With automatic download of Microsoft's enormous SP2 security patch to the Windows XP operating system set to begin, the industry still waits to understand its ramifications. Home users that have their preferences set to receive operating-system updates as they are made available by Microsoft may be surprised to learn that some of the software they already run on their systems could be disabled by SP2 or may run very differently.
Microsoft has released a long list of programs that are affected, including many of its own products. Even administrators of sophisticated networks are having a hard time making their way through the update, security firm Secunia's CTO Thomas Kristensen told NewsFactor. "People really should be very careful" about this mega-patch, he stressed.
Many of the programs on Microsoft's list of problems will affect enterprise users for the most part. However, a big group of computer games, including a range of those made by Atari, are affected. In addition, the update can interfere with the operation of several popular antivirus programs -- including those made by McAfee and Symantec.
Quicken 2003 products are among those that may "experience issues," according to Microsoft's notice. WordPerfect Office appears on the list, as do three versions of Microsoft's own Outlook.
Yahoo's instant-messenger tool appears on the list of applications with potential SP2 conflicts. So does ICQ. The corporate editions of several popular security products appear on the list. Ubiquitous plug-in and helper applications used with Web browsers are involved, such as Real Networks' Real Player.
Perhaps most frustrating for the system administrator in Microsoft-based shops, however, is the fact that the update could affect so many of Microsoft's other products running on the same network. Several Visual Studio products already have known conflicts with SP2, as do a range of Office editions and BizTalk 2004.
Don't apply it until you know that it's working
People running Windows XP Home Edition, which has more limited networking features, will start getting the update on Wednesday if their computers are set to receive automatic updates.
To check to see if you have automatic updates on, Right Click My Computer, go to Properties, go to Automatic Updates. Check "notify me but dont automatically download or install them."