Dave, for the last few months I’ve carefully avoided installing Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (aka “SP2”) because I kept hearing about all sorts of problems that arose after people had installed SP2 on their WinXP systems. I’m a busy guy and don’t have time for a computer to go south, but I feel like I should make this upgrade anyway. My question to you: is there some specific sequence of tasks that would maximize my chances of success with the Windows XP Service Pack 2 upgrade?
Your timing is very good because just this afternoon I had a superb article cross my electronic desk on just this subject, from my friends and colleagues at the Internet Tourbus. With their kind permission, I am republishing their entire article here, and think you’ll find it a straightforward tutorial on installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 with the best possible results!
How to Safely upgrade to Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2
Well, I guess it’s time to finally upgrade to Windows XP Service Pack 2. Here’s how to do it safely:
1. Get a copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2 on a CD-ROM.
Trust me on this one, folks: XP SP2 is so large that you don’t want to try to download it over even the fastest Internet connection. Besides, when your computer crashes sometime in the future and you have to reinstall Windows, having XP SP2 on CD-ROM will speed your recovery process.
How can you get XP SP2 on CD-ROM? Well, go to the computer section of your nearest big box retailer and ask for a copy. Microsoft shipped massive amounts of free XP SP2 CD-ROMs to Circuit City, Best Buy, and places like that. All you have to do is ask.
If you can’t find a copy of XP SP2 in your local tech store or, even worse, if your local tech store tries to sell it to you [something that happened to at least one Best Buy customer in the Chicago area a few weeks ago], hop on over to Microsoft’s site and order the XP SP2 CD-ROM directly from Microsoft. Free.
If you have a fast network connection, I actually recommend that you go ahead and try downloading the SP2 package for yourself. If it works, simply burn it to a CDROM disk. — DaveT
2. Once you have the XP SP2 CD-ROM, scan your computer for viruses
Personal experience shows that unwanted stuff on your computer like viruses or spyware [see step 3] can wreck havoc on ANY software installation, especially a major operating system upgrade. And while you may think your current antivirus software is doing a good job of scanning your computer for and protecting your computer from viruses, over 60% of broadband users aren’t running the latest version of their antivirus program. [ref]
So, just to be extra safe, before you even THINK about putting that XP SP2 CD-ROM into your CD-ROM drive, let’s have Symantec scan your PC for viruses online. Open Internet Explorer and go to Symantec Security Check. (Unfortunately, Symantec’s free online virus checker only works in Internet Explorer)
When the page loads, click on the orange Go button. This opens a pop-up window. Click on the red Start button under Virus Detection to start the virus scan. You’ll be asked if you want to install and run three small plug-ins. Click Yes all three times.
The scan will take a while, but it is well worth the wait. If Symantec says your virus status is safe, continue on to step three. But, if Symantec finds a problem, expect to spend a lot of time downloading the appropriate removal tools.
Spyware seems to be the number one cause of problems when upgrading to XP SP2. So, in addition to scanning your computer for viruses, you also need to scan it for spyware. But you need to make sure you are using the latest version of your antispyware program when you do this.
How? Well, in Spybot Search & Destroy, go to Help > About. There you’ll see the version number. The latest version of Spybot is 1.3. If you have an older version, head on over to the Spybot site and download the latest version.
If you have AdAware, look in the bottom right corner of the AdAware screen. If you don’t see "AdAware SE Personal, Build 1.05," you don’t have the latest version and you’ll need to download a new copy.
Once you have the latest version of your antispyware program, check for updates and then scan your computer. If you find any spyware, nuke it.
4. Update your software firewall
If you are running a software firewall like ZoneAlarm or Sygate Personal Firewall, you may need to update your software firewall so that it will fully work with Windows XP SP2. This usually involves downloading a simple patch that you can get from your software firewall’s manufacturer’s website.
5. Get the latest PC manufacturer updates for your computer
If you have a name-brand computer, check the manufacturer’s web site and download any software or driver updates they recommend. For example, Dell recommends that its users update their BIOS before upgrading to XP SP2.
For a list of the XP SP2 upgrade sites for most of the major PC manufacturers, check out Microsoft’s site
If you can’t find your computer manufacturer’s web site, call the company or store that sold you your computer and ask them if they know of any issues with upgrading your make and model of computer to XP SP2. By waiting to install XP SP2 until today, you’ve given the folks in tech support enough time to figure out what computers upgrade well and what computers have issues.
6. Backup any files you cannot live without
If media and blog reports are any indication, you should be able to upgrade to XP SP2 without any major problems. But sometimes things go awry. That’s life.
Just to be extra safe, make sure to copy ALL of the important stuff on your computer to a CD-ROM, DVD, thumb drive, external hard drive, or whatever. You can never have too many backups.
In particular, make sure to backup your:
- Bank records and other financial information
- Digital photographs
- Software you purchased and downloaded from the Internet
- Software you didn’t purchase but still download from the Internet
- Your illegal MP3s and legal iTunes files
- Personal projects and other "My Documents" stuff
- Your e-mail address book and calendar
- Your enemies list
- Your browser’s bookmarks or favorites list
Again, you’ll probably not need this backup. But you can never be too safe.
7. Make a system restore point
Yeah, I know. The XP SP2 installer does this for you automatically. Do it by hand just in case.
- Go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore.
- Choose Create a restore point.
- Click Next.
- In the Restore Point Description box, type something long and descriptive [like "18 November 2004 – Before I installed XP SP2"]
- Click Create.
- Once the restore point has been created, click Close.
No, I don’t mean go back to step one. I mean restart your computer. It’s usually a good idea to flush the decks, so to speak, before you install any major program or operating system upgrade on your computer.
Wait at least five minutes after you restart your computer before you proceed. That just gives all of those icons down in your task bar plenty of time to load and call home for updates.
You might also want to disable your antivirus program, but that’s completely up to you. [I accidentally installed XP SP2 without first turning off my antivirus and nothing bad happ&%$()**NO CARRIER**]
9. Find a local guru
Step nine is probably the hardest step of them all.
If you follow steps one through eight, step nine is probably completely unnecessary. But, sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes, although not often, XP SP2 installations go horribly awry. If that happens, you’re going to want to talk to someone who can help you un-kludge your computer.
You are always welcome to send me email asking for assistance, but I have to warn you that I get so much email that it is almost impossible for me to keep up. If your computer goes kersplat during the XP SP2 installation process, you’re probably going to want to speak to someone who can help you fix your computer in minutes not weeks. Hence my recommendation that you find a local guru who can help you if anything goes awry.
Again, if you follow steps one through eight, finding a local guru is probably completely unnecessary. But, as I have said throughout today’s post, you can never be too safe.
10. Install XP SP2
You’ve prepped your system. You found a local guru who can help you if things go wrong. Now it’s time to install XP SP2. Pop the CD-ROM into your CD-ROM drive and follow the on-screen prompts.
No, really. That’s it. Pretty anticlimactic, isn’t it?
Once the upgrade is done, you’ll be asked to restart your computer.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Windows XP Service Pack 2.
11. Run Windows Update
After you have successfully installed XP SP2, immediately run Windows Update. There have been more than a few critical updates released since your XP SP2 disc was pressed, and you need to download those updates to ensure your computer is fully protected from the internet nasties.
12. Tweak XP SP2
Finally, after you’ve installed XP SP2 and run Windows Update, point your favorite web browser to XP SP2 Installed Info. This page contains dozens of handouts and videos covering topics such as configuring Internet Explorer’s new pop-up blocker, using the new Windows Security Center, and so on. Plan on spending a little time here getting acquainted with the new security features in XP SP2.
Troubleshooting XP SP2
What if the XP SP2 installation doesn’t go so smoothly on your computer? As I hinted at earlier, that’s what the local guru is for.
But, if you want to try to fix things yourself, check out http://support.microsoft.com/xpsp2getinstall. This page has links to some of the more popular Microsoft Knowledge Base articles to help you diagnose and fix the most common XP SP2 setup and installation issues. If that doesn’t help, try a Google search. Chances are you aren’t the first person to have this problem.
And, if push comes to shove, you can always uninstall XP SP2 and roll back your system to that restore point you created back in step seven. You can find the instructions on how to do this at Microsoft’s help site.
I hope this helps!