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SP2 Update: The Adventure Begins

After monitoring problem reports and fixes associated with the monster Windows XP SP2 update since its debut, I felt the time was right for me to install it last weekend and share my experience with you. If you’re enjoying a good dither about whether to install SP2 or not, click HERE to read Microsoft’s “Top 10 Reasons to Install the SP2 Update.”

What follows is a step-by-step narrative of the SP2-installation process:

I installed SP2 from the free Microsoft CD-ROM. If you haven’t done so, click HERE to order it. Microsoft says it takes four to six weeks to arrive, but I received mine in one week.

The updating process itself is simple and straightforward. The first thing I did was update my SpySweeper anti-spyware and AVG AntiVirus software and run full system scans with both to make sure my computer was squeaky clean. It was. Whew.

I then removed the SP2 CD from its semi-attractive cardboard mailer and inserted it in the CD-drive -- I inserted the CD, not the mailer. After approximately seven minutes of grinding, churning, and wheezing, I turned my attention to the computer. The first message that appeared was “Welcome to the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Setup Wizard.” Kinda made me feel tingly all over.

Included on this first screen is Microsoft’s recommendation that you back up your system and close all open programs. I didn’t back up anything specifically for this SP2 update, but I normally keep backups of any data that I can’t afford to lose anyway, so I just forged ahead and clicked the “Next” button.

Up popped the License Agreement and the options “I Do Not Agree” or “I Agree,” as well as a “Print” button, presumably for insomniacs in dire need of sleep-inducing reading material. I clicked the “I agree” button without reading anything. Why bother reading the License Agreement? If there’s something I don’t agree with, what am I going to do, write Bill Gates a letter? And if I click “I Do Not Agree,” that will toss me out of the SP2 update. So “I agree,” followed by “Next” had a nice ring to it.

The next window is important. The SP2 setup creates a backup of system files so you can uninstall SP2 if you experience problems or flames shoot out of your CD-drive. This screen displays the default location of the Uninstall Folder: C:\WINDOWS\$NtServicePackUninstall$. You can change the location by clicking the Browse button or just accept the default location (which was my choice) and click the “Next” button to continue.

Next up is the “Updating Your System” screen which remains front and center while the setup inspects your computer’s configuration, archives and updates your files. This required approximately 45 minutes. At some point it may appear as if nothing is happening and you may think the update process stalled. Just be patient.

If you previously installed the Startup Monitor program that I recommend, you will be prompted to accept or reject approximately 15 changes to your Startup folder. Because this is the SP2 update, I said “Yes” to all of them. What the heck? If you aren’t using Startup Monitor, Windows will make whatever changes it needs to make.

After I approved changes and updates to the Startup folder, the SP2 “Updating Your System” screen continued to display with the heartening message “Finishing installation. Details: Running processes after install.” This message displayed for approximately six more minutes.

When the Setup Wizard completes its assigned tasks, you will be invited to click a “Finish” button to restart windows, which will actually apply all the changes the Setup Wizard installed. You’ve come this far, so take a deep breath and click the “Finish” button.

Windows will then shut down and with the Good Lord and Mr. Gates’ collective blesslings (not necessarily in that order), Windows will restart. A “Please wait” screen will appear during the restart that I found useful for the anxiety-induced adrenaline rush I crave during software installations. The “Please wait” screen’s appearance is short-lived and after approximately one minute, XP will finish rebooting (restarting.)

Next up is a heartfelt “Thank you for installing Windows XP Service Pack 2” message -- as if we had a choice. I was then invited to turn on the Windows Automatic Updates feature or select “Not right now.” I’m not an enthusiast of Windows Automatic Updates because I don’t want any files or programs installed on my computer without my knowledge and approval. Okay, so maybe I have control issues. Regardless, I clicked “Not right now,” but that was only because “Heck no, and don’t ever ask me again” wasn’t an option.

After making your selection, click the “Next” button located in the lower right-hand corner. The screen will go dark at that point, followed by the word “Welcome.”

The “Windows Security Center” screen then appears and displays your current Firewall, Automatic Updates, and Virus Protection settings. In my case, the firewall is ON, Automatic Updates are OFF, and under Virus Protection, just make sure what appears is accurate for your system. You can click “Check Status” or ignore the setting completely.

When you’re ready to leave the Security Center, click the X in the upper right-hand corner to close the Window and you should be face-to-face, once again, with your Windows Desktop.

Remove the SP2 update CD-ROM from your CD-drive tray, and you’re done! Congratulations!

Just for the fun of it, and because I’m a deeply disturbed individual, I then shut down and restarted XP again, just to make absolutely sure things were working hunky-dorily. Everything was perfect and XP booted uneventfully.

Conclusion: Based on the monitoring I’ve done of the SP2 update situation and now having installed the SP2 update without any difficulties on two of my XP systems, I would suggest that now is as good a time as any to install your SP2 update.

Truth in Updating: There is no guarantee you won’t experience problems installing the SP2 update, but it’s about as “safe” as it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. If you do experience problems, you’re pretty much on your own because any problems you experience will be unique to your computer’s configuration. But if you do experience any problems, click HERE to access Microsoft’s SP2 Support Center. If you experience extreme difficulties, you might want to call Microsoft’s top-level, fee-based ($35) support center at 800-936-5700.

Happy updating!

P.S. If things don’t go well during the installation, click HERE to access Microsoft’s article, “How to Remove the SP2 Update From Your Computer.”

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