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Part 4: Appendixes > Getting Service Packs

H.2. Getting Service Packs

All Windows XP Service Packs, without exception, come directly from Microsoft. You might see Packs showing up on third-party sites, but don’t bite—always go straight to the original source. Copies floating around on the Web and on peer-to-peer networks could be tampered with, or contain viruses and Trojan horses. There are several ways to get a Service Pack:

Windows Update

To guarantee you’re getting a finished, ready for prime time version, open up the Start menu and select Windows Update. Windows Update will scan your system and only download the components you need (see Figure H-2). However, be warned: the simplicity of this approach comes at a price. The installation of a Service Pack via Windows Update is more likely to fail than if you download the update manually (see Direct Download/Network Install, below). Plus, after downloading a Service Pack, you won’t be able to choose when to install it; Windows Update will install it the next time you shut down Windows, a process that can tie up your PC for hours.


If you bought a new computer recently, it should have the latest Service Pack already installed. Likewise, if you bought Windows XP off the shelf, chances are it contains all the Service Packs released to date. If Windows Update doesn’t offer you the SP2 download, you’ve already got it.

Direct Download/Network Install

The downloadable release of a Service Pack is aimed at engineers and system administrators who have to install and manage XP on multiple computers, but anyone can use it. This is a somewhat larger download, but it offers a great deal of flexibility. Often available prior to the official public launch, this version helps IT staff and developers discover any bugs or problems that may be in store. This can be a convenient way to install a Service Pack, as it doesn’t rely on the finicky Windows Update feature, and you can install it whenever you like. The Network Install also allows you to install a Service Pack on several machines while only downloading the update once, provided you can distribute the installer over your LAN or copy it via CD. At press time, this IT version of SP2 can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/winxpsp2.mspx.


Stuck with a poky dial-up connection? Want to upgrade several machines? Order a free CD directly from Microsoft. At press time, the SP2 order page was at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/updates/sp2/cdorder/en_us/default.mspx.



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