Service Pack 2

Service Pack 2, Microsoft's latest update to the Windows XP operating system, arrived on my computer the other night.

For those who haven't already read some of the millions of words written about it, Service Pack 2 is Microsoft's attempt to get Windows XP users to bring their operating system security features up to date.

It is well known that Microsoft has many security vulnerabilities in its operating systems. These allow virus writers to breach computers either to disrupt their operation or actually use them as platforms to propagate viruses to others.

Microsoft, from time to time, releases "patches" for their operating system that hopefully close vulnerabilities as Microsoft becomes aware of them. There have been hundreds of such patches. Unfortunately, many people ignore installing them, thus leaving themselves open to problems. The release of SP2 is an attempt to bring each Windows XP system up to date. It also has some other features that will be discussed in a few moments.

My machine, a Dell Pentium III, 600 mhz computer, is set to automatically download Microsoft patches. This I set using Start, Control Panel, System and Automatic Updates.

So, when I looked at my screen, in the lower right hand corner was a message box telling me an update had been downloaded and did I want to install it? I clicked "Yes" and was taken to another screen that announced the Service Pack 2 was ready for installation.

With a little trepidation, I clicked Yes again and the installation began. Fifty-one minutes later, Service Pack 2 was installed and I rebooted my machine to make it active.

I should mention that I have a DSL high speed Internet connection so the download took only a short time. For those with dial up connections, downloading can take hours. Microsoft has a compact disk for SP2 that is available free of charge by going to and filling out a form.

I'm not going to waste much time talking about the new features in SP2 since so much already has been written. However, two of them might be of particular interest. Microsoft has included a "firewall" in SP2. They have had a firewall previously, except now the default for the SP2 firewall is "ON." This again is their attempt to add protection for those people who don't know about or use firewalls. If you don't have a firewall and are connected to the Internet, leave the firewall "ON."

If a firewall already is installed on your computer, one of the firewalls should be turned off since two firewalls might interfere with one another. Since I have a network of computers with a router in between, the router has a built in firewall. Thus I turned "OFF" the SP2 firewall. This brought up a number of warning screens asking me if I really wanted to disable the SP2 firewall. I did turn it "OFF" and ignored the warnings. However, each time I turn on my computer I still get a little message box telling me I'm "not protected." Oh, well.

The other significant feature is "Automatic Update." The default is "ON." This is Microsoft's way of trying to keep the operating system patched with the latest updates. I suggest leaving this "ON."

After installation, I can see no discernable difference in how my machine operates. I know there have been some changes to the Internet Explorer browser and the Outlook Express email program, but I don't notice them.

I have heard that Microsoft and others have mentioned that some existing programs will not operate with SP2 installed. If this is a problem, go to the publisher's web site and see if they have specific patches for SP2. Louise Records mentioned that SBC Internet sent her an email outlining some problems with their connections, but I believe they have been resolved.

I would not hesitate to install SP2 if you have a Windows XP Home or Pro operating system. There is no use waiting since patches come along all the time and you might as well be up to date by installing SP2. Incidentally, you can see if SP2 is installed by going to Start, Control Panel, System. The General tab should indicate your operating system, version and SP2 installed. All the details of SP2 can be found at

If you would like to hear more about Service Pack 2 or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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