Windows XP Service Pack 3 in Beta Mode

Posted on April 5, 2008. Filed under: Software | Tags: , , , , |

Overview of Windows XP Service Pack 3

Microsoft is going to release a Service Pack for Windows XP in the future. In summary, a service pack or update is a significant upgrade to the security and functionality of a program or operating system. Most home computers, if they have been using the Window Update feature of the Windows XP operating system, will be upgraged (or patched) to Windows XP SP2. With a new service pack soon to be released an overview of the process is in order.

When is it available?

The Service Pack is currently in Beta 2 status as of February, 2008. There currently is no release date at this time.

Why does this matter?

Being prepared for a major service pack release helps my clients focus on best practices and prepare for an update in order to avoid trouble.

What is a Service Pack?

A service pack is a software vendor’s means of upgrading an already existing operating system software or program.

I use Windows Update. Do I need to update to Service Pack 3?

It is recommended that you do. As the attached PDF file outlines there are some technologies used in the O/S itself that are enhanced for changes in the general computing environment.

How do I update?

If you have Window Security Manager, Updates set to the default settings you probably WON’T update to SP 3 when it is deployed. That is because the default settings look for updates at 3:00 AM in the morning when most users do not have their computers on.

In this case a manual update using Windows/Mircosoft Update would be advised.

What is involved in the update process?

Using the manual update process the site will first update your Active X controls and verify your installation of Windows XP. Once this is done the site will work in the background and compare your computer’s O/S setup and current status to the updates available on the site and then create a “shopping list” of updates to apply. It may be possible that you might have to download and install previous updates before the site will let you update to SP 3.

Depending on the configuration and the status of your updates you could expect to attend to your computer for an hour or more depending on the size and number of the total updates required. For instance, if you are still on SP 1 you may have to install SP 2 and then SP 3. If this were the case expect at least 2 hours for the files to download, unpack, and install.

This process is not an unattended process. You may have to reboot your computer several times to have the installed updates apply and repeat the process by going to the Windows Update site and going through this set of step again.

Usually Microsoft releases the service pack on CD or DVD for distribution without having to have access to the internet. This process is usually faster and I will be getting that information once the final version is released and make it available for my clients.

What precautions should I take?

As the Windows XP update process is generally pretty seamless it is still recommended that you do a back up of any important data either on a hard drive partition seperate from the ‘c’ drive or onto a remote drive. If you have a DVD burner you can back up data to a DVD disk.

This is a good time to review your back up and data archiving strategy anyways as all to many people simply do not have any strategy and anytime you touch on an O/S upgrade there is the potential for problems.

Below are the ideal or best practices I would recommend:

  • Check for known issues. You may not want to install SP3 until certain issues are resolved.
  • Create or insure you have the OS Recovery discs. These discs are needed to recover the computer in the event of a system failure. Be sure you have the Windows XP licensing information handy.
  • Apply BIOS updates and all driver patches and updates. The computer should be in top operating condition before doing the update.
  • Scan for viruses. Use security tools to remove viruses, adware, and spyware.
  • Remove all unnecessary files and defrag the hard drive. The update will add additional files and may need some space being wasted by old files.
  • Backup user data. This will prevent the loss of critical data in the event of an installation failure.
  • Disable antivirus software. Temporarily disable the antivirus program before the installation and it will automatically be enabled when the computer restarts.
  • As you can see there are some steps that may need attending. Of note is the need to have a credible and effective back up solution and process in place to help prevent problems.

    I do plan to install the service pack on release and will be able to update you at that time.


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    […] on May 16, 2008. In a previous post I outlined some important things to do BEFORE attempting the installation of the service pack. Good […]

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