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Part 4: Appendixes > Before You Install

H.1. Before You Install

Installing a Service Pack is easy enough—run Windows Update (which downloads and installs the Pack) or run the update from a Microsoft-supplied CD, then kick back with a good book. (If you’re managing a bunch of networked PCs, you don’t have to download the Service Pack for each system; instead, you can download a single network version that can update multiple computers on your network.) The process is automatic, if lengthy. But before you install anything, prepare your system. Service Pack 2, for example, includes hundreds of bug fixes, security patches, and a liberal collection of new features, many aimed at making XP a more secure platform. That’s laudable, but tweaking an OS to this extent can raise hell (the technical term) with your applications and peripherals. Older applications and hardware may refuse to run or run erratically; in extreme cases, your PC may not boot up. Many commercial software vendors usually have updates ready when a Service Pack is released; hardware vendors will likewise provide updated drivers and firmware. Among the problematic products for SP2, for example, are versions of ZoneAlarm, Norton GoBack, WordPerfect, and Microsoft’s own Virtual PC.

Our most important piece of advice when it comes to Service Packs? Wait. Whatever new patches and features a Service Pack offers, you don’t need to install it right now. Wait several weeks until reports from early adopters on software and hardware problems, fresh security holes, and so on, come to light. Even the biggest corporations wait before deploying Service Packs. You should too.


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