A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released an update to Windows XP. The update, Service Pack 2, is designed to close many of the security flaws that have been discovered since XP was released about three years ago.
The update is available as a download from the Microsoft Windows Update Web site, or you may call Microsoft and they will mail you a free CD that has the update. Even if you have a broadband Internet connection, I would encourage you to call the Microsoft SP2 Update Center at 888-772-4357 or order it online, but it may take a few weeks before you receive the CD.
The Microsoft upgrade site usually reports that the size of the download is 75MB. On a 56K dial-up connection you are probably looking at a 5-plus hour download, while a broadband connection may take a half hour. In reality, the download may be as large as 326MB; the version that Microsoft has on their dealer site is a 266MB download.
The upgrade features a better firewall in fact, when it is first installed, you will probably discover that your Internet and possibly your network and printers no longer function. It will be necessary for you to use the new Security Center and tell the firewall what programs can access the Internet and what programs may use your printer or other devices that use a port on your computer.
The firewall also contains a pop-up blocker and offers protection from viruses and Trojans. As in the case of other utilities that Microsoft includes with their products, due to something called a monopoly, they are not as full-featured as the store bought variety. As such, dont toss out the Norton or Zone Alarm just yet, though you may find it necessary to update these and other programs for them to run under SP2.
There are also changes to the way Internet Explorer and Outlook Express handle attachments. Again, you will need to use the Security Center to control attachments. In fact, it appears that for the first couple of weeks after you install the update, you may spend quite a bit of time using the Security Center for the computer to function the way that you want it to.
The update also includes an update to DirectX, the technology used to enable high-speed graphics in video games as well as the Windows sound system. The Windows Media Player has also been updated.
Some of the additions include support for the wireless devices based on Bluetooth technology as well as improved support for other wireless technologies.
Because of the seriousness of some of the security attacks that have happened over the past six months or so, Microsoft is encouraging everyone to be certain that the auto update feature in Windows XP is enabled and that all XP users upgrade to SP2. I can agree with keeping XP updated, but I would advise you to delay installing SP2. Its only been out a few weeks and there have been some reports of compatibility problems.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 243-1162.