Monday, April 28, 2008

Lightning Review: Windows XP Service Pack 3

Windows XP SP3 arrives tomorrow to XP users via Automatic Update, but several sites online have begun putting up links to download the 300 megabyte install file, and after reading several other users' thumbs-up on security, I decided to take the plunge, partly so I can go ahead and tell you whether the latest service pack was worth it.

First of all, before I went and installed the file, I first defragged my hard drive, then made a full backup of my C: drive using Windows Backup. The SP3 install offers easy uninstallation if you regret the decision, but I figure if something goes wrong I might not be able to access the uninstallation at all, so I decided to play it safe.

Before I installed, I also ran 3dmark03 to benchmark my computer, in case there was some reason why XP SP3 would speed up my computer from a gaming standpoint. I got a score of between 3679 and 3712 (I tested a few times). It's not a great mark at all, but I wasn't surprised given how old my system is.

Well, no worries, because the entire installation went off without a hitch. It required one or two restarts just to get the computer back to its old self, and the only mess that came up was the "Show Desktop" and "Internet Explorer" icons reappearing in my Quick Launch after I'd gone and deleted them. It was no problem to redelete those files.

I ran 3dmark again, and it showed a score of 3709. So, no change at all in gaming performance. I couldn't confirm other reports of a 10% performance gain in Office because I don't use Office.

Overall, XP SP3 wasn't the XP fountain of life I might've hyped myself up for, but it does offer a bunch of security fixes that I'm sure many people concerned about Windows' security would be happy about (I didn't really know how to test those either). It didn't offer any real performance gain at all, and the interface looks exactly the same. It does, however, work as well as it did before, and just for the security fixes, this Service Pack is well worth it and further reason to hold onto XP and not go with Vista.

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