A question I recently received from one of my readers has prompted me to recap on the advantages of upgrading your Windows XP system to Service Pack 2.

Hello Chris,
Although I live in Leicestershire, I read the Herald Express on the Internet daily and enjoy your weekly column. I wonder if I could ask your advice as I haven’t yet upgraded to Windows XP SP2 after hearing dire warnings about it completely jiggering computers and in particular laptops. Should I leave it well alone or be brave?
Dave Kitto, via e-mail

Before we start I should explain to those who haven’t been listening over the previous months that Service Pack 2 is a huge collection of bug fixes for the Windows XP Operating System which aims to increase stability, security and in some cases speed. These are all features I will elaborate on shortly.

In an attempt to discover more about these ‘dire’ warnings that Dave mentions I did a quick search on Google and was unable to find anything of any substance. There were numerous posts in forums from people making extremely unscientific accusations that didn’t hold any water along with genuine problems that were so specific they wouldn’t affect 99.9% of users.

I think it has come to be accepted in the IT industry that Windows XP SP 2 is generally a good thing. If you install the original Windows XP on to a machine then due to the numerous security vulnerabilities you will most likely soon become infected by a number of viruses that crawl in through the ‘backdoors’ that are left open for them by the original version of this Operating System.

To backtrack on previous articles, some of the advantages of installing this update are as follows:
• Windows Security Centre – Ensures that novice users always know that their system is up to date and should be able to handle current security threats.
• Windows Firewall update – Firewall is turned on by default and is more easily configurable to work with existing applications that may need access to the Internet. Firewall is also active from the moment you turn on your PC to the moment you turn it off which protects you during start-up and shutdown.
• Wireless Support – Improved support for wireless networks and Bluetooth technologies.
• Pop-Up blocker – A useful and long overdue addition to Internet Explorer.

Most importantly Windows XP SP2 contains all the bug fixes available up to the point it was released along with new technologies aimed at closing the huge numbers of security vulnerabilities that were present in the original Operating System. These vulnerabilities weren’t necessary known about when Windows XP was first released but would have become apparent when millions started using the software and then as a result thousands of lonely people started spending time working on ways to upset these users.

Bottom line is EVERYBODY reading this article that has Windows XP installed on their machine and who hasn’t done so already should head to www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/ and either download the update or if on a slower connection, order a free CD. The risk of anything untoward happening to your computer is so minimal that it isn’t worth even thinking about and taking these steps now will certainly protect you in the future..

Incidentally, prior to publishing this article I did contact Dave who in turn installed SP2 with no hitches whatsoever and he is now happy that his machine is more secure and up to date. It is worth noting that if you buy a copy of Windows XP off the shelf or purchase a new computer then it will most probably have Service Pack 2 installed already so to check if this is the case go to ‘Control Panel’ and then double click on ‘System’ where the update will be listed if installed

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