Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's speak of shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings... and Service Packs too!

Service Packs, Service Packs... it seems like every Operating System and every iteration of Office has them.  Why does it seem that way?  Well, it's because they do... that's why.

Why Service Packs? 

Contrary to what some may think, Service Packs are not created by evil gnomes, with the goal in mind of messing up our systems and making our lives a hell on earth.  No, indeed... Service Packs can be magnificent beasts, packed full of tweaks, updates and fixes for your Operating System or other applications.  However, for our purposes, we're addressing Operating System Service Packs and Office Service Packs. 

First, a caveat or two...

Housekeeping:  When is the last time you got rid of all the accumulated flotsam, jetsam and dreck that can clog up a hard drive and slow it down?  No, I'm not talking about dust bunnies... I'm talking about all the temporary files, ancient logs, unused files, folders, and sundry other stuff.  It's a good idea to get rid of the garbage before installing your shiny new Service Pack.  You'll be glad you did.

Although you can rid your system of a lot of this stuff by going to > Start > Run and typing in "cleanmgr" (without the quotes) and selecting the categories you want to clear out, there's a nifty little program called CCleaner that does a faster and, in my opinion, a much more thorough cleaning job.  The program is very easy to use and works on Windows 2000, XP, and Vista as well as older Microsoft Operating Systems.

Although CCleaner is offered free, donations, even small ones, are welcomed.

After you've cleaned out the junk, it's time to defragment your hard drive.  If you have Vista, it will automatically defrag itself on a regular basis.  However, if you're using Windows XP, you'll need to see to this task yourself.  If you haven't defragmented your hard drive in a long time, or maybe even never, it may take a number of hours to get the job done, but it will pay dividends in computer performance, so it's well worth doing.  Just go to > Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Defragment.  Again, if this is something that hasn't been done in a long time, be prepared for it to take a long time, and don't try to use your computer while it's being defragmented as that will only slow down the process.

Check for the latest news about the Service Pack you are about to download. You will want to do this in order to see if there are warnings regarding your particular computer model and the Service Pack.  Sometimes, a particular brand of computer will not play well with the latest Service Pack and there may be a workaround that will allow you to address the issue that is causing the problem.  XP's Service Pack 3 encountered such an issue when installed on some HP computers with AMD processors.  Microsoft MVP, Jesper Johansson, has put together a very informative and helpful article on XP SP3 issues:

Here's a Microsoft article about things you should know before installing XP's Service Pack 3:

There's also an article about things you should know before installing Vista's Service Pack 1:

If you've checked, and there are no known issues with installing the appropriate Service Pack on your computer, and you've cleared out the junk and defragmented your hard drive, download the Service Pack.  Before allowing it to install, disconnect from the Internet and disable your anti-virus, any third-party firewall, and all anti-spyware software. 

Install the Service Pack.  Reboot.  After everything has loaded, reboot again.  Before reconnecting to the internet, make sure that your anti-virus, firewall, and all anti-spyware software are functioning. 

Keep your system well maintained and updated, you'll be glad you did. 
Jane Edwards, MS-MVP
Consumer Security 2006 - 2011