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Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) – Should I Install it?

Update: Since writing this article XP SP2 has come out and done quite
well in the field. I now do recommend installing it. Read my new article
Will SP2 Crash my machine?” for
suggestions on how best to prepare for installing Windows XP Service Pack 2. – September 13, 2004

Windows XP SP2 is nearing completion as this article is being written.
Pre-release versions are available for download and testing.

The question is, should you?

My advice? Wait. Even after it’s been released, give it a little time.

I’ll tell you why …

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The pre-release XP SP2 download site has this

WARNING! This technical preview is unsupported and is intended for
testing purposes only. Do not use in production environments.

Granted, that’s Microsoft covering their corporate fanny. But still,
that warning should be enough to let you know that SP2 isn’t ready for prime
time. Unless you’re in a position to re-install your system when you uncover
some fatal flaw in SP2, it’s clear you should wait.

But what about after it releases?

Windows XP Service Pack 2 promises several important security related
updates. Microsoft’s provided several pages detailing
the changes
. Of particular interest are changes to Internet Explorer,
Outlook Express, Windows Messaging Service, as well as changes throughout the
system, all focussed on increased security.

What this means is that there are some fundamental changes going on –
changes that could affect daily usage of the system.

Unless I discover a specific need for it, I plan to let SP2 “mature” in the
field before I install it myself. I do that for two reasons: first, any
additional bugs that will naturally be found from a mass deployment should
become known, and workarounds or fixes made available. Second, because of the
nature of the security changes happening in this service pack, I’m concerned
that usage scenarios I care about might be affected. I’d let the
ramifications be better understood before I take the leap.

So I suggest you do the same, for now. How long? I’d wait anywhere from a
week to a month after its release before installing SP2. And even then I’d
pay particular attention to news and information about how SP2 is actually
behaving in the field.

Return here, and I’ll let you know when I’ve installed it, and any
important ramifications I end up caring about.

Update: Since writing this article XP SP2 has come out and done quite well in the field. I now do recommend installing it. Read my new article
Will SP2 Crash my machine?” for
suggestions on how best to prepare for installing Windows XP Service Pack 2. – September 13, 2004

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49 comments on “Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) – Should I Install it?”

  1. Not only won’t I install service pack 2, I won’t install service pack 1. The last two times I tried, it crashed my system. Dell recommends I not try again.
    I’ve tried to find out why this happens and end up lost in MS Land.

  2. Any software that has not been released as final has a warning like that. I have heard of any major problems and it has worked perfectly on all my systems. As far as problems on a Dell, well the problem is it’s a Dell….

  3. In Dell’s defense, I run Dell exclusively and have for years. VERY happy with them.

    The whole point about that warning is exactly the scenario you describe. SP2 will work great for many people, and not at all for others. That’s the risk of installing Beta software. If you want to take the risk … go for it – your experience, if reported back to Microsoft, may help them nail down issues for all of us.

  4. I’m Deffinitley waiting before I install XP SP2. If there is one thing I did learn from software patchs is that Learn from other peoples mistakes. I’m Deffinitley testing the patchs and find compatibility issues with certain Third party software applications.

  5. I installed SP2 on my prescot 3ghz machine, after rebooting Xp freezed at the loading screen.I reinstalled Win xp and after doing the windows live update (sp2) it did the same thing, it crashed!!!!!!!! Recovery console can’t help me,i’ve tried everything.I’m seriously pissed off with Microsoft.

  6. Installed on a system I have been using to edit video for over a year with not a problem. (NO not a Dell) Installed SP2 & now, no modem, other goofy stuff. Scared to death to see what else will go wrong tomorrow. Seems like every time I reboot, something else goes wrong. Least they could do is make it so we can uninstall the %$#*& thing. What good is system restore if it won’t fix microsofts screw ups. I never had a security problem at all, never got a virus or anything. Looking at MACS!!

  7. Today I installed SP2, on XP pro. The behaviour of my system has changed
    1.The taskbar does not apear at all.
    2. The network connection is gone and the system runs slow & it pauses for some minutes.
    It’ pain to work with SP2 now.

    I rolled backed to SP1.


  8. I have a Dell, installed SP2 had more than a few issues. Dell customer no-support could not give me a technitian that had much training. I restored my system to the day before SP2 installation and everything came back.

  9. I installed SP2 (not Beta) on XP Pro running IIS and wow.. I can’t believe how Microsoft continues to %^%$ up. I can’t click and drag any icons, no network, admin consol won’t work, properties dialogs won’t pop-up, AND the system restore won’t do a roll back.. I’m going to have to wipe it. *Ef* you Bill.

  10. Installed SP2 and my modem disappeared. Numerous reattempts to re-install which seemed to get stuck in a loop. Luckily system restore worked and I’m back on sp1 and modem re-installed no problem. No it’s not a dell machine. Thanks Microsoft – it took 7 hours to download sp2 on dial-up.

  11. I installed sp2 on my machine and it is crap!my system crashed an refused to boot into windows xp.the taskbar also freezes!its crap!DONT INSTALL IT!!!SoUtH AfRiCa RuLE!!

  12. Thanks Microsoft for nothing. After Installing SP2 to my computer HP Pavillion A287X I found that the System Restore does not work, also the machine is very slow.

  13. I installed XP sp2 and had NO problems whatsoever. And Yes, I’m running a Dell. But I also have a Toshiba laptop and had no problems on it either. All software is running fine on both machines.

  14. I am currently trying to salvage a Dell Inspiron. Customer installed SP2 and laptop would not boot. System restore broke. Outlook and IE hosed. Can’t view Services. What fun. you have about an 805 chance of installing this Service Pack without major issues based on my experience. Pary that system Restore functions so you can back up if you are among the 20%.

  15. i thought sp2 is a gr8 fix for winxp pro but it turned out to be fake, after installing sp2 my machine didnt boot at all !! where my Redhat linux was working normally. by this disaster i reinstall’d my entire winxp & linux again which was a big pain in A**. thanks for SP2 microsoft (%#$!@#$~).

  16. If you have a prescott CPU and can not boot, you need to update your bios to the new microcode. Then it will boot and run properly.

  17. Installed SP2 on a Dell (Dimension 4600); it didn’t stop, but rather crashed (blue screen) every 5 minutes or so with a “driver error.” It currently has all the latest drivers installed, latest BIOS, no spyware, updated antivirus, etc., etc.; I uninstalled SP2 and the problem went away. Hmm. I wonder what the problem was…

  18. i installed SP2 on my new Sony laptop and old desktop pc and desktop pc just won’t boot .Laptop is fine . I red in PC world that it might be a problem with the third party firewall ,spacificly Zone Alarm.I unistalled SP2 and did system restore – nothing helped…i think i need to reinstall the whole system and check microsoft compatability page

  19. I have not downloaded SP2 yet and I am wondering if I need to. I have Zone Alarm Pro Firewall, CA Ez Antivirus as well as Spy Sweeper already installed on my PC. I have email protection from both the firewall and Antivirus as well as pop up blocking etc. What else will SP2 do for me? In addition, if I do download SP2, will it conflict with the other external software doing the same things?

  20. Installed sp2 on a new computer this month, xp home edition. After installing sp2 my new computer wouldn’t boot. NON SYS disk error. Hard drive fried. Was completely fine with no problems before sp 2. Couldn’t do a restore, couldn’t get anywhere. My advice is to certainly NOT install this unless you have a back up plan of some sort.

  21. I am a PC Tech and Service Pack 2 definitely affects .net passport info and such. I have a client’s PC which works fine w/o SP2, but as soon as it’s installed, we cannot connect to the net (using MSN). Still haven’t found a solution, so I’m following the advice above and waiting a month or two to see what Microsoft finds inside this beast…

  22. i downloaded and installed SP2. immediately after i did, the problem of my IE browser having to close when i would go from one site on the net to another was fixed. however, i also began having problems with my connection speeds. occasionally i would connect at 49kbs on my dialup. but most of the time i would connect at 31. should i reinstall sp2? if so, how? and is there a way to solve the problem of dropping my connection speed?

  23. Windows XP should have no real effect on your dialup connection speed. That’s more typically a function of the quality of your phone line or any noise thereon.

  24. I took my computer to the shop for some upgrades.
    I asked the service tech to install the sp2 cd (I had ordered it from microsoft). He said he installed it from the internet instead….is there any way I can tell if sp2 is installed on my system?

  25. I installed sp2 recently and immediatly after the installation my internet/network access refused to work properly it seemed to cut out as in work for a second then stop, and the worst thing is that fro some reason after i un-installed it, my computer kept the sp2 windows update menu and tries to re-install sp2 every morning at 5am

  26. Installed XP SP2 and it works fine with one exception. I run V-COM’s CD Anywhere, a program that creates image files of data CD’s and lets you assign the image to any of 23 virtual cd drives. The program no longer works, V-Com has pulled it from the market because MS has no solution. Just spent 1 hour on the MS chat line and they gave up saying it was a 3rd party software and they have no fix.


  28. Can’t download Win Service Pack 2 for some reason and couldn’t even install it from a disc. Now I can’t join a flight sim 2002 game since trying to get SP2. Can anyone help. Using XP PRO.



  29. I can’t believe that Microsoft has released Service Pack 2, and that it prompts you to download it automatically. If you don’t have a brand new computer that came with Windows XP with SP2 included, DON’T INSTALL IT. Last year, before I got a new notebook pc, I tried installing SP2 hundreds of times. Every time I installed it, I had to whipe off my entire hard drive and go back to XP without SP2. I just gave up on installing it on my desktop, because it royally screws up the whole thing. Nothing is wrong with that computer. The only thing that is wrong is Service Pack 2. I definitely do not recommend installing it on computers made before late 2004. It either works, or it completely screws up the computer that it’s installed on.

  30. I recently installed XP SP2, had many problems, and have spent almost 2 weeks on phone with Adelphia techs (who were excellent by the way) since they thought it might be something to do with their Freedom software.

    But anyway my search does not work, Outlook does not work, links in emails don’t work. This is first time in 11 years of home computing that I have ever had a problem. Adelphia found out that some files have been corrupted and I will have to reformat my drive and do a destructive restore.

    Why in heavens name can’t Microsoft get their act together. This is disgraceful!

  31. I installed SP2 and it made my computer crash and very sluggish. It is the only update I won’t install. I think I am better off with my own virus scanner, spyware, and firewall.

  32. I installed service pack 2 and now my laptop refuses to recognise the in-built speakers. It only allows me to select blue tooth speakers, which considering i only have a blue tooth dongle and that wasn’t attached when i installed sp2 is rather odd. Any idea of how to get it to recognise the inbuilt speakers and hence get them to appear on the drop-down audio menu?

  33. After installation of Windows XP SP2, the computer (Compaq Presario laptop R300) could not boot. Restarted in safe mode and went back to yesterday’s restore point, and at the moment all seems to be well.

  34. I upgraded to sp2 and my computer was moving ok for 2wks then over the weekend i get the dreaded (BLUE SCREEN) tell me there is some error with the win32k.sys file then it restarted, then i logged in only for the (BLUE SCREEN ) to come of aain saying Bad_pool_area error so ir restarted again , to my surprise after the windows logo shows for the log on screen to come up the monitor goes blank,i tried restarting a million times but have to be running in safe mode. What do anyone suggest i do?

  35. I installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 for the Home Edition. I got greedy and decided I wanted to install the Windows Professional embedded Service Pack 2. To my horror, alot of my programs are no longer functional. My computer is sluggish, and the security has gone downhill. Where I had no invasions of viruss, or warnings, ever since the install, I’ve had nothing but problems Galore. I agree about MIcros*it. They Monopolize the market with their junk software updates, and then take no responsibility when their software kills our computers. I”ve got a serious hate on for Micros*it. And I’d like to thank them for destroying thousands of dollars of software.

  36. What a mess! Search doesn’t work. The debugger in Visual Interdev doesn’t work. The computer isn’t recognized by MS software on the network (e.g., Windows Explorer, though ping, tracert work fine). I’ve spent days fixing or working around problem after problem. Back to W2K Pro! XP was bad (I was on SP1), but this is a disaster. I thought by waiting long enough, most problems would be fixed. Wrong.

  37. Is there any difference between “Windows Xp Sp2” and “Windows Xp Embedded Sp2”. I am not getting Drivers for Windows Xp Sp2.

  38. I have never had a probelm yet with SP2 I just installed it about a month ago and I haven’t experienced any problems. All my programs work correctly, emails same, no crashes yet… Guess I was the pick of the bunch to have had a good experience with SP2. If anything it fixed my computer, I was having a wierd startup problem before with XP pro, now SP2 somehow fixed it and I haven’t see it happen since. My opinion, install it.

    Remeber, if its a computer error, it is always human error(directed towards designers and users).


  39. i install service pack 2 on my PC (winxp pro) it went well, but after it reboot it just freeze like a block of ice.. i think it doesnt like my PC.. i need help install it :s

  40. In installed Service Pak2 1 year ago and my entire computer crashed. It was horrible. I never did it again. Then eveyone kept telling me that I really ought to update the security features that Microsoft had fixed the problem and silly me, I went and updated again. Sure enough, three days later my entire computer went down with the “blue screen of death” and I had to start completely over installing XP and every program my business and personal life used. It took me an entire week to get functioning. I will never do it again.

    Now I have a friend with two computers that kepts slowing down until he couldn’t do anything. I uninstalled the Service Pack2 on one and low and behold, his computer began functioning. He had his computer set for automatic updates. He has learned now to ignor updates from MIcrosoft until they are proven.

  41. I installed Windows XP Pro SP2 and now my computer won’t run full screen applications. Do you know if it is a security issue? or how i can make them work?

  42. i wish anyone can send me the difference between windows xp home edition an service pack 2
    alsooo i would be greatful if anyone knows if i can add arabic language to the pc without using the xp cd as i dont have it right now
    thanks in advance

  43. I just recently moved to a new apartment, and prior to the move, I was able to hear all sounds on my computer and was able to play and record music. The whole problem is that I can’t hear anything on my computer since I moved, and I have unhooked all my cables and re-hooked them. I already had SP2 installed, and my computer was working fine. No problems. I’ve done everything I can think of except to re-install my Windows XP, and I really don’t want to do that. Any suggestions? I want to take some online college courses, but I can’t hear anything and don’t have a lot of money to spend getting the computer fixed.

  44. help me plzs my laptop tell me i got or something i m not sure what it is k all i know it said 2005 express edition service pack 2 mirco soft sql kb921896 do i need it or what ? can u plzs tell me and help me ty


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