From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      Tourbus - 6 Mar 05 - Safely upgrade to Windows XP SP2


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, which should be refrigerated after being opened.

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The deadline for upgrading to Windows XP Service Pack 2 is *rapidly* approaching. So, I thought it would be a good idea to take another look at how to safely make the upgrade so that you computer doesn't fall down and go "BOOM!"

By the way, an abbreviated, HTML-ified version of today's post is available at

and you are more than welcome to forward either that link or today's Tourbus post to whomever you think it may help.

On with the show...

How to safely upgrade to Windows XP SP2 Audience: Every XP user who hasn't yet upgraded to Window XP SP2

If you have Windows XP Home or Professional Editions, I have a favor to ask of you. In XP, go to Start > Run. Type in the word


and then press the enter key on your keyboard. This opens something called "About Windows" that tells you exactly what version of Windows you are running. For example, on my desktop, my "About Windows" screen shows the following:

Microsoft (R) Windows Version 5.1 (Build 2600.xpsp2... : Service Pack 1) Copyright (C) 1981-2001 Microsoft Corporation

I want you to pay particular attention to the end of the second line of text on your "About Windows" screen. If you see the words "Service Pack 2," stop reading. Your version of Windows has already been updated to Windows XP Service Pack 2 [SP2]. There is nothing else you need to do...except, possibly, running Windows Update [in Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Windows Update] just to make sure your computer isn't missing any critical updates released over the past couple of weeks.

However, if the second line of text on your "About Windows" screen *DOESN'T* end with the exact words "Service Pack 2," your life just got a little more complicated.

When Windows XP SP2 was released last August, a lot of respected tech gurus [and some not-so-respected tech guru wannabees like myself] strongly recommended NOT upgrading for a while. In fact, I wrote a Tourbus post last August showing you how to download and install a free Windows XP SP2 blocker program to prevent Microsoft from automatically installing SP onto your computer.

Well, that blocker expires on Tuesday, April 12th. After that date, you're getting Service Pack 2 whether you like it or not. If you have Windows Update set to automatically check for and install any critical updates, Microsoft will automatically install XP SP2 onto your computer sometime after April 12th. And even if you don't use Windows Update's auto ‘call home and download' feature, after April 12th Windows Update will stop working until you download XP SP2. [Updates will still be available, but Microsoft won't let you get them until you first download and install Service Pack 2.] April 12th is pretty much the drop-dead date for Windows XP Service Pack 2 deployment.

And, honestly, that's not a bad thing. While I've yet to upgrade my desktop, my laptop has been running Windows XP SP2 since November with nary a problem. And I'm not alone. Millions of people have safely made the jump to SP2. And XP SP2's built-in security features are so beneficial that there's honestly no legitimate reason for you NOT to upgrade to Service Pack 2.

Reread that last sentence: There's honestly no legitimate reason for you NOT to upgrade to Service Pack 2. Your XP computer NEEDS this upgrade. The real question is whether you want Microsoft to install it for you or if you want to install it yourself. Well, the next six words are the most important six words in this entire post:


There are 12 things you need to do in order to ensure that your computer's upgrade goes as smoothly as possible. The only way you can guarantee that all 12 of these steps are followed, in order, is if you do it yourself. And that's why I sending you this post a full month before Microsoft starts automatically pushing XP Service Pack 2 to your computer.

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, chances are one of your friends or co-workers already has a spare XP SP2 upgrade CD lying around. All you need to do is ask to borrow it. If that doesn't work, go to the computer section of your nearest big box retailer and ask for a free copy. Microsoft shipped massive amounts of free XP SP2 CD-ROMs to Circuit City, Best Buy, Office Depot, and places like that. Again, all you have to do is ask.

If you still can't find a copy of XP SP2 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 Chicago late last year], hop on over to

This page lets you order the XP SP2 CD-ROM directly from Microsoft. Free.

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. [Source: c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs]

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

[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 at

downloading the appropriate removal tools.

3. Scan your computer for spyware and other malware

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

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 at

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

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.

Sloth pays.

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
  • 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 "6 March 2005 – Before I installed XP SP2"]

  • Click Create.
  • Once the restore point has been created, click Close.
  • 8. Restart

    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. I wish I was kidding, but it's now March 6, 2005, and I am currently working on answering the emails sent to me during the week of February 7th...FOUR weeks ago! 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.

    That's it.

    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

    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

    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;en-us;875355

    I hope this helps! That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon.

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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