I'm still getting a fair amount of email about Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and its peculiarities, so in today's column I'll try to answer the questions I've received most frequently. (I hope this is the last XP SP2 column I'll write for a while.)
For those of you who just don't want to install XP SP2 until the service pack has had more time to be tested by other users, you can block Automatic Updates and Windows Update from delivering XP SP2 to individual users. Microsoft provides a tool to configure this block at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/sp2aumng.mspx. The block will be effective until you disable it or until April 12, 2005, at which time Windows Update and Automatic Updates will push the update even if you've configured your systems to block its delivery. The tool gives you a 7-month window in which you can determine whether XP SP2 will work for you, and more important, gives vendors an opportunity to provide XP SP2-compatible versions of their applications (if necessary).
For those of you plan to deploy XP SP2 and are looking for help in doing so, surf on over to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=9300becf-2dee-4772-add9-ad0eaf89c4a7&displaylang=en and download the "Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2." This .msi package installs a directory on your hard drive that contains a 100-page guide to help you ensure that your applications will work with XP SP2, scenario-based information, and VBScript tools that you can use for testing. The guide contains a huge amount of information that can be invaluable when you're working out your XP SP2 deployment scenarios and testing processes.
I've received a number of email messages that discuss removing XP SP2 after it's been installed or after a failed installation. Apparently, you can't always remove XP SP2 simply by using the Add or Remove Programs applet (although I haven't had this experience myself). A couple of helpful readers (my thanks to them) have sent me links to Microsoft articles about uninstalling XP SP2 that should be useful to other readers who've had problems with removing the service pack.
You can find the first article, "How to use the Automatic Recovery feature to recover your computer if the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Setup program is not completed successfully," at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=875355. This article walks you through the process of manually removing the artifacts that XP SP2 can leave behind after a failed installation.
The second article, "How to remove Windows XP Service Pack 2 from your computer," at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=875350, describes how to use the Add or Remove Program applet and the service pack uninstaller that's installed with the service pack--and, for the completely crunched system, how to use the Recovery Console to get rid of XP SP2 and, with any luck, restore a functional configuration to a computer that's otherwise DOA.
Using the Recovery Console is not for the faint of heart; even if you're an experienced IT professional, you might want to take a look at the Microsoft article "How to install and use the Recovery Console in Windows XP" at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=307654, which provides a thorough overview about how to use the Recovery Console option and what you can and can't do through it.