Service Pack 1 Provides Quick Windows XP Fix

Tweaks to the OS include a feature that makes it easier (kind of) to choose a non-Microsoft browser, e-mail, IM or JVM app.

For many IT administrators, a piece of Microsoft software—particularly one as central to an enterprise as Windows—isnt ripe for rollout until the first service pack release. Judging from the number of security and bug fixes addressed in Service Pack 1, it paid to be cautious with Windows XP.

In eWEEK Labs tests of Windows XP Service Pack 1, which Microsoft Corp. made available for free download today, we experienced no problems during installation or subsequent use. However, newsgroup posters have reported a few minor hitches post-upgrade, including trouble switching among Outlook Express profiles. Administrators should carefully test the package with their own hardware and software before undertaking the upgrade.

The full list of SP1s 308 bug fixes, security updates and feature tweaks—along with links to pertinent knowledge base articles—can be reviewed at Microsofts Web site.

Among the most interesting things in SP1 is the addition of the Set Program Access and Defaults utility, which is intended to move Windows XP into compliance with the proposed consent decree that Microsoft signed with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine state attorneys general last November. (Windows 2000 SP3 includes a similar feature.)

The utility is intended to make it easier for users to select the Web browser, instant messaging, e-mail and Java virtual machine applications they wish. Users can choose All Microsoft, No Microsoft or Custom installs.

However, Microsoft has done this in a way that preserves its own products position on the path of least resistance: To appear as a custom option, third-party software developers need to modify their application installers using a new set of registry keys, so this Windows component wont be of real use until some time has passed.

In our tests, one exception was Mozilla Mail 1.1, which did show up as a mail client option in the Program Access interface. The Mozilla Web browser, however, didnt appear as an option.

Also, although this feature can obscure access to certain Microsoft middleware applications, it does not remove them or remove any potential security vulnerabilities they carry with them.

Other significant features SP 1 adds are native USB 2.0 support and support for the PowerNow processor-throttling capabilities of certain AMD chips.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

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