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Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)

Windows XP Service Pack 2 Editor's Review

Windows XP is without a doubt one of Microsoft's most iconic operating systems. Released globally in October 2001, it quickly became a success, selling over 400 million copies by January 2006. Its popularity stood the test of the introduction of Windows Vista in early 2007, as it was considered more user friendly and had a higher level of development compatibility than its successor.

The release of Service Pack 2 full version (SP2) in August 2004 provided a number of critical security patches and updates – as well as new functionality, setting itself apart from 2002's Service Pack 1 (SP1) update. All basic updates included in SP1 were rolled into SP2's release, giving comprehensive protection against a range of viruses and other security threats.

A new Security Center dashboard, was one of the flagship changes. The facility launched itself automatically to warn of weaknesses in the system (i.e. firewall, anti virus or automatic updating being restricted or turned off). This gave more control for the user and allowed greater management of these critical features. In a related move, Windows Firewall was automatically turned on as its default setting.

Internet Explorer was given added security, for the first time introducing a function that stopped pop-ups and drive-by downloads. In addition to the security-focused alterations, SP2 introduced a number of multimedia updates – including the Windows Media Player 9.

All the above is pretty good stuff – but there were major compatibility issues with existing software on SP2's release. Also, the Internet Explorer updates conflicted with websites using certain scripts (such as Active X controls). There were also questions as to why features such as Trojan scanning and anti-virus were not included.

Pro's: better security interface through new Security Center; improved Windows Firewall configuration; added Internet Explorer protection and better multimedia software

Con's: compatibility issues across exisiting software and Internet Explorer; no comprehensive anti-virus or Trojan threat scanning.

Conclusion: Windows XP Service Pack 2 introduced some much-needed updates and changes, shoring up millions of PC users' security from the rapidly growing range of threats.

However, the wide-reaching changes were jarring for some and led many users to forgo the essential updates that were packaged with the front-end changes. Despite its issues, SP2 still remains one of the most important stages in XP's lifespan, which is winding to a close following the end of mainstream XP support in 2009. Download xp sp2 and install it to take full advantage of its features.

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