BOOT CAMP 361 (25/01/05)



Last week we looked at some of the questions posed by Connected readers regarding Windows XP Service Pack 2. In part 2 we continue with another selection of irritating problems that can follow an SP2 installation and highlight a potentially disastrous but thankfully rare situation that can result in an upgraded XP computer refusing to boot.


Difficulties accessing secure web sites with Internet Explorer after SP2 came high on the list of reader’s gripes. SP2’s improved security features are mostly to blame for this and there is a number of causes, ranging from conflicts with third-party firewall and anti-virus programs, clogged Temporary Internet Files folders to the new ‘pop-up’ ad blocker. In many cases fine-tuning IE security settings will get things back on track and Microsoft has prepared a ‘Troubleshooter’, with a long list of possible solutions in Knowledgebase article 870700, which you can find by typing the number into Google, or by going to:



Altered security settings can also prevent Windows from running executable files -- essentially programs -- that have been downloaded using Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. There are two ways around this, if the program has an invalid ‘signature’ but it is from a reputable source then it can be easily unblocked, or XP’s security settings can be lowered, though for obvious reasons the former method is preferred. MS Knowledgebase article 843022 outlines both procedures and as usual you can read it by entering the number into Google’s search window.


A few readers found that their CD-RW drive suddenly lost the ability to write files to discs, though the drive is still recognised by Windows and CD-ROMs can be read normally. In a lot of cases this is due to problems with out of date drivers, which can usually be resolved by visiting the manufacturer’s web site and downloading an updated driver. Older versions of the CD burning program Nero can run into difficulties with SP2 and patches are available from:


There is also a known problem with some drives and SP2 and Microsoft has issued a ‘hotfix’, which should be included in later releases of SP2. There are more details of how to obtain it in MS Knowledgebase article 883523.


Owners of HP and Compaq PCs seem to have suffered from their fare share of SP2 related problems, many of them concerned with video drivers and pre-installed software. Fortunately by now most of them have been identified, and solutions found, and they’ve been brought together in an article on the HP web site. Go to and type ‘Service Pack 2’ into the search box it should be at or close to the top of the list. There’s a similar resource for Dell PC owners at, click on the red highlighted ‘Windows XP Service Pack 2…’ link close to the top of the page.


So far most of the issues that we’ve looked at are little more than minor annoyances but for owners of PCs that use some Intel Pentium 4 and Celeron processors installing SP2 can result in a large and very expensive doorstop… This is due to a conflict between the CPU and the BIOS program on the motherboard. All attempts to start the PC, in normal or Safe Mode, or to use System Restore fail and it is so serious that some users have given up, reformatted their hard drives and lost all of the data on their computers.


For the record the processors at risk are members of the ‘Prescott’ family of CPUs first released after June 2004, specifically they are Pentium 4s with 1Mb of Level 2 cache and Celeron models with 256 Level 2 cache memory. If you think you have one of these devices in your PC then do not install SP2 before you have visited the Intel website at:

scripts-df/Product_Filter.asp?ProductID=441. There you will find a free tool that will identify your CPU and check to see if your BIOS program has been properly updated.


If you are unfortunate enough to have installed SP2 and your PC is now unusable then all is not lost and there are procedures that can revive your machine. These involve using the XP Recovery Console to start the computer so that errant files can be disabled, after which the BIOS program will have to be updated. Full instructions are contained in MS KB article 885626, which also includes a link to a critical update that must be installed in order to get SP2 to work properly.


An alternative method, which entails disabling the cache memory in the BIOS program, has also been developed but this is not recommended for novices. This will allow Windows XP to boot into a useable state, however it will run at a fraction of the normal speed but it will permit SP2 to be safely uninstalled, though be warned, this is a slow and laborious process, which could take several hours. Full details can be found at:


Next week – Sound advice





Basic Input Output System: diagnostic and configuration program stored in a microchip memory on the PC motherboard that checks the PC hardware before the operating system is loaded



Computer memory used for storing frequently used data, speeding up file access or the transfer of information



A set of utilities and tools in Windows XP, designed for advanced users employing DOS-like ‘commands’ designed to help repair a failed installation and recover files




Windows Messenger is often an early casualty of many SP2 installations with users finding that it doesn’t start with a warning message or Security Alert that says the program is being blocked. In fact this is quite deliberate, Windows Messenger has a number of unresolved security flaws and the XP Firewall blocks it by default. This can be removed from the Warning notice by ignoring the Security Risk message, simply click ‘Unblock this program…’ . Alternatively it can be enabled from the Firewall control panel. Go to Start, Run and type ‘Firewall.cpl’ (without the quotes), on the Exceptions tab, under Programs and Services check the box next to Windows Messenger and click OK.


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