Windows XP SP2 – get it when it’s out

I’ve been beta testing Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) for the past six months. With over 600,000 people involved in this beta programme, SP2 will probably be the most widely tested software program ever.

A few days ago, Microsoft released another build (2162) of SP2 beta to testers. This will probably be the final test build before the product goes to manufacturing and then to public release sometime in August. I haven’t installed that yet; still running the 2149 test build.

In my testing of SP2 beta, I’ve been focusing mostly on how Windows XP works with SP2 installed, any issues with networking (in particular, wireless networking) and how other programs behave.

While the biggest focus on SP2 is on its improved security features – and they are very good indeed, especially the greatly-improved firewall and the new security centre dashboard – I think you do need to pay attention to potential issues with your installed applications in deciding how (not if) to upgrade.

In a home or small-office environment, it’s probably easier to deal with application conflicts where you’re likely to have a relatively simple set up compared to, say, a large enterprise where you might be running ERP, CRM and other mainstream business software. Actually, the only program I have that has had problems with SP2 beta is Paint Shop Pro version 8.10: it kept freezing or crashing after I installed SP2 beta builds. I resolved those by uninstalling and reinstalling Paint Shop Pro (each time I installed a new build: a bit of a pain). I suspect that may be what you’ll need to do with other application conflicts if the software publishers don’t release any SP2 compatibility fixes.

But these problems are pretty minor in my experience so far. The only other issue I’ve had is with the display driver on the Toshiba laptop I’m testing SP2 on: the driver with the beta resulted in a 12-pixel-wide black stripe on the right of the screen. Resolved by rolling back the driver to the original Toshiba one. I hope that’s fixed by the time SP2 is released.

Should you upgrade to SP2 when it’s out? Definitely, and especially because of the greatly improved security features.

More info about Windows XP SP2: