The long-awaited Windows XP Service Pack 2 is finally here, and to many administrators, it is a double-edge sword. The new security features, policy settings and improvements to the firewall are welcome additions. However, these same features may have a major impact on the way some applications perform, especially if they require communication via specific TCP/IP ports. Before rolling out SP2, you'll need to thoroughly test your hardware and applications.

Bernie Klinder, MVP and technology consultant, provides this pre-installation checklist to help you prepare and plan for a trouble-free XP Service Pack 2 installation. You may download a printer-friendly version.

 Checklist: XP SP2 Pre-Installation
Review the documentation:
   • Read the SP2 release notes as well as the Changes to Functionality in Service Pack 2.
   • Download the service pack, uncompress it, and review the enclosed readme and release notes for last-minute information.
   • Check Microsoft's support Web site for the latest SP2 bug reports, and review which ones may impact your environment.
   • SP2 adds about 600 new policy settings to XP. Check the Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 for more information.
   • You will most likely need to configure and troubleshoot the Windows Firewall settings in XP, so be sure to cozy up to the guide on Troubleshooting Windows Firewall in Microsoft
Windows XP Service Pack 2.
Evaluate your Enterprise needs:
   • Review the list of new features, as well as bugs fixed in SP2, to determine the risks/rewards of the deployment and establish a timetable.
   • Inventory your environment to determine how many XP workstations are eligible for the SP2 upgrade, the number of different hardware platforms in use and the number of
desktops vs. laptops.
   • Determine the number and location of remote users who may need additional support.
   • Check drive space requirements. If you install SP2 over the network, you'll need 681 -1100 MB of disk space. CD-ROM-based installations will need 1455 -1560MB of space.
Choose a deployment strategy:
   • Depending on your environment, there are a number of ways to deploy SP2 remotely, including via SUS, SMS and Group Policy. Follow these hyperlinks to review Microsoft's
deployment guides for each.
   • Determine the best rollout strategy for your business units. The size, complexity and time required to install SP2 can be a major disruption to some business units if deployed
during regular business hours. Consider deploying this service pack after hours (evenings or weekends) to minimize impact.
   • Consider chaining the post-SP2 updates to your SP2 update. For more info, see The Guide for Installing and Deploying Updates for Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2.
   • Don't forget to update your new hardware images to slipstream SP2.
   • Don't forget to update and rescan your antivirus/malware/spyware software.
Test your hardware platforms:
   • Check OEM vendors for updated drivers for XP SP2.
   • Check for BIOS updates that may be required.
   • Test the SP2 installation on as many hardware platforms as possible.
   • Check with your OEM vendors for any specific information or recommendations for your desktops and laptops. Some manufacturers recommend undocking laptops and removing
any peripheral devices and PC cards before beginning the SP2 setup.
   • Some laptop computers have issues with SP2 and integrated Bluetooth adapters as well as "quick launch" keys.
   • Note: By design, SP2 requires that laptop computers are running on AC power, or the setup will fail.
Test your software applications:
   • The new security enhancements and firewall setting in SP2 can significantly impact the applications running in your environment. For detailed testing information, download the
Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP SP2.
   • Common problem areas are applications that require specific network ports and programs that utilize kernel-mode drivers, such as antivirus, disk defragmentation and
CD-writing applications.
   • Test Group Policy settings: With all of the new policy settings in SP2, you'll need to make sure your existing Group Policy settings still work.
Test your deployment strategy:
   • Start with a small pilot group before starting a large-scale migration, preferably within the IT department. Elicit feedback and address any technical issues before starting the
primary rollout.
   • If you are deploying SP2 over the network, make sure you have the bandwidth available to handle the additional traffic.
Rollout and deployment:
   • Make sure your user community knows what to expect during the rollout, including time involved, and to expect a reboot when the installation is finished.
   • Train a specialized troubleshooting team to staff a support desk specifically for SP2-related issues. By routing deployment-related issues to this team, technical issues can be
identified earlier and resolved faster.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Go back to checklist
Bernie Klinder, MVP, consultant
Bernie Klinder is a technology consultant for a number of Fortune 500 companies. He is also the founder and former editor of LabMice.net, a comprehensive resource index for IT professionals who support Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 and BackOffice products. For his contributions to the information technology community, Bernie was selected as an MVP (Most Valuable Professional) by Microsoft. Copyright 2004 TechTarget

This was first published in October 2004

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