September 2, 2004 4:00 AM PDT

PC makers: Look before taking SP2 leap

Although Microsoft has recommended consumers turn on Windows' Automatic Update feature to get Windows XP Service Pack 2, PC makers are reminding Windows XP users to do their homework before installing the security update.

Major computer makers recommend consumers install the update, but in many cases they also have a list of revised drivers and other software patches that should be installed before downloading and installing the operating system update.

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PC makers are reminding Windows XP users to do their homework before installing the security update.

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Many PC makers have a list of revised drivers and patches that should be installed before downloading the OS update.

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For example, Dell notes that owners of Inspiron 9100 or XPS laptops with certain ATI graphics cards should update their drivers, as should those with an internal Bluetooth wireless card.

Hewlett-Packard has a list of updates on its Web site that consumers should check before installing the update. In particular, many components of the company's Media Center products should be updated, including the driver for the wireless keyboard and the software for the program guide. Sony, too, has posted a tool on its Web site to let customers determine what, if any, updates should be made prior to installing Service Pack 2.

A Microsoft representative said that that although the company has been pushing Automatic Update as the easiest way to download SP2, it has been recommending that customers check with their PC maker and other hardware makers to get any necessary driver updates. Microsoft also has its own list of software that may have compatibility issues or may work differently with SP2 as well as a page with links to PC makers' sites.

Support headache avoided
Despite the caution, computer makers say the upgrade has not resulted in the support headaches that they had feared.

"We would have expected our call volume to increase significantly," said Bob Cote, vice president of client services at Gateway. Instead, Cote said that Gateway is getting fewer than 100 calls per day related to SP2.

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Many PC makers credited the results to advanced planning and Microsoft's listening to their advice to stagger the release of the software upgrade. The company is making the operating system available gradually via Automatic Update and is also capping the number of people who can grab the operating system manually at any given time.

A Dell representative said the company was prepared for an increase in support calls, but so far has seen only a brief spike. "We saw a little bit of an uptick when the service pack first became available, but call volumes today are within the norms," Dell representative Jennifer Jones said.

A couple of delays for SP2 allowed Microsoft to make some final tweaks and also gave computer makers a little extra time to get their support procedure ready.

"They delayed it a few times, and I'm glad they did," said Jim Kahler, a manager of consumer PC support at HP.

Gateway's Cote said most of the support calls have been general inquiries, with customers trying to decide whether to upgrade or wait. "We're recommending that they go ahead," he said, adding that customers should back up their data first, just in case there is a problem loading the update.

On the business side, customers have already taken a wait-and-see approach, testing SP2 as they would any major operating system change.

Bracing for problems
A new study released this week from consultant AssetMetrix found that the typical company can expect at least some SP2 compatibility issues on about 10 percent of its machines that run the software.

"There will be some, what I would consider, transitory issues," said Steve O'Halloran, managing director for AssetMetrix's research arm. "In most cases the software just needs a little configuration (change) and the incompatibility goes away."

The big problem is when issues catch a company unaware, he said. That occurred at his own firm this past weekend, he noted, when two workers with laptops downloaded SP2 at home, only to find problems when they came back into the office.

He encouraged companies and individuals to compare Microsoft's list of software issues to the list of programs running on any machine being considered for upgrade. An easy way to compare is by checking the "Add/Remove programs" option built into Windows.

Still, O'Halloran said companies should adjust to SP2, given both its security benefits and that it will be the standard on new PCs.

"Ultimately, it is our opinion that regardless of what you think the cost might be, that the benefits of Service Pack 2 far outweigh the small little annoyances of trying to fix these application incompatibilities," he said.

CNET News.com's John G. Spooner contributed to this report.

17 comments

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CNET - anti microsoft
I can understand being cautious but telling users not to patch based on misinformation and by the basis of several other articles on CNET one can only conclude that CNET is very biased against microsoft... on the other hand maybe CNET is the one writing all the viruses for windows and doesnt want people to patch.

Oh by the way i have SP2 installed, i have had NO problems and i even have some NORTON products installed which was on the list of items which may work differently with SP2 installed (as opposed to not work as CNET would have you believe). Install SP2, turn on the firewall and automatic updates, if you have problems try and resolve them... and in the end you can always uninstall SP2. Waiting on it for the home user is retarted...
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What article did you read?
Because the article I just read here basically said "Its not perfect there *may* be some problems, proceed with caution".

Which is exactly what Microsoft said in the first place.

I really dont see anything anti-microsoft here. In fact the article stretches pretty far to compliment MS for how SP2 was deployed.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
William what article are you reading?
I have to disagree with you William. This article actually states what is on the Mircosoft webpages if you'd bothered to go to the Microsoft site and read the articles yourself, which you obviously have not. If you are such a big fan of Microsoft, I would have thought you'd been to the Microsoft website and read the articles! Microsoft is just another big company with bad software period. And for your information, most home users are NOT technically savvy and don't want to update their computers because they don't know what the heck they are downloading to their computers. Then is something goes wrong, they have no idea what is wrong. So automatic updates are not for everyone. I monitor my computer at home and don't download EVERY single thing that Microsoft offers for my OS.
You really should do your homework before you post a comment like this.
Posted by jadester (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is funny :)
Well, why on earth would anyone ever suggest a consumer (user) need to actually know something about the pc they bought? I was told once that just like people don't need to know anything about cars to know how to drive, people don't really need to know anything about what actually happens inside a computer in order to use it.

It is rather ridiculous to suggest such a thing. If you are not interested in knowing or understanding anything about something like this that you pay so much money for, then you deserve to have your computer hacked into via a virus.

These are NOT toys. These ARE tools. Care and wisdom must be applied to these tools. Otherwise, just like any other tool, it can be made to do harm.

I really don't care if CNET is anti-microsoft. CNET is but a drop in the bucket. What I care about is the attitude to the multitude of users. So many people seem to just not care or want to understand. THIS is what one of the biggest problems really are. Plenty of people will install SP2 just simply because Microsoft says they need to. My computer is too important to me and to expensive for me to just follow blindly. I am compelled to take the initiative to learn all I can when I can.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SP2 is a good thing
OK, so here is the thinking:

1) do not deploy SP2 - you must patch your system (using manual or auto updates), plus there are some potential future vulns that might get you. You need to have your own firewalls & must keep AV updates

Now if you are a "bad" admin of your system you will not protect it and you might get a virus (not necessarily through a vuln either, but by mail etc) - fixing this is a far greater task than fixing the very minor issues with SP2 & other apps.

2) deploy SP2 - this does need some caution - as per the article, so you read manu web site etc.
Main problems are:
1) pop-ups, so add them to the exceptions
2) Apps that want to offer services - so add them to the f/w exceptions
3) reporting via security center - many manu's already got a fix for this - but it is reporting, no system failures
4) API problem etc. This is mainly caused when people do not use auth on the calls - the answer is to ask for a patch to deliver an app that does the right thing and does auth calls.
5) very, very small number of apps - minor patches.

The problems I have seen have all been fixed very quickly - and if you are part of a larger org, these fixes can then be rolled out via policy so everyone gets a working system.

thanks
Posted by David_Overton (4 comments )
Link Flag
Your right its a tool
but i doubt you put that much care whenever you install a progam... you expect things to work i guess.. how many progams do you have on your computer? i have maybe 50 or 60... do you check to make sure they dont break your computer before you install them... i doubt you put that much effort into each one...

you should learn... my point was that if you read SEVERAL of the articles about microsoft on CNET that you will see that there is alot of misinformation... or at least biased information... you are not getting 'facts' from cnet... you are getting biases opinions to make it seem like several things are wrong with xp and microsoft (i make no claim that there are no problems) which in fact are not.

The real problem is that people didnt install patches... thats why automatic update will be on by default in SP2, so yes you should be informed... but if CNET is biased against microsoft ... how informed will your decision be if its based on the information from CNET... THAT DOES MATTER
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
Apparetnly your not the one reading
First off as you should have noticed i pointed out that there are several articles and that cnet has a THEME against microsoft... in other words this one article is not the big picture... look at alot of cnet articles and then you will start to see the tendancey of cnet to be against microsoft.

The fact is SP2 does not break many applications and the problem with windows users in general is that they do NOT patch... namely the patch for blaster was out months before the attack and yet how many people were infected?

Telling people not to patch is silly... there is no problem with SP2.

For example look at the article regarding windows and a amd processor... with regards to some program. (ill find the link and update later) The article would make one believe that sp2 or the amd chip causes shut downs unintentionally but in reality the program is operating as it should... some articles on cnet are very misleading and the general THEME is anti microsoft...

i bet when another virus comes out you will tell people not to patch because they should be wary? bah...
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your right its a tool
but i doubt you put that much care whenever you install a progam... you expect things to work i guess.. how many progams do you have on your computer? i have maybe 50 or 60... do you check to make sure they dont break your computer before you install them... i doubt you put that much effort into each one...

you should learn... my point was that if you read SEVERAL of the articles about microsoft on CNET that you will see that there is alot of misinformation... or at least biased information... you are not getting 'facts' from cnet... you are getting biases opinions to make it seem like several things are wrong with xp and microsoft (i make no claim that there are no problems) which in fact are not.

The real problem is that people didnt install patches... thats why automatic update will be on by default in SP2, so yes you should be informed... but if CNET is biased against microsoft ... how informed will your decision be if its based on the information from CNET... THAT DOES MATTER
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually.......
I do take great care in what I install. I install most of my software into a seperate partition. I isolate Windows into it's own partition. Anything I want to keep; music, pictures, movies, programs, and various other information is kept on a seperate drive-away from Windows. This actually keeps things quite a bit safer. At this time, I have about 22 things installed--aside from drivers. I do not just inadvertantly install things. I do however constantly search the net for things that I could tryout and play with. There are quite a few programs out there that do not require installation.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
 

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