Microsoft has just released its first major update to Windows XP. Service Pack 2 contains a large number of new security features to provide better protection from Hackers, Viruses and unwanted Internet Ads.
The virtual explosion of threats on the internet has caused Microsoft to rethink their role in internet security. An improved Firewall and Pop-Up Ad blocker are now built in to Microsoft Internet Explorer. Some of the features they have added are also included in Norton, McAfee and other security products, but they felt it necessary to provide this basic protection for Windows XP users.
If you already have an internet security package, you must be careful not to configure both Windows XP and your security package to do the same thing. Two competing firewalls, for instance, can cause you problems accessing the internet or other computers and printers on your own network.
If you have any specialized software other than Microsoft products you may also want to investigate the possibility of compatibility problems with Service Pack 2. A number of programs and web based development companies have reported serious problems after downloading this new service pack. After significant testing, it would appear that there are no Libra Accounting system issues.
It should be noted that if you download this update you will need to allocate an hour or two to the process. This assumes that you have high speed internet availability. If your internet is still dial-up based I would not even recommend trying this update, as it would likely take days to download. This is the largest single update that Microsoft has ever issued. It is about 100 megabytes and once the installation has started you may not be able to abort without serious complications.
After working with it for nearly three years now, I can sincerely say that Microsoft Windows XP is probably the most reliable version of Windows thus far, at least in terms of the number of crashes that typically occur within a year. Offsetting this somewhat is the fact that Windows XP is more complicated and time consuming to fix when a serious problem finally does arise. Windows XP is a serious resource hog as well. It requires a multi-gigabyte hard drive, at least 256 mb of ram memory and central processor speeds of at least 1Ghz or more to drive it effectively.
This is easily accommodated by any new computer that you would buy nowadays, but upgrading older computers to Windows XP may be a bad idea. When you consider that a new computer may cost $400 or less then the cost and aggravation of upgrading an older computer no longer seems that worthwhile.
For the time being I would recommend that any computer slower than 1000 MHz ( 1 GHz ) should stick with Windows 98 Second Edition. This is by far the best bet for reliability and speed on an older computer.
Windows 2000 Professional was a solid performer as well but was not as compatible or user friendly as Windows XP. Many companies and professionals still prefer it however as its interface is closer to Windows 98 and Windows NT than that of Windows XP
It is rather surprising that we have had little word other than rumours about the next major evolution in the Windows operating system. The fact that Microsoft is releasing such a major Service Pack may be evidence that the next version of Windows is still a year or two away. As each new version gets more complicated it requires more and more development. Hopefully Microsoft will place reliability foremost in their next revision.