windows XP can make use of this facility.
Buffer overflows (overruns) are a common source of problems with software. The buffer is an area reserved in RAM for storing temporary data. When too much data is written to the buffer due to bad programming, or by the deliberately malicious intent in the programming of a worm or virus, data overflows into a neighbouring area of RAM. The system can then be tricked by the worm or virus into executing code it would refuse to execute under normal circumstances.
However, in a system running an Athlon 64 or Opteron processor and Windows XP updated with SP2, if a buffer overflow occurs, it will be prevented from spilling over into an unreserved, unprotected area of RAM and so won't be able to execute any malicious code. Windows will produce an error message to alert the user about what has taken place.
For an in-depth overview of SP2, read this Microsoft TechNet article: Changes to Functionality in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2.
Instead of using a password-protected screensaver (modern PC monitors don't need their screens saved), you can bring up the Windows XP password screen by pressing one of the Windows keys (the two keys that have a Windows flag on them) and the L key. The computer doesn't shut down to that level, it just brings up the password screen in the same way as a screensaver is activated. When you enter your password, the system goes back to where it was when you pressed the key combination.
Because Windows 95/98/Me and Windows XP systems have completely different architectures, some programs written for Windows 95/98/Me simply won't run at all or won't well under Windows XP, no matter what you do to rectify the situation.
However, there is a way of making such programs run properly under Windows XP - run the Program Compatibility Wizard.
I used it when MS Excel 97 and MS Word 97 wouldn't work. After running the wizard, they worked as they had done under Windows 98. I chose Windows 98 as the operating system to emulate.
To run the Program Compatibility Wizard, follow this path:
Start => Help and Support => Fixing a problem => Application and Software Problems => Fix a problem => Getting older programs to run on Windows XP => Program Compatibility Wizard.
If you haven't backed up your Windows XP system, or haven't created a master image that you can restore in the event of an irrecoverable system failure, you can store the two files that contain the product activation data on a floppy disk, and copy them to the system after reinstalling Windows so that no activation is required from Microsoft on the web or by phone. The two files are called Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak. (WPA stands for Windows Product Activation.) And they're located in the C:\Windows\system32 folder if Windows is installed to its default Windows folder and not to one of the user's choosing. You should press the F8 key to boot into Safe Mode when Windows reboots after being installed and rename the existing files something else, such as XWpa.dbl and XWpa.bak. You can then copy the files on the floppy disk to the C:\Windows\system32 folder.
According to Paul Mullen, Helpfile guru at Computer Shopper, there are probably many people who install McAfee software perfectly and without problems, but hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't bring him a computer with one or more problems that was caused by it. In his experience, McAfee software gives rise to more complaints than any of the rivals in its field of 'expertise'. Indeed, as a whole, buggy products are now commonplace because a software developer can rely on a clause in the end user licence agreement (EULA) that excludes it from liability for damage caused to a system by its software.
If, say, you're using McAfee VirusScan 7 and obtain VirusScan 8, you must uninstall version 7 before you install version 8. Not doing so can be a source of problems.
Click here! to read about uninstalling software before installing an updated version. Use your browser's Back button to return here.
There are several ways to associate a particular program with a particular file type in the various versions of Windows, all of which should be detailed in the Windows Help files.
With Windows XP, the easiest way to associate a file type (e.g. JPEG image files) with a program (e.g. the XNView picture viewer) in both Windows 9.x and Windows XP is to locate an example of the kind of file you want a particular program to open or run, and right click on it. Click the Open With option, followed by Choose Program. In the dialog box that appears, select the relevant program (XNView), and place a check mark in the box beside: "Always use selected program to open this type of file". In Windows 9.x, select the file while holding down one of the two Shift keys (showing an arrow pointing upwards), because, unless a Registry hack is employed, that is the only way to make the Open with... option appear.
In Windows XP SP1 systems, there is a new feature called Set Program Access and Defaults. If you haven't set up a shortcut to Add/Remove Programs, open it via the Control Panel. When you click on the new feature, you are presented with three options: Microsoft Windows [programs], Non-Microsoft [programs], and Custom, which brings up the Open With window.
[Note that since this was written Service Packs SP2 and SP3 were made available. SP3 is the final Service Pack for Windows XP.]
MS Knowledge Base article 307859 - HOW TO: Change File Associations in Windows XP: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=307859
MS Knowledge Base article 262808 - Changing and Editing File Associations in Windows 95 Windows 98 and Windows Me:
You can download the files to create a boot disk for any version of Windows from http://www.bootdisk.com/.
You can also create a bootable BartPE rescue CD. Click here! to go directly to the details on this site.
The Messenger service, which is normally only used to display messages from the system administrator of a network on its workstations, should not be confused with the Windows Messenger instant messaging program that is used to send messages over the web.
The Windows Messenger service used in Windows NT / Windows 2000 / Windows XP systems can be set by some websites to download and display adverts for porn, etc., whenever you go online. Fortunately, it's easy to disable.
In Windows XP, follow this clicking path: Control Panel => Administrative Tools => Services. Right-click on the Messenger service, and click on Properties. Set the StartUp Type to Disabled.
If it isn't being used, you should also disable the Windows Messenger instant messaging program, which, you should note, is often re-enabled when updates from Microsoft are installed. Follow this path: Start => Programs => Windows Messenger. A Windows Messenger window appears. Click the Tools tab, and select Options. Another window pops up. Click the Preferences tab and make sure that the two boxes with these descriptions are unchecked: Run this program when Windows starts, and Allow this program to run in the background. Then click OK, followed by File => Close in the Windows Messenger window.
If you are having problems using Windows Update (which provides program updates and patches for bugs from Microsoft's webpage), Microsoft has identified and provided solutions for about fifty problems that users have experienced with it. The company created a special support page called Windows Update Troubleshooter, which is designed to provide quick access to fixes.
Windows 9x systems have several Troubleshooters. To access them go Start => Help and enter the word troubleshooting in the Index box.
For example, here are the three problems addresses by the Memory [RAM] Troubleshooter:
1. - System Properties reports that my computer has less memory than is installed on it.
2. - I receive an Out of Memory error message when I try to start a program or while a program is running.
3. - I frequently receive a Parity error message on a blue screen.
You place a mark in the radio button of the problem that is affecting your system, and click the Next button to move on to the first step.
Windows XP also contains many very useful troubleshooting wizards that guide you step-by-step through the process of resolving most of the most common problems with the display [monitor], software, memory (RAM), e-mail, printing, networking, system performance, startup and shutdown, games and multimedia, and many more.
To access them, go Start => Help & Support => Fixing A Problem.
If you dislike the Search Assistant in Windows XP, you can disable it and restore the Windows 2000 type of search functionality. -
Windows 9.x systems have the Find facility, but it's called Search in Windows XP. Many people find it inadequate and not as good as Find.
The file search facility in Windows XP is flawed in two ways. It can fail to find text inside files with the "wrong" extensions, and it misreports finding the match if the file name contains the matching text even if the file content does not. Moreover, there appears not to be a way to fix the problem other than by using a third-party file-search program, such as the freeware program, Agent Ransack, which does what you require of it, but which is obviously not as handy to use.
This is the MS Knowledge Base page that attempts to deal with the problem. -
The following MS Knowledge Base article outlines, step-by-step, everything you need to know to get the Speech Engine installed and functioning on your Windows XP machine. Please keep in mind that there are some basic requirements, such as a high-quality close-talk microphone (Microsoft recommends a USB microphone). Although not on the required list for speech recognition, speakers should be used for the text-speech functionality. The article doesn't say so, but you will also need Office XP installed to do any of this. -
You can use a feature called the Policy Editor to restrict access to features in Windows 9.x systems. (It's the Group Policy Editor in Windows XP.) To find out more about this feature in Windows 95/98 and tutorials on how to make use of it, enter poledit as the search query in a search engine. Here is a site I found for you:
Using Poledit: Policy Editor to help secure Windows 95/98/Me computers: http://www.zisman.ca/poledit/
Here is information on setting policies in Windows XP:
Using Group Policy Editor To Set Policies - http://www.theeldergeek.com/gp05.htm
Group Policy for Windows XP Professional. (This Article Does Not Apply to XP Home Edition):
The Windows 9x and Windows XP versions of Windows don't allow you to protect individual files or folders with a password. You can only restrict access to individual files and folders in Windows 2000/XP.
To find more such sites, you can use a search query such as this one - password + protection + files + "Windows 98" - in a search engine.
If you want to protect files with a password in Windows 98 SE, I suggest using the latest version of WinZip from http://www.winzip.com/. It allows you to create zip files within a folder that can hold as may files as you like and protect them with a password.
Click here! to go to information on Windows XP passwords.
"When you're outside of a domain environment, XP has some features missing. XP Home leaves you completely without the Group Policy Editor, while XP Pro lacks the ability to use the Group Policy Editor to selectively apply policies to specific users. Well, that's about to change. Doug's Windows XP Security Console allows you to assign various restrictions to specific users, whether you're running XP Pro or XP Home." - http://www.dougknox.com/xp/utils/xp_securityconsole.htm
Visit the Tips page on this site for many more tips and tricks to do with Windows, other software and hardware.
There are two methods that can be used to transfer the settings and/or files from a computer running Windows 95, 98, Me, or 2000 to a new one running Windows XP. The first method involves the use of the Windows XP CD. The second method is used if the new computer didn't come with a Windows CD.
Method 1 - Insert the Windows XP CD in the old computer's CD-ROM drive. It should start automatically, but if it doesn't click the CD-ROM icon in My Computer. In the opening window, select Perform Additional Tasks. In the next window, click Transfer Files and Settings, which starts the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
Method 2 - You can create a Wizard Disk if you don't have a Windows XP CD. In Windows XP on the new computer, click Start => Programs => Accessories => System Tools, and select Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. Click Next, and select New Computer in the next window. In the window that comes up, opt to create a Wizard Disk. You can use a floppy disk, but something with more space such as a recordable CD, zip disk, or a USB thumb drive (a small device that plugs into a USB port, which should have the capacity to allow you to save at least 48 to 64MB of files to it) is recommended. When the files have been transferred to the disk or USB device, a screen will appear containing instructions on how to run it on your old computer.
You have three options for transferring the files - by connecting the two computers with a serial cable, by using removable media such as floppy/zip disks, recorded CD, etc., or through a network. - See the Networking page on this site for information on how to use a special, inexpensive USB cable to network two computers.
For more detailed information visit the How to use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (FAST) page on this site.
Having several operating systems installed on the same system (different versions of Windows and other operating systems) is something that is fairly easy to achieve. You can find all of the information you need by using a search engine. For example, say, you want to multiboot Windows XP and Linux. Just use multiboot + "windows xp" + linux (as is) as the search query.
Here's a good page to start off with:
Multiple Operating System Install Guide - http://www.blackviper.com/Articles/OS/Multiboot/multiboot1.htm
At start-up, Windows XP loads (into RAM) and runs many services, most of which are unnecessary for most users. Some of the services are configured to start automatically, while others must be started manually by running the programs associated with them. And then there are the services that are or can be disabled altogether.
For a comprehensive description of the services included with Windows XP and the impact of changing the start-up type, visit the following article:
You can also find out what these services are at the following website, which provides advice on such subjects as configuring the services to run on the ideal gaming computer.
"Windows XP Home and Professional Service Configurations" - http://www.blackviper.com/WinXP/servicecfg.htm
Also on Blackviper.com, under OS Guides, there is setup and other information on Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP (Home and Professional editions), Windows .NET Enterprise Server, and Redhat Linux. There is also a good guide on how to use Microsift's FDISK Hard Disk Drive partitioning utility. - http://www.blackviper.com/Articles/OS/OSguides.htm
PC Buyer Beware! Copyright © Eric Legge 2004-2011. All rights reserved.