You can access the script to block SP2 here.

When you get Windows XP Service Pack 2


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You may have heard about Windows XP Service Pack 2 (“SP2”) that Microsoft has released in August. It’s been getting a bit of ink lately, even in the popular press. This really is something BIG representing a major reconfiguration of how Windows works internally. SP2 is primarily an overall security update and does not affect the appearance of or how you use Windows ... but ... .

That’s a big “but” because you may find that some of your programs can’t perform some functions any more. No one can test every program in every situation to see how they’re affected. Any program that was written to properly take advantage of the features and environment of Win2x (Windows 2000 or WindowsXP) and with appropriate consideration of the security climate of the past couple years shouldn’t have any problems. But all the programs that can claim to be so well written would probably fit on a small bookshelf.

An egregious example I encounter regularly are the “Quick-“ products from Intuit. I have too many clients using an administrator account in Windows because Quickbooks will not function otherwise. These programs make modifications in what should be a restricted area, except there were no restrictions in Win9x and they haven’t updated how the program works since businesses started using NT4 in the late ‘90s.

What will SP2 break?

SP2 implements the Windows Firewall and severely restricts any program that wants to communicate. This is not just Internet Explorer and other viruses. Think of all the programs you have that download information off the web or update the program automatically. The first time they try to do their thing, Windows will stop them and ask if this is alright. You have to make the decision whether this is a legitimate request and whether you want to permit this program all the time. This action is similar to the software firewall you’re already using. Naturally, you know what program you’re using now and can permit it, but what about the request you get from CCapp while you’re in the middle of working on a spreadsheet. That’s obviously a virus, right? No, CCapp is the base program of Norton Antivirus. You can read about how Windows Firewall will affect you at (175 KB Word document)

The firewall is a feature anyone who uses Zone Alarm or other commercial firewall is familiar with, but there are components of SP2 beyond my understanding that will also affect some programs. Microsoft set the defaults for XP low to be sure everything would work and got slammed for releasing a piece of Swiss cheese. Now SP2 will fill in many of those holes, but we’ll have to open them back up ourselves to keep the sloppy applications running.

It’s not just coming, it’s here!

As of August 18, SP2 is being distributed via Automatic Updates to users with Windows XP Home. Users with XP Professional will start getting it later (tentatively announced for August 25). This means if you followed Microsoft’s instructions and turned on Automatic Updates, it will be rolled out to your computer over the next few weeks. The whole package can be 200 MB but AU can determine exactly what pieces you need and will pull it down to your computer piecemeal over time until it’s complete.

If you don’t want to be a guinea pig and would rather wait until there’s some feedback, you can temporarily block the download of SP2 to your system. Microsoft has provided a couple methods at, but the easiest way is to click the link from this page. That gives a 4-month reprieve. In December, Automatic Updates will install SP2 on your system anyway, unless Microsoft changes their mind again. Using this utility is absolutely benign to your computer and will not affect or break anything except the installation of SP2 through AU. The link is repetitively reversible.

My recommendations

Most likely, SP2 will not have any significant adverse impact on you unless you play multiplayer games; use obscure, narrow-market software; or run any type of server such as P2P file sharing. If, however, you’re like me and just don’t like someone else making your changes for you, you can use the tools above to delay SP2 until you’re ready. Once there’s sufficient feedback that you’re comfortable getting the update, you can turn off the blocking or manually install SP2. Just remember, if you don’t accept Automatic Updates, the download will not run in the background and you’ll either have to attend the entire session or order a CD from Microsoft.

Of course, you’ve been doing this anyway; but you should update any program (such as antivirus) that has free online updates and back up your critical data before installing SP2.


Collected links




Turn off SP2 Automatic Update --BLOCKED


Turn on SP2 Automatic Update – ALLOW


Microsoft SP2 Support Center;EN-US;windowsxpsp2


Selected documentation from Microsoft site

175 KB Word document

Microsoft details for turning off Automatic Updates


This document

45 KB Word document

Download SP2 now

275 MB

Free viewer to read Word documents without Word



As of this writing (8/19/04), I have not installed SP2. This is only a retelling of what I read and learned from seminars. Like just about everything on the internet, if you follow these instructions and bugger up your computer, don’t come to me to help you out of it.


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Last updated Tuesday, August 24, 2004 05:12 PM