Windows XP Service Pack 2

Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) was released on August 6th 2004 and it is the largest update to Windows XP since the original release of Windows XP. SP2 is not immediately available (at this time: August 2004) for download from therefore users will have to download and install the “full” (also called the “Network Install”) of Windows XP Service Pack 2.

It is available from Microsoft at this URL:

This link is for the English version. The file size is approximately 266 MB.

Security Enhancements

The most obvious new security measure is the new “Security Center” which allows users to manage the security setting in Windows.

Windows XP SP2 Service Center
Windows XP SP2 Service Center

Security Center creates a direct link to both the Automatic Updates and the Windows Firewall settings and integrates with third-party antivirus software to alert the user about outdated anti-virus definitions. Users will have to launch the individual third-party programs to change the settings, apply updates, etc.

Security Center runs in the background and displays an icon in the system tray Security Center icon in system tray whenever it detects a security related vulnerability e.g. the anti-virus software has not been updated or the firewall is not configured properly.

Disabling The Security Center

You may wish to disable the security center which always runs on startup on installing SP2. You can disable the Security Center by :

  • Go to Start —> Run. In the Run Dialog box, type “services.msc”
  • In the Services dialog box, select “Security Center” by double clicking on it.
  • Close the Service Center by selecting “Stop” under the “Service Status:” text ; the “Service status:” text should change from “Running” to “Stopped”
  • In the “Startup type” drop-down option, change it from “Automatic” to “Disabled”
  • Select Apply, and reboot for the changes to take effect

The firewall

The Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) was difficult to access in earlier versions of Windows XP but the new version has been renamed “Windows Firewall” and is part of the “Security Center”.

  • It offers more configuration options: e.g. the ability to block applications from receiving data over insecure networks e.g. wireless hotspots.
  • It can block incoming probes and attacks from the Internet, but it can not block programs on the hard drive from sending data out to the Internet.

Automatic updates

  • In the past, the automatic updates feature would only install critical patches. In a system upgraded with Service Pack 2, automatic update will install critical and security patches.
  • If the download of a critical or security patch is interrupted, Windows Update will restart the download at the point where the interruption occurred.
  • When the user tries to shutdown the machine, Windows XP will offer to install all updates that have been downloaded but not installed. The user can choose to install the patches at that time or continue shutting down the machine.

Internet Explorer

The following upgrades have been made to Internet Explorer:

  • Blocking pop-up and pop-under advertisements.
  • View blocked pop-ups via an Information Bar.
  • Disable unwanted browser plug-ins.

Outlook Express

The following upgrades have been made to Outlook Express:

  • Safe Attachment Execution Service: prevents users from running dangerous file types that were downloaded via a Web browser, received as an attachment to an e-mail or an instant message.
  • Dangerous attachment alert: Outlook Express will issue a warning message about the danger of downloading an attachment that the service considers unsafe.
  • Hard-blocking of files: if the user overrides the first warning message, Outlook Express will store the file on the hard drive in “hard-blocked” mode. The user will have to open the Properties dialog box for the program, click on the Advanced Properties tab and click the button labeled Unblock.

Wireless Improvements

Service Pack 2 contains the following improvements for wireless access:

  • A new Wireless Network Connection applet. To access this applet: right click on the system tray icon for the wireless adapter and choose View available wireless networks.
  • A new Wireless Network Setup Wizard. One of the features of this Wizard is the ability to copy wireless settings from one PC to another using USB “thumb” or “flash” drives.
  • Bluetooth Client 2.0. The client has a wizard for finding and configuring Bluetooth devices, a tray icon to access the Client and monitor connected Bluetooth devices and allows the user to choose a passkey for any connected Bluetooth device. This feature restricts the device so that it can only communicate with that particular computer.
  • The Bluetooth tray icon allows the user to: launch the Bluetooth Devices Control Panel applet; send and receive files with Bluetooth-compatible devices; share files on Bluetooth-based Personal Area Networks (PANs); “suspend” individual Bluetooth devices to conserve power consumption.

General Improvements

Many of the enhancements and bug fixes were made to the system files so they are not visible to end users. Examples include: better control of Remote Procedure Call (RPC) and Distributed Common Oject Model (DCOM) and improved protection against buffer-overrun exploits.

A full list of the Knowledge Base articles that describe the fixes/updates contained in Service Pack 2 (SP2) can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article number 811113. The information in the Knowledge Base Article is applicable to the following operating systems:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 (SP2)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005

Updating Windows XP

Service Pack 2 will update a Windows XP system and bring it up to SP2 standard even if the machine has never received a Windows update since its original installation. Service Pack 2 includes all updates from Service Pack 1 as well as all security patches up to patch number: MS04-025.

Microsoft claims it has done extensive testing on several computer configurations in order to ensure that SP2 will not cause major problems. However, it is impossible to predict how SP2 will affect any given computer. Users who wish to upgrade Windows XP with SP2 should take the following precautions before installing the update:

    • Back up critical files especially data files.
    • Create a System Restore point. (See Windows Help for further information)
    • The actual upgrade can take anywhere from 30 mins to 45 mins depending on the state of the individual computer.


Programs with SP2 compatibility problems


  • These problems may or may not occur.
  • The software vendor(s)/manufacturer(s) may have already resolved these issues.
  • Check the software vendor/manufacturer’s website for further details.
  • Search the Knowledge Base for information related to the program with the problem.

According to the Knowledge Base Article many of the problems are caused by the increased security features implemented by Service Pack 2 especially the Windows Firewall.

Here is a partial list of some popular programs that may be affected by Service Pack 2:

  • Nero 6 Ultra ver. 6
  • Nero Burning ROM 5.5.6
  • Unreal II ver. 1
  • Unreal Tournament 2003 ver 1
  • Unreal Tournament Game of the Year Edition ver 1
  • AutoCAD 2004 2004
  • StarCraft ver. 1.05
  • Starcraft v1.11
  • Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos Collector’s Edition v 1.0
  • WordPerfect Office 11
  • DivxPlayer ver. 2.5.3
  • Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 ver. 1
  • ViaVoice for Windows Personal Edition 10
  • McAfee Internet Security Suite 2004
  • McAfee VirusScan ver. 4.51
  • Microsoft Office 11
  • Microsoft Office Access 2002
  • Microsoft Office System – Power Point
  • Microsoft Office XP Access
  • Microsoft Office XP Professional Excel 10.0 SP2
  • Microsoft Office XP SP2 – PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Office XP Standard
  • Microsoft Outlook 2000
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2003
  • Microsoft Outlook Web Access
  • Microsoft Visual Studio .NET Enterprise 2003
  • Microsoft Word XP
  • Musicmatch Jukebox 8.20.0107
  • UX Theme MultiPatcher ver. 1.5.1
  • Real Player (free version) 10
  • Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
  • Style XP ver.2
  • Yahoo instant Messenger
  • Yahoo Messenger
  • ZoneAlarm 5.0.590

The full list of programs can be found in Knowledge Base Article number 884130:



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