Articles are starting to appear in the mainstream media about the imminent release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 – due to be released either today or three weeks from now, depending on which article you read.

This will be a critically important upgrade for all of you, but it will not necessarily be a troublefree one. It will significantly enhance your computer’s ability to resist attacks of many kinds – adware, viruses, and hackers – but it will do that by turning off some services that are also used to deliver rich applications and web sites. It bears repeating:

  • Some programs and web sites will stop working after you install Service Pack 2.

You should be prepared for some disruption, but you should accept that as the price that must be paid for secure computing. Don’t curse your computer, the programs, the web sites, Microsoft, or me. Curse the spammers, the advertisers, the criminals, the hackers, the virus writers – all of the despicable scum who have made this necessary!

If you use the Automatic Updates feature of Windows XP, your computer will download Service Pack 2 in the background whenever you’re online and notify you when you have the whole thing. That promises to be the most efficient way to obtain it for the next couple of months; after that it will be distributed at chain electronic stores and widely available on CD. There are instructions on enabling Automatic Updates in my Rules For Safe Computing.

Microsoft can turn on Automatic Updates with a single click on their web site devoted to computer security. The same site can enable the built-in Windows XP Firewall, but be cautious about that – the firewall currently breaks some desireable traffic on a network. Read my description before you turn it on!

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