Windows XP SP2's Trail of Broken Apps

Official and anecdotal reports of commercial applications broken by Windows XP Service Pack 2 are stretching into the triple digits as the staged rollout of the service pack continues.

It's no surprise to anyone that SP2 is breaking applications. Microsoft has been telling anyone who will listen that the Windows Firewall component that is turned on by default after SP2 installs will deny the wanted traffic along with the unwanted until the firewall is properly configured.

In an IT-focused Webcast last week, Barry Goffe, group product manager for Windows client marketing, said, "We've been working really hard over the last nine months to work with ISVs all over the world to ensure that their applications are compatible." Goffe reiterated that because Microsoft has been unwilling to make compromises in terms of computer security, applications will inevitably break.

Microsoft is documenting application problems in two main Knowledge Base articles, which are being updated regularly.

KB article 842242, "Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2," has been updated three times as of Tuesday. (It is available at

KB article 884130, "Programs that may behave differently in Windows XP Service Pack 2," was updated six times as of Thursday. (It is available at

Some users say they appreciate the documentation effort. "Microsoft has been good about getting information out there concerning what apps do or might have problems with SP2, and they've been working with vendors to identify and address issues,” says Andrew Baker, director of network services with a prominent media conglomerate.

Microsoft listed several of its own applications in the KB article of 47 applications that stop working when SP2 is installed. They include Visual Studio .NET, SQL Server, Systems Management Server 2003, Microsoft Operations Manager with Service Pack 1 and SNA Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3.

Broken third-party applications on the list so far include such heavyweights as Veritas Backup Exec, Symantec Ghost Server Corporate Edition and AntiVirus Corporate Edition, Hummingbird Exceed and Host Explorer, WRQ Reflection, Computer Associates' ArcServe and eTrust, EMC's EDM File System Agent, Aelita ERdisk for Active Directory, BindView's BV-Admin Mobile, BMC Patrol for Windows and McAfee Security NetShield 4.5

As of Thursday, the other KB article listed 38 applications that "behave differently" after SP2 is installed. That list included Microsoft Virtual PC 2004, the AOL Toolbar, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, WordPerfect Office 11 and IBM Rational ClearCase 2003. Several prominent personal firewalls and antivirus packages fell into the category of behaving differently.

Apparently many applications that are having problems with SP2 aren't showing up yet in either of the KB articles. Microsoft alone has acknowledged problems with several of its own applications that don't appear in either KB list. Those applications include Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and BizTalk Server.

With additional reporting by contributing editor Stephen Swoyer.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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