Windows XP Service Pack 2 FAQ 's



Windows XP Service Pack 2 FAQ 's


by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (Windows Desktop Experience)


Windows XP Service Pack 2 FAQ 's

As part of this website I maintain a FREE monthly Windows XP newsletter. In the August 2004 issue I asked readers for their questions on the new Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Below are the most commonly requested questions.

Please note that this Windows XP service pack 2 FAQ is aimed at the home user only... Corporate users should seek advice from the Microsoft website.


Please also note that the responses given are mine, as an IT Professional, and not that of Microsoft. The advice given here is only offered "as is".

# Why is SP2 NOT for Windows XP HOME users as you said in your last newsletter..?

This seems to be just a simple confusion. In my last newsletter I gave a link to the "Network" installation of the Windows XP SP2 and wrote that this was not for home users.... At a 260Mb download most home users would not want it!

# Do I need to uninstall the "public beta" of XP SP2 before I install the official XP SP2 release (sometimes referred to as XP SP2 RTM).


If you have previously installed an earlier version of SP2 then you will need to remove it prior to installing this final release.

# Is anybody independent of Microsoft recommending XP SP2?

Yes they are. CERT are recommending users upgrade their computers with the new service pack.

More at:

# How do I get hold of Windows XP SP2...?

There are a few ways that you are going to get hold of XP SP2 and not all of these will be available at the same time.


Through the Windows Update website. You can visit the site via:

and it will then scan your machine and give you the option of installing XP SP2 if appropriate.


Through the network installation available for IT professionals


Through turning on "Automatic Updates" on your computer.;en-us;327838


Order Windows XP SP2 on a FREE CD from Microsoft


On the cover of September 2004 computer magazines.

# What hard disk space do I need to install SP2 on my computer?

Good question! Depending on how you install XP SP2 you have different requirements.

Microsoft have created a document you should read:;en-us;837783

You may also find the "SP2 release notes" document helpful

# I use Windows XP HOME and have some XP SP2 updates already installed - Help! what am I supposed to do now?

Nothing but install XP SP2...

On Installation it will detect you already have some updates installed that are post XP SP1.

# Is XP SP2 buggy? will it slow my PC down? Should I wait to install it until after it is tested more?

I have been testing various versions of this service pack for 6 months now. There were some "bugs" in the early "beta" versions, but this final PUBLIC release is very stable!

I have personally been installing this Windows service pack 2 on every kind of computer I can get my hands on and only had one reboot issue that resolved itself on a second attempt!

As for slowing down computers.... not something I have come across although in theory as the "prefetch" cache will be rebuilt you may see some initial sluggishness.

# Any reason to use XP SP2 firewall if I'm behind "NAT" on my broadband router?

YES... You should still use the Windows firewall even though you are using NAT (Network Address Translation) on your router.

# I have read that MS say you should run an anti "Spy ware" on your computer before you update to SP2. Is this true?

There is NO official policy from Microsoft on this. However there is reportedly a quote from a group product manager at Microsoft, Barry Goff, who said that users should do this to prevent SP2 "locking up" on/after installation.

Using anti "Spy Ware" software on your computer is something I recommend to ALL home users...whether they are using SP2 or not!

If you are very confident on your PC then take a look at SpyBot 1.3, however be prepared to have to learn how to use it...

# I'm wondering about installation procedures -- what definitely to do and what definitely not to do. In particular I'm curious about compatibility issues with already installed firewall and anti-virus programs.

The only installation procedure is hitting the "install" button.

The setup routine will automatically detect if you have a firewall and anti-virus program installed by a major vendor.

# Can I have 2 firewalls running at the same time without any conflicts?

Whilst there is no specific "technical" reason for running 2 firewalls at the same time, the practice is not recommended.

If you are currently using a software firewall and are happy with it, then you can disable the SP2 firewall and "nagging" balloons.

Many of the free and commercial firewalls available require user input of some kind, especially responding to pop up windows that ask for some sort of response that can confuse many home users.

With the SP2 windows firewall you just switch it on and forget about it. If you find you ever need to configure it to work with a multiplayer game etc, this is easily done in the properties section of the firewall.

# My thought about SP2 is concerning what I read in PC World Mag. Do you think it's a good idea to go ahead and allow it to all download before it's been used for a few months by the majority of XP users?

I think this is down to personal choice...

There has already been a huge amount of testing done on XP SP2 and it is proving to be very stable.

If you feel that you would like to hold off and wait for more results to appear in the online newsgroups, then that's OK. However you will be missing out on some great new features and protection.

# I have my auto download on for windows updates and it downloaded several SP2 updates on my pc. Should I uninstall it/them, or will it not hurt my system.

XP SP2 will detect that you already have and post SP1 updates on your PC. By having them already installed actually means a shorter download time as Automatic Update will not have to download these files again...

# Why do I need Service Pack 2 if I have anti-virus and a firewall enabled?

XP SP2 contains features that every home users requires. I am glad to hear you have anti-virus and firewall software installed, but SP2 goes far beyond this...

I shall be updating the following article very soon but by reading it you will get a more comprehensive overview of what is in XP SP2.:

# I've been using the free version of Zone Alarm. Will it still work or will Microsoft's new firewall make it obsolete?

If you are happy with Zone Alarm then carry on using it. On installing XP SP2, Zone Alarm will be detected. The new Windows Firewall in SP2 will not make it obsolete.

# Does XP Service Pack 2 include any new features for NTFS ?

No changes were made to NTFS in XP Service Pack 2

# Have MS included the .NET 1.1 framework in SP2?

MS have NOT included the .NET framework in the SP2 upgrade.

# Does XP SP2 contain XP SP1 and all security patches to date?


# Do you have any idea which magazine in which country will have the Windows XP Service Pack 2 CDs on them?

Virtually all the major PC magazines have a local edition that will have this CD on the front cover as we speak.

If not then you can also get a FREE CD from Microsoft:

# Are there any reasons to NOT download the Windows XP Service Pack 2? Will it cause any/many problems with the "average" home computer users programs?

If you are a home user, with either XP Professional, XP Home Edition, Tablet PC Edition or Media Center Edition. I can see NO reason for NOT installing it.

In fact read the Top 10 reasons why you should:

However, if you are running computers on a company network then you may want to hold back from installing SP2.

The reasons for this are varied and revolve around existing corporate firewalls and custom built software installations...

# I am updating XP regularly so what is the need of this SP2? Is it necessary?

As mentioned in several other replies, XP SP2 is not just a collection of security patches. XP SP2 is a major upgrade to the operating system itself and contains elements that can not be obtained as separate downloads...

# If you install SP2 and don't like it, will going back to a "Restore Point" eliminate SP2's changes or is there any other way to "un-install" it?

There is the ability to remove Windows XP Service pack 2 in the "Add/Remove" programs section.

I have tested this process on a "test" laptop running XP SP1 Professional and had no problems un-installing, or with using the laptop after the XP SP2 un-installation.

# Is SP2 one big fix or are there features that could be downloaded separately or exclusively?

XP SP2 is different to XP SP1 because it is not just a collection of security updates and minor fixes.

XP SP2 goes far beyond a typical Service Pack and introduces features that are NOT available as a single download.


The new Security Centre
The new Windows Firewall
The updated Windows Movie Maker 2.1
Internet Explorer Add-on Management tool
Pop up blocker in Internet Explorer
Boot time security
Execution Protection that stops malicious code running

and a few more....

More reasons why you should upgrade:

# If I didn't get SP2 would that cause me problems in obtaining or applying future Critical Updates from Windows? (Automatic Update is turned off by choice)

Not initially, however there may come a time when Microsoft may stop updates unless you have XP SP2 installed.

Besides... you will be missing out on some great new features!

See the Top 10 at:

# Why should I not install the early version of xp2 update? I already have it, I just have not gotten around to installing it yet.

The early update you are referring to is a "Beta" version of the service pack and is NOT the same as the "Final" release now available.

Please use the version now available!

Order Windows XP SP2 on a FREE CD from Microsoft

# After I install SP2 can I still disable Windows Firewall as I think I would prefer to use Norton. I have read that you should not have two Firewalls running at the same time.

Yes you can. Microsoft have provided the facility to both "turn off" the Windows Firewall and the messages that "nag" you to turn on the Windows Firewall.

However XP SP2 should detect Norton's firewall on installation so there should be no need to disable Windows Firewall.

# I hear that XP SP2 is a 200Mb download.. Is that true?

Not quite...

The Network Installation is around 266Mb, however this contains ALL the files required to install XP SP2.

Many readers will have already many of SP1 and later security updates installed on their computers so the installation for them will be far, far smaller!

Order Windows XP SP2 on a FREE CD from Microsoft 

# It is being reported that some software will not work with Windows XP SP2 installed, is this true.

Yes there are some programs that will have problems. Microsoft have released a support article on this topic:

By default, the new Windows Firewall is enabled and this blocks unsolicited connections to your computer. This article shows you how to resolve the situation if you find yourself with a program that will not work.

There is also a separate article on the new Windows Firewall that readers may find helpful at:

If you are still having problems then you can contact Microsoft Support via:

But for the majority of users you will never know the Windows Firewall is up and running...

# My work colleague installed the Windows XP SP2 and then suffered problems starting her computer. Will this happen to me?

There are some instances where this can happen. This is due to a conflict with the hardware on some computers and can resolved by installing a small piece of software called a BIOS update.

Microsoft have issued a support article on this issue, please read:




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Marc Liron

Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP





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