Microsoft has removed a software block that had let some small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) block the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) download. The company announced in August that the blocking tool would be in place through April 12, 2005, and a series of stories recently reported that everything short of Armageddon would occur when the company removed the tool. Because you're reading this now, a day later, you can see that the world didn't end.
Was the removal of the XP SP2 blocking tool supposed to be that dramatic? I first debunked the doomsayers in the March 22 issue of Windows IT Pro UPDATE ("Understanding the Windows XP SP2 Blocking Mechanism"), noting that, even with the blocking tool removed, XP SP2 wouldn't suddenly install on all your systems. You still had to agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA) and instantiate the setup routine. And, of course, midsized businesses and enterprises that use software-deployment solutions don't have to worry about this matter at all. Administrators can roll out XP SP2 in their environments whenever they're ready.
Conspiratorial silliness notwithstanding, avoiding XP SP2 will prove to be a mistake for many users. The update, which is more like a full OS upgrade than a typical service pack, includes numerous security enhancements and new features. Despite this, XP SP2 has proven to be a relatively simple upgrade for most users; Microsoft has reported a lower-than-expected volume of support calls. Most XP SP2 upgrade concerns are associated with custom-built applications because the update locks down certain distributed application technologies. Microsoft says that more than 185 million users have successfully installed XP SP2.