Quiet Expected After End to SP2 Blocking Tool

Automatic Updates now will automatically download Service Pack 2 to XP desktops, but Microsoft says less than 1 percent of enterprise XP desktop users had the blocking mechanism engaged in the first place.

The tool that allows enterprise users to block the automatic installation of Windows XP SP2 expires Tuesday, but the deadlines passing will likely affect few businesses.

"Hardly anyone I know of used the kill bit [blocking tool]," said Susan Bradley, a Microsoft Small Business Server MVP (Most Valued Professional) and a consultant. "The percentage of use is insanely low for this amount of attention."

In fact, Microsoft has said that less than 1 percent of enterprise XP desktop users had the SP2 (Service Pack 2) blocking mechanism engaged. For the few who did, Automatic Updates now will automatically download SP2 to XP desktops.

However, that will happen only if customers elected to have Automatic Updates turned on in previous versions of Windows, because SP2 is the first that defaults to an automatic update setting.

In addition, Bradley said users still can refuse the update by declining the EULA (end-user license agreement) required before SP2 automatically installs.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Windows XP SP2 landing on customers machines.

Even companies that cash in on the system crashes that could result from SP2 deployments said they dont expect many problems.

"Those customers that previously turned on Automatic Updates may get a bit of a hit when it gets deployed for them," said Wes Miller, product manager at Winternals Software, a provider of Microsoft systems-recovery and data-protection software. "In the majority of enterprises, I see less of a hit."

Thats because most midsized and large enterprises commonly use managed software deployment tools from Microsoft or from third parties to distribute the updates, rather than relying on automatic deployment, he said. The blocking tool gave smaller organizations a chance to prepare for SP2.

"Its more of a psychological thing where Microsoft was trying to prevent people from being afraid of [SP2]," said Miller, whose support team in Austin, Texas, hadnt received any SP2-related calls on Tuesday.

Winternals, whose Recovery Manager is used mainly for Windows-related system recovery and rollbacks, does expect to continue seeing some of the more common problems with SP2 updates, which were rolled out in August last year.

"The things that changed for Service Pack 2 are pretty invasive," Miller said. "Basic plumbing that a lot of applications take advantage of changed, so weve seen everything from network connectivity to rudimentary communications problems and mystery application failure."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about SP2s application compatibility problems.

Some small businesses have taken the automatic updates in stride, following the recommendations of security experts and backing up their data prior to a move to SP2.

"At one point I was quite concerned about whether the updates and patches were stable," said John Pilmer, owner of Orem, Utah-based PilmerPR. "But Ive been impressed with XP in general compared with previous Windows versions, and my automatic updates have gone well so far."

The company had backup and restore systems and processes in place prior to the SP2 release, so Pilmer instructed his employees to move forward and allow the update late last year.

"Im not interested in having to worry about it," he said. "I want Microsoft to handle that, and XP has helped me to trust the process."

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