In Windows XP, fixing system bugs is something of an art form. Windows XP is certainly more stable than older versions of Windows, such as Windows 98 and Windows ME, but it does have its share of bugs. In this article, I will share some secrets for making Windows XP run the way that it's supposed to.
When it comes to keeping Windows bug free, rule number one is to keep your system up to date. If the system in question is connected to a Windows domain, then the easiest way to stay up to date is to use a Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) server to deploy patches. You can get WSUS for free from Microsoft. If you are trying to fix a problem with a standalone system, then you can always use Windows Automatic Update. If you are unable to use WSUS or Automatic Update, the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer lets you see which patches have been applied.
Before I go on, I want to say a few words about updates. A lot of administrators are reluctant to deploy patches and service packs because of fears regarding what those patches and service packs will do to their systems. In my opinion, you should go ahead and deploy any patch or service pack that Microsoft releases, especially on workstations. If a patch does cause a problem, you can always roll back the system to a previous state. Besides, if you call Microsoft's Product Support Service about a problem with a system running Windows XP, one of the first things they usually ask is if the system has all of the latest patches.
Although it's important to deploy all of the latest patches from Microsoft, keep in mind that Microsoft is not the only company that releases buggy software. For example, I recently encountered a problem in which the display on a Windows XP system would flicker violently for about a minute any time the mouse was clicked. To make a long story short, a bug in the video driver caused the problem. To fix it, I had to download a new driver from the video card manufacturer's Web site. The point is that you need to pay attention to other company patches in addition to Microsoft patches.
Another trick to fixing Windows XP bugs is to use the Internet to hunt for a solution. If you are having a problem, I can almost guarantee that someone else has had the same problem and that a solution is posted somewhere on the Internet.
I recommend beginning your search by checking the Microsoft Knowledgebase. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Microsoft created Windows XP, and therefore it is going to have the most reliable and comprehensive troubleshooting information in most cases. You may occasionally find a Windows bug that the Knowledgebase doesn't address, but some other Web site will. Most of the time the Microsoft Knowledgebase is the best source for information.
The other reason I recommend checking the Microsoft Knowledgebase first is because not all patches are made public. In many cases, you will find a Knowledgebase article that references a bug and says that a patch is available by calling Microsoft Product Support Service. In these cases, Microsoft's policy has always been that you won't be charged for the call if you are simply asking for a patch that isn't publicly available. The reason why Microsoft does this is because the bug may not affect enough people to justify sending out a widespread patch. Another reason is that the patch has not yet been sufficiently tested for a widespread release. Those patches do typically make it into the next service pack though.
If you need to check the Microsoft Knowledgebase, you can access it at Microsoft.com. Go to the Microsoft Windows XP home page for articles specific to Windows XP issues, including news, how-to articles and downloads.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, TechTarget, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at www.brienposey.com. Brien M. Posey is a regular contributor on SearchWindowsSecurity.com.
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