windows xp service pack


Windows XP Service Pack 1 / 1a


Article by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)


An introduction to Windows XP Service Pack 1


Windows XP SP 1 (XP SP1) is Microsoft's first major update to its latest operating system - Windows XP. This service pack covers both the Home and Professional editions, and is available as a Download or on CD Rom.

Organisations that wish to deploy this service pack can do so over their networks using the network installation tools provided by Microsoft.

More information on the download and installation of the Windows XP service pack 1 is available at the end of this article..

This service pack contains all the security patches and fixes for Windows XP, at the time of its release (9th September 2002), as well as some other very important components like support for USB 2.0 and anti piracy measures. The aim of this article is to cover the contents of this service pack for XP.

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### IMPORTANT UPDATE - 3rd February 2003 ###

Microsoft have now released Windows XP Service Pack 1a... This was silently released by Microsoft on the 3rd February 2003 in response to the US District Court of Baltimore's preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to include the latest Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from Sun Microsystems in current and future versions of Microsoft Windows XP. However 1a does NOT include Sun Microsystems JRE, this is scheduled for Windows XP Service pack 1b !!! CONFUSED?

Then PLEASE READ the end of this article for MORE important information...

One word of "comfort" from Microsoft is that if you already have the Windows XP Service Pack 1 installed on your system, then there is no reason to install Windows XP Service Pack 1a...

Why Install Windows XP Service Pack 1

A good question. Six months after the release of Windows XP the operating system had sold around 32 million retail and OEM copies. This makes it the fastest selling Windows version ever. At the launch of Windows XP it had three times more support for devices/hardware than Windows 98 and that tripled to over 13,000 over the first six months of its release.

Windows XP greatly improves the end users experience of a desktop operating system by improving the use of digital media, modern communications and home networking. All this makes Windows XP a very popular operating system with users and manufacturers alike. By installing the new Windows XP service pack 1, with all its important updates, Microsoft are building on XP's success.

If you decide NOT to install the Windows XP Service Pack 1 update then you MUST read the end of this article for important information regarding some security flaws in Windows XP that MUST be plugged.

Microsoft On Windows XP Service Pack 1

In the words of Jim Allchin, Group Vice president for the platforms products group at Microsoft:

"Microsoft is always focused on improving the reliability and security of Windows for our customers, and Windows XP service pack 1 is the latest delivery on our commitment to those customers... Windows XP is the most secure and dependable operating system we have ever produced, but our work doesn't end when we ship a product. Windows XP service pack1, along with services such as Windows Update, are examples of how we can help customers keep their PC's updated with the latest and greatest technology."

Remember this is Microsoft's opinion, not mine!

Enhancing XP Security

In February and March 2002, Microsoft underwent an extensive review of its current operating systems software. This in depth review of its core code and internal procedures at Microsoft is now known as the "Trustworthy Computing Initiative." Basically poor emphasis on security within it's software had lead to a growing lack of confidence in Microsoft's core products so this intensive initiative was Microsoft's attempt to address the issues.

Windows XP service pack 1 contains all the critical updates to XP that were highlighted during the review of its code and practices. Fortunately for the end user the next desktop operating system, due in 2005, will not be a "patched up" super charged XP. But a new operating system based on new secure code. This is a big step for Microsoft, but a welcome one for the rest of us! Perhaps the days of regular security patches will be over? Lets hope so...

US Consent Decree Compliance

You can NOT have failed to heard of Microsoft's trouble with the US courts during 2001, 2002 and 2003. Essentially a group of US states got together and complained in court that it was unfair that Microsoft should have such a monopoly on software and not allow choice for the consumer. Well the judge agreed and one of his many judgements was that Microsoft should do something about this in the first service pack for Windows XP. Now the whole issue with the courts is still dragging on and is much more complicated than we have time to explain in this article.

However the part of the legal judgement against Microsoft that is relevant to Windows XP service pack 1 is called the "Set Programs Access and Defaults Panel." This mechanism that Microsoft was forced to apply to Windows XP (and Windows 2000 in its service pack 3), is the ability to choose which non operating system software you want to use as the customer and not always be stuck with the Microsoft option. Also, if you choose to remove the Microsoft option then the relevant icons MUST be removed from the desktop and programs menu.

The Microsoft software involved is: Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Internet Messenger, Microsoft Java VM, and Windows Media Player. But Microsoft have also been forced to include this option for ALL other third parties offering this type of software for Windows XP. For example under this new control panel you can select Real Player as your default media player and XP will then remove desktop and other shortcut location links to its own media player. At the time of shipping Windows XP service pack 1 there were no third party options available for this new feature, however expect to see these appearing soon as you upgrade various third party software on your XP system.

Messenger For XP

Windows XP service pack 1 also includes an update to the extremely popular Windows Messenger client. However the version 4.7 that ships with this service pack has been updated since its release and version 5.0 is now available as a download via the Microsoft main website.

New Capabilities

One of the most disappointing things about Windows XP when it first shipped was its lack of support for the new USB 2.0 standard. Given that this update to USB 1.1 allows data transfer rates that make working with very large files so much easier, many folks were not happy with Microsoft. Now by installing the Windows XP service pack 1 Microsoft now support USB 2.0 on XP.

At the same time as Microsoft have released USB 2.0 support we are now seeing many USB 2.0 devices becoming available to the end user. Such devices as External HDD's, Scanners and DVD writers now come with USB 2.0 support. Interestingly USB 2.0 is now starting to appear on a limited amount of camcorders too, however I do not think that it will replace the firmly established FireWire (IEEE 1394) standard seen on so many semi-professional models.

Windows XP Service Pack 1 does NOT include support for Bluetooth technologies.....

New Technologies

Three new Microsoft technologies will ALL require the Windows XP service pack 1. These are MIRA, Freestyle and the Tablet PC. These new technologies use XP as there operating system but are beyond the scope of this article. More information can be obtained from the main Microsoft website.

.NET Framework

Microsoft has a vision for the future of computing services and this is called .NET In the next desktop operating system the .NET framework will be fully integrated into its code. However if you need the .NET framework now then there is an optional component with Windows XP service pack 1 that you can install. Since the release of the service pack option there is also an update available to the .NET frame work once you have installed the original files. Check windows update service for more details after installation of the .NET framework as I found a large update awaiting AFTER I installed the original .NET support software!

Change To Product Activation

Most retail and OEM users of Windows XP have encountered at some stage Microsoft's Windows Product Activation (WPA) technology. In Windows XP service pack 1 there are three minor changes made to WPA. NONE of them will effect legitimate licensed users of Windows XP.

The changes are:

1) If a pirated installation of Windows XP is on the end users machine then it probably has one of the following product codes according to Microsoft.



If this is the case then the Windows XP service pack will NOT install. Instead it will give you an error message asking you to contact Microsoft's Anti Piracy unit!

2) Access to the Windows Update site is restricted to valid licence holders ONLY. If you try to access the site your product ID is checked against ALL the possible VALID product ID's. If your is based on a pirate XP key then you will NOT gain access to the site.

3) Corporate users of Windows XP now have the ability to encrypt unattended setups of Windows XP. So no more plain text files reveal your product licence! as an IT manager I welcome this feature with open arms...

With these changes Microsoft are really trying to limit the spread of pirated licences of Windows XP. However, it is always a "Cat and Mouse" affair with the "Pirates" constantly finding ways to circumnavigate Microsoft's anti-piracy measures...

Internet Explorer Update

The final component of the Windows XP service pack 1 is the release of the first service pack for version 6 of Microsoft's web browser - Internet Explorer. In my opinion the IE 6.0 SP1 is an essential update. It is also required if you are going to try and install the monthly cumulative security updates for Internet Explorer 6.0

If you try and install a cumulative update from December 2002 and you have NOT installed IE 6.0 SP1 then you will get an error message asking you to install IE 6.0 SP1 first!

Conclusion (updated 3rd Feb 2003)

I have personally received horror stories from friends and fellow IT professionals who have had their Windows XP systems badly damaged by the installation of Windows XP Service Pack 1.

Some of these users report that one system upgrades without trouble, whereas another is rendered nearly useless after the installation of SP1. So I want to be clear that I am neither recommending nor advising against the installation of Windows XP Service Pack 1. The purpose of this article is to make sure you are informed in your decision as a consumer!

I personally have installed it on many DELL machines and NOT had any problems...

Well if it was not confusing enough for folks on whether to install Windows XP Service Pack 1, the waters just got muddier on this issue with the recent US court decision against Microsoft concerning the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from Sun Microsystems.

Essentially the reason we had a Windows XP Service Pack 1 so early was because a US court forced Microsoft to implement a mechanism for removing the default Microsoft choices on XP. eg Windows Media Player instead of a competitors software like Real Player. Now a US court has forced Microsoft to ship a rivals Java Runtime software in XP, eg Sun Microsystems software. This has now necessitated an update to the original service pack.

As you can imagine Microsoft are NOT happy about this state of affairs.... For more information on this refer to 

Microsoft have also released a support article on the differences between Windows Service Pack 1 and 1a, it can be found at 

This new version called Windows XP Service Pack 1a is identical to Windows XP Service Pack 1 that it replaces, with the exception that the Microsoft VM software will no longer be present.

Microsoft will then include Sun's JRE in Windows XP starting with Service Pack 1b in early June 2003. Windows XP Service Pack 1b will be identical to the original Windows XP Service Pack 1 with the only changes being the removal of the Microsoft VM and addition of Sun's JRE.

Microsoft will release a full media version of Windows XP Service Pack 1b in addition to the Service Pack 1b Upgrade.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be released later in 2003, and will be a conventional service pack with a variety of engineering fixes to increase the security and reliability of the operating system. Windows XP SP2 will include Sun’s JRE in order to comply with the order.

Lets just hope that the courts don't reverse their decision!

But what if you do not want to install ANY Windows Service Pack 1 yet?

Well you do not have to of course, but this article does outline the potential benefits of doing so. However Windows XP has 2 x SERIOUS flaws in its security that MUST be patched. There is NO compromise on this in my opinion. One problem lies in an insecure file that allows someone to delete files off YOUR machine - if you happen to end up on one of their websites. (Yes people really do this sort of thing!). The other is in the way the Universal Plug and Play feature works on XP.

Check out Microsoft's support articles on these critical security issues:

Trouble Free Computing!

Computer Security Guide

"Discover The Simple But Powerful Secrets To Keeping Out Viruses, Hackers, Trojans, Keyloggers And Many Other Online Security Threats"

CLICK HERE - For More Information Now!


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Marc Liron

Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)



Trouble Free Computing!


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