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Opinion: One Editor's Take on Windows XP SP2

There are numerous stories out there about all the applications Windows XP SP2 breaks. Many shops are putting off the service pack for months until it can be fully tested -- a wise choice.

I didn't want to wait, however, to put it on my main machine. I don't have the kinds of business apps that cause many of the problems, and since I edit a lot of copy that deals with XP SP2, I figured I should load it and see what it can -- and can't -- do.

After backing up my hard drive, I downloaded the update from Microsoft. Holding my breath, I hit the "Install" button and waited. It took about 30 minutes to install. My installation hit no snags whatsoever (I use XP Pro, SP1, on a Dell XPS desktop with a 3GHz processor and 1GB RAM.) So far, so good.

Then the reboot. This phase took a very long time, and caused my first bout of anxiety. I started eyeing the DVD holding my backed-up data, and hoping I wouldn't have to rebuild my computer.

Then a sigh of relief as the login screen came up. Everything loaded normally, if a good bit more slowly than normal, and I started rooting around to see the changes. The new "Security Center" is a welcome addition, letting me see some critical settings. But since the Center is much more of a consumer-focused GUI, I looked carefully at Microsoft's explanations to see if the average consumer could follow them and understand what those settings do. The XP SP2 writers have done their job well. The description of the firewall, for example, is clear and concise: "Windows Firewall helps protect your computer by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network." Excellent, easy to understand. Often in the past, descriptions were confusing or filled with so much techno-speak that they'd be of no use whatsoever to the non-power user. Other explanations and descriptions were similarly clear.

One thing I found while cruising the 'Net was a lot more pop-ups warning me of potentially dangerous programs, and alerts that some technology was trying to access my computer. Very useful stuff. I've also been using IE's pop-up blocker, and like it. For me, at least, it seems more intuitive than my Google blocker in that it's better able to distinguish advertising pop-ups from pop-ups I initiate by clicking.

I've been using XP SP2 for about a week now, and none of my applications has broken or acted strangely (my main apps are Office Small Business Edition 2003, Adobe video editing applications, Quicken financial software, and instant messaging.) As far as I can tell, my performance hasn't been affected at all.

Keep in mind that this is one editor's opinion, on one computer only. Still, given the connected world we live in, I'm glad to have the extra protection XP SP2 brings.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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