A Windows XP Service Pack 2 CD arrived in the mail from Microsoft a few days ago, but I had left it on the dining room table until this afternoon, fearful because of past malevolent Microsoft experiences that if I so much as touched it my computer would stop working.
I kept my eye on the CD, looking for signs that it was possessed. But I didn’t see any green vomit dripping from the cardboard mailer, nor hear any guttural chanting in Latin when we were in bed and the house was quiet. I read the “Before installing SP2” guidelines on the Microsoft web site and dutifully checked my computer for spyware, then backed up my files to an external hard drive.
I was mentally prepared for disaster as the SP2 CD whirred away, loading countless mysterious files to god knows where, and doing god knows what to my operating system. Then the big moment came when I was asked if I wanted to restart the computer now, or later, to complete the installation. It was like the executioner saying, “Should I let the guillotine fall now, or would you prefer to wait a few minutes to be decapitated?”
Since I wasn’t going to be able to relax until the outcome of the installation was evident, I figured that it was better to know the ghastly truth as soon as possible, so I could start finding a way to uninstall SP2 and repair the damage that I was confident it had wreaked on my previously flawlessly-running Emachines laptop.
Imagine my surprise when the damn thing restarted just fine, albeit more slowly than usual the first time owing to several queries about whether I wanted the Windows firewall left on, and what not. I nervously checked to see if my Internet connection still worked. Yes. Could I get email? Yes. Was the Internet Explorer pop up window blocker compatible with the Google toolbar blocker? Yes, IE apparently took charge and did the blocking before the toolbar had a chance.
Of course, I need to sound like a lawyer and say: “Your results may vary. There is a risk of complications in every software upgrade. Consult your computer professional before deciding if SP2 is right for you.” But so far I’m impressed that Microsoft seems to have produced a smooth-running XP upgrade. I’m not backing off my previous “Microsoft sucks” position, but I’m entirely ready to admit that Microsoft is sucking less in this instance.
As long as I’m on the subject of software that sucks, I might as well say how happy I’ve been to get every piece of Symantec crap off of my hard drive. No more Norton Antivirus. No more Systemworks. And my computer is working better than ever.
Lots of people have told me over the years that Systemworks is more likely to screw up your system than fix it or maintain it. I believe it, now that I’ve become a happy SystemSuite 5 user. SystemSuite 5 got a top rating from PC World some issues back, so that led me to take the plunge and dump Symantec. SystemSuite seems to be better designed, though not quite as easy to use as the Symantec products. But I’d rather do a little bit more thinking on my own if that causes my computer to crash much less.
The only annoying thing about SystemSuite 5 is that the frequent antivirus updates have to be downloaded in their entirety each time, about 4.5 MB worth, which takes over half an hour on our slow dial-up connection. But this probably is a cleaner way of installing new antivirus definitions than the Norton a-few-at-a-time approach. I heard that a friend’s computer got filled to overflowing with Norton Antivirus files that just kept being added on to the existing files, rather than overwriting them. He ended up with many GB of extraneous antivirus definitions, something that won’t happen with SystemSuite 5.