Microsoft relents, helps users delay SP2 upgrade

Mark Brunelli, News Director

It appears that many organizations simply aren't ready for the latest update to Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

Just four days after the highly anticipated release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) -- which includes sweeping security enhancements over previous Windows versions -- Microsoft has released a new tool that allows users to delay the automatic installation of the update.

The blocking tool was issued after several organizations asked for a way to delay delivery of the update, according to a statement on Microsoft's Web site. The tool changes a Windows registry setting and blocks SP2 for up to four months, ideally giving companies enough time to make sure the applications are compatible.

"In this case, Microsoft is saying that this is one update you don't want to have put in automatically because there is a fairly good chance that things are going to stop working," said Tony Iams, vice president and senior analyst with D.H. Brown Associates Inc. in Port Chester, N.Y.

Interest in SP2 and its security enhancements has grown steadily in recent months because of its promise to plug multiple security holes that existed in previous versions of Windows. Ultimately, the goal of SP2 is to make Windows and related software like Internet Explorer more secure in the face of viruses, worm attacks, spam and spyware.

Microsoft has been recommending all along that businesses test SP2 for application compatibility problems prior to deploying the update

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on a large scale.

"Microsoft is basically admitting that SP2 is going to introduce some turbulence," said Iams, who specializes in enterprise operating systems. "As a result, they're going to make absolutely sure that it doesn't accidentally get installed."

For more information:

Here's a closer look at XP SP2's features

In a rush to install XP SP2? Slow down, and read this first.

Learn more about the upgrade on our new sister site

Among the security enhancements, SP2 replaces the Internet Connection Firewall with the new, more stringent Windows Firewall, which is enabled by default. It also recompiles core Windows components to make the OS more resistant to malware. Additionally, it improves Internet Explorer controls and user interfaces to block malicious Active X controls and spyware.

In the end, Iams said that most Windows admins are more than used to the idea of being patient and carrying out multiple tests when it comes to service packs.

"Whenever you introduce major changes, it's basically like getting a new version of the OS, and so things could break," the analyst explained. "Windows administrators have always been cautious about installing service packs."

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