XP SP2: FAQs from our Readers

Dennis Faas's picture

Today's issue of the Gazette marks the end of the special promotion for my Service Pack 2 Fail-Safe install guide. Reminder: you can save up to 54% off the guide if you purchase before midnight tonight.

Before we move onto other topics of interest featured in our newsletter, I've decided to end this special promotion with a lightening round of SP2-related questions from our Readers.

Answers are short-but-sweet and will address the most frequently asked questions I've received via email / from the newsletter over the last 2.5 months.

Ready? Round 1 ... Begin!

Q: " I have installed Service Pack 2 on both of my computers and have had no problems. One has XP Home and the other has XP Pro. Why are so many people having problems with SP2? "

A: It is true that some users have problems installing SP2, while others don't. Keeping in mind that the majority of users will attempt to apply SP2 overtop of their current Windows setup: the majority of problems experienced are due to a mis-configured / gooped up system, as a result of a poorly managed System Registry. Very few SP2 install problems are due to hardware incompatibilities -- but there are workarounds, and some of these workarounds should be applied *before* installing SP2, or it makes 'patching' a lot more difficult. This is discussed in my SP2 eBook as part of the "16 critical steps" you need to follow before applying SP2.

Q: " Where can I order the Service Pack 2 CD? "

A: You can order the SP2 CD (free) from Microsoft.

Q: " I have had only good news from my two installs of SP2, but I must confess that before I installed it, I felt that a hard drive format was in order to make sure SP2 installed cleanly. I've experienced no problems at any time; and I'm usually very suspicious of anything new coming down the pike ... I would never install something as necessary as SP2 on a machine which might have the least hint of unknown problems -- always a fresh, reformat of C drive and a fresh OS -- is the best way to apply a Service Pack. "

A: Very good, and I would agree; yet, most users don't know how to backup (or locate) their most critical files before formatting and then applying the Service Pack. This information, however, is detailed explicitly in my SP2 eBook (made especially for new and intermediate computer users).

Q: " I use Mozilla Firefox for Internet browsing and Thunderbird for email (I never use Internet Explorer, Outlook / Express). Since most of the SP2 fixes are for IE or Outlook, is SP2 necessary for my computer? "

A: Actually that's not entirely correct; while it is true that there are a many fixes for IE and Outlook, these are not the primary benefits of SP2. Also included are: the new Security Centre, the new Windows Firewall, the updated Windows Movie Maker 2.1, boot time security, execution Protection that stops malicious program code from running, wireless networking improvements, changes to the .NET framework; but most importantly: core changes to the O/S which stop things like MyDoom and similar variants from spreading like wildfire. More reasons to install SP2 can be found on the Microsoft web site.

Q: " I've tried to install SP2 from the free CD. Everything seemed ok until the very end when it look like it's going to install the SP2, then I get a 'Access Denied' message. Up until this point everything has been checked and copied. Help? "

A: According to Microsoft KB Article 873148, "this issue may occur when permissions for one or more registry keys are restricted in a way that prevents the update of those registry keys. A failure to update a registry key may cause the Setup program to fail." In other words: your system registry is messed up. You can try to patch your system by editing the registry yourself (described in the KB article) -- or you may need to install XP fresh by formatting the hard drive (HD) and then install SP2 after. Formatting the HD is recommended if your registry is in bad shape, as an invalid registry may compromise the SP2 install, leaving you with a half-working system. If your system is suffering from: error messages, system crashes, frequent lock-ups, or is otherwise extremely slow, it is recommended that you format your HD before applying SP2. The steps required to do this are outlined explicitly in my eBook.

Q: " I've got Firewall <BRAND X> and AntiVirus <BRAND X> installed on my system and running with a current subscription. After installing SP2, I now get a 'Security Alert' by my system clock stating that my PC is not protected. Am I protected? "

A: Yes, but your Firewall / AntiVirus isn't being recognized by the Security Center. To get around this, you should a) update your Firewall / AntiVirus software, or b) disable the Security Center alerts.

Q. " Your newsletter and current coverage on XP Service Pack 2 has helped me immensely! I'd like to show my appreciation by donating to your cause. Please let me know how I can do so. "

A: You can support our web site by purchasing my guide on Service Pack 2 (if you run Windows XP and haven't installed SP2 yet), by purchasing any one of my other guides, or by donating cash / check / money order / credit card. Thanks.

Q: " A short while ago, I downloaded and installed the XP SP2 and it gave me nothing but headache after headache with my dialup modem. It slowed my PC's connection to the internet down to a literal crawl! ... After unsuccessful attempts to rectify the problem, I chose to uninstall SP2. My Internet connection speed has since returned to the way it was ... the only thing left to do is to clean up my registry which I am in the process of downloading the registry mechanic spoken of in your article. My only remaining question would be: what purpose would there be to re-downloading Service Pack 2, and what could be done differently to have effected a more favorable outcome? "

A: I personally don't remember reading anything about problems associated with dialup modems and SP2, but that doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. My advice is to research the modem model in Google to see if others are experiencing the same problems with SP2. If not, it's probably an isolated issue (most likely) related to your registry (maybe you downloaded a web accelerator at some point and it's causing hiccups with SP2)? At any rate, a fresh format and reinstall of SP2 should resolve your issue. Backing up critical files and formatting the hard drive is discussed explicitly in my SP2 eBook.

Side note: a degraded registry is often the result of poorly designed software, Spyware, virus or worm attack; furthermore, remnants can exist in the registry far after uninstall or removal (depending on the method used to clean / remove / uninstall).

Q: " After installing SP2, my system takes upwards of 2 minutes to finish booting. Before SP2 was installed, it only took about 30 seconds. Why is this so? "

A: Files get very fragmented on the hard drive if you apply SP2 to a pre-existing windows installation. This is because files are copied / patched / appended / overwritten / removed during the install process. If you defrag your hard drive after the install, it will most likely resolve your problem. If this does not resolve your problem, consider backing up your most critical files and do a fresh format. Starting fresh is sure way to guarantee a finely-tuned system.

... Continued.

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