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Windows XP SP3, should you install it?

written by: Bill Anderson•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 1/28/2011

Windows XP has been working fine, but Microsoft just released SP 3. Should you install it at your small business? What are the benefits? Risks? Rewards?

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    Windows XP is a solid and stable system. You've been using it on your business systems for years and everything is working fine. Now, Microsoft has released a new Service Pack, SP3. Should you install it on your systems? What are the risks? The benefits?

    The main reason Microsoft issues Service Packs is to save the time it would take to install the various updates and patches it releases for its operating systems. The last major Service Pack Microsoft released, Service Pack 2, was back in 2004. Microsoft lists hundreds of security updates and hotfixes that are addressed with Service Pack 3. There is no doubt that this is the easiest way to get your systems up to date with all the latest patches.

    As with any major update, you'll want to exit any and all programs before installation. This means everything! Virus scanners, web cam software and all of those little programs that may be running in your task bar. Your installation procedure will go much smoother if you take the time to close all your running programs first.

    You may need to prepare your system prior to installation. Microsoft states that in order to install Service Pack 3, your Windows XP installation must have either Service Pack 1a or Service Pack 2 installed. Also, you will need to ensure that you are running Internet Explorer 6 or 7 and have Windows Media Player 9 or later.

    There have been some reports that installing Service Pack 3 will update your version of Internet Explorer to version 7, but that is not the case. Service Pack 3 will install the latest patches for whichever version of Internet Explorer you do have installed though. If you wish to upgrade to Internet Explorer version 7, you will need to download and install that program separately.

    Of course, before you begin downloading and installing Service Pack 3, back up your files! Do this regularly and do this often.

    Installation time is can be from 30 minutes to over an hour depending on your hardware. Once the process is complete, reboot your system and you'll be back in business.

    Even though the changes are mostly behind the scenes, depending on your individual configuration, you may notice a few changes. There have been reports of increased desktop performance. What that means is you may see faster response times accessing the file system, using the desktop and performing other system related tasks.

    Sound good? More than likely this is update is a safe, and certainly recommended, procedure. Be cautious though, as with any update to your system it can cause compatibility issues with existing software installed on your PC. If you have business critical programs, be sure to check with the manufacturer prior to installing this Service Pack.

    This may well be the last major update for Windows XP that Microsoft releases and it will bring your systems up to date with all the latest security and performance enhancements. Once you are sure there are no compatibility issues, it is highly recommended that you install this upgrade. - Microsoft XP SP3 Overview - List of bug fixes

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