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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.07.04]
Manufactured by: Microsoft

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Should I Install SP2?

If you are using Windows XP, there really is no question about whether you should install SP2. The security updates alone make it worthwhile. And there are several other features that have been added, including:

  • Pop-Up blocker for IE
  • Vastly improved firewall
  • Native Bluetooth support
  • Improved Wireless support

And much more - check out the official list of SP2 features for full details.

However many people are still unsure of whether they should download and install SP2 or not. The main concern is that they do not know what SP2 will do to their performance. Will all those additions add bloat to an already bloated OS? Has anything been broken?

That's what we're going to find out today.

By far the most useful benchmarking tool for workstation performance on Windows based systems is SYSmark 04 by Bapco. It uses actual applications and data in its scripts to replicate high end usage. We'll talk more about each test as we cover the results in this article. In addition, I recommend that you read the highly detailed whitepaper, if you are looking for detailed information on how the scores are given.

WebMark 04 is also useful in that it uses similar scripts to determine web browsing performance. That's right - not everyone uses the web for reading their favourite hardware sites! We'll cover that more later on as well. For extensive details on this program, there is a whitepaper on this as well.

In addition to the Bapco tests, we're going to find out how gaming performance has been affected, with some minor game benchmarking. Our SP1 system used DirectX 9.0b, while SP2 updated it to 9.0c. It should be interesting to see how performance was affected by the installation of the latest DirectX version (and SP2 itself).

The Test

We used a high end system to base our benchmarks on; any differences shown on this system will probably be emphasized either way on a slower system. All latest drivers were installed, and all onboard components such as Ethernet and the Audio controller were enabled.

Since WindowsXP disables the Firewall by default, we enabled it. This way, any performance differences introduced by either Firewall version will show up in our tests.

The Specs:

CPU: Intel Pentium 4 560 (Prescott 3.6 GHz)
Motherboard: Abit AA8 (Intel 925x chipset)
Ethernet: Integrated Realtek 8110S PCI Gigabit Ethernet
Audio: Integrated Realtek ALC880 8 Channel
Video Card: Radeon X600 XT PCI-E
Memory: 1GB Corsair XMS2 Pro DDRII (4-4-4-12)

Let's get right to it!

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