Software is never finished—especially Microsoft’s. That’s why, in the fall of 2002, Microsoft released a 330 MB software updater called Service Pack 1. (If your PC didn’t come with SP1 already installed, you can download the installer from http://www.microsoft.com/WindowsXP/pro/downloads/servicepacks/sp1/default.asp. The same Web site includes instructions for ordering the SP1 on a CD for $10.)
To find out if you already have SP1, right-click My Computer and choose Properties. You’ll see "Service Pack 1" beneath the other System details.
SP1 doesn’t change XP’s looks, features, or speed. It’s mostly what Automatic Update (page xx) has been feeding you all along: bug fixes, security patches for your Internet programs, and so on. But it also offers a few changes like these:
It makes Windows recognize USB 2.0, a faster kind of add-on equipment connector that’s available on new PCs.
It installs Java (Section 126.96.36.199).
It adds ads to MSN Explorer.
If you make substantial changes to your PC’s guts—surgery so dramatic that you have to re-activate XP (Section 188.8.131.52)—you now have a three-day grace period before Windows locks you out of your own machine.
The real raison d'être for SP1, though, is satisfying the U.S. Department of Justice. In its agreement, Microsoft promised to give its competitors a fighting chance at equal footing. For the first time, Windows offers you the chance to hide Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and a few other standard Microsoft programs, which ...