An extra dialog has been added
the install procedure for executable files. If the file is not Windows
certified, it will warn the user before beginning the installation of the
program. This is similar to the warning that was previously present only
on applications that were attempting to install over the Internet.
The add\remove programs
application has been tweaked to no longer show updates and patches by
default. This results in a less cluttered display of programs, so we like
it. A 'show updates' button overrides this if needed.
The automatic update feature
will now download more than just 'critical' updates to the operating
system. Other items like service packs and driver updates may become part
of the process.
We noticed no performance hit
during our testing of the new service pack. Booting for the first time
after installation took a considerable amount of time, but after this first
slowdown, boot times returned to normal.
Another question lingering in our minds was "how
would Service Pack 2 affect the computers performance?" To find out, PCSTATS ran
a standard 2.4GHz PC through several trials with Bapco's Sysmark 2004.
Beginning with a standard Windows XP install, the system was updated to Service
Pack 1 and tested, then updated to Service Pack 2 and tested again. As you can
see from the results shown below, the impact of Service Pack 2 on a computer's
performance is very minor, if not negligible for the most part.
Other Service Pack
single biggest adjustment users are going to face after upgrading to Service
Pack 2 is the newly activated firewall. Though Microsoft has gone to great
lengths to make the service play nicely with other applications, inevitably it's
going to require some configuration, especially if you host or plan to host a
web or FTP site. The new firewall's slightly illogical control layout only complicates
The best way to get around this potential snag is to be
prepared. Know in advance what to expect and what you will need to be able
to pass through the firewall and you will be alright. For more background
on firewalls and firewall configuration, see PCSTATS' articles here and here, and our section on the new XP firewall earlier in this
Microsoft has released a list of programs which
have compatibility issues with Service Pack 2. Take a look through here to see if you will be affected by the upgrade.
Other than this, it should be
smooth sailing for your PC after the upgrade. Of course, compatibility
problems are bound to surface in the next few weeks after the release as
millions of users upgrade, but these will no doubt be duly patched.
What if you don’t want
Service Pack 2?
those of you who use Windows XP’s automatic update service, but don’t want to
have Service Pack 2 automatically installed for you, Microsoft has made a tool
available on their website. This
program makes a minor registry alteration which will stop the automatic install
of SP2. You can get it here.
Why should you care?
Because Microsoft is finally
taking Internet security seriously enough to make it an integral part of their
operating system. Previously, using Windows XP safely on the Internet
involved supplementing the basic operating system with a number of products and
fixes, as detailed in this article. A basic Windows XP box with a
broadband connection would be hacked, infected with virus software or infested
with spyware within days or hours of connecting. To be fair, the Internet
was nowhere near as dangerous an environment when XP was originally released,
but Redmond could have seen where things were going.
With the release of Windows XP
Service Pack 2, Microsoft has dramatically reduced the potential vulnerability
of millions of Internet connected systems. As they point out in their own
documentation, if this pack had been available before the release of the
infamous 'blaster' worm, the number of systems infected would have been a
fraction of the actual toll.
Of course, this brings up the
sore fact that many of these features should have been instituted in XP to begin
with, but no matter. Downloading this service pack in combination with a decent
virus-scanner provides every XP user with the holy trinity of Internet
security: A firewall, anti-virus software and regular updates. And
best of all, it requires little effort or prior knowledge. Despite its
flaws, this is enough to get a solid thumbs up from us.
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