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Windows XP Power Hound

How to Cure the SP2 Upgrade Blues

by Preston Gralla, author of Windows XP Power Hound

The Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) is a boon for people looking for safer browsing, built-in pop-up killing, and better wireless access. But that doesn't mean that it's perfect--far from it. It's caused all kinds of problems on many people's systems, and yours may be one of them. So if you're running into trouble with SP2 or are thinking of upgrading, the Power Hound has help with some of the most common problems you may run into. This week the Power Hound tackles two SP2 upgrade problems that deal with configuring pop-up blocking and the firewall.

Problems with Windows Update

One excellent way to keep Windows up to date is to visit the Windows Update site. But some people have found that when they visit Windows Update after installing SP2, or click on a link on the page, they get the error message "HTTP Error 500 - Internal Server Error, Error 0x8ddd0010." As always, the page doesn't offer help on what went wrong or how to fix it.

Another potential problem: when you click on the View Installation History link or on the Details link, you get only a blank page. You might also be told that a pop-up has been blocked.

The problem is that Internet Explorer's pop-up blocker, which SP2 installs, is blocking pop-ups that you need in order to use the site. To fix the problem, you need to tell SP2 to allow pop-ups from the Microsoft Update site. Here's how to do it:

  1. In Internet Explorer, choose Tools -> Pop-up Blocker -> Pop-up Blocker Settings.
  2. In the box next to "Address of Web site to allow," type and click on Add, as you can see in the figure below.
  3. Click on Close.

From now on, pop-ups won't be blocked at the site, so those links should work. If you encounter other sites on which blocking pop-ups causes problems, repeat these steps and type in their URLs.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Tell Internet Explorer to allow pop-ups from Windows Update, and you'll fix your problem.

Configure Pop-Up Blocking

When Internet Explorer blocks a pop-up from a site, an information bar appears just under the address bar. Click on it for options that will let you temporarily allow pop-ups from the site, permanently block pop-ups from the site, and change your pop-up settings, as you can see in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Figure 2. When you block a pop-up, the information bar appears, letting you configure pop-ups from the site you're visiting.

But some people have found that the bar simply never appears. There's a simple fix. Choose Tools -> Pop-up Blocker -> Pop-up Blocker Settings, check the box next to "Show Information Bar when a pop-up is blocked," and click on Close.

Problems with the Windows Firewall

Perhaps the biggest security change in SP2 is that the Windows Firewall (formerly called the Internet Connection Firewall, or ICF) is turned on. The firewall provides basic security, although it's not nearly as effective as other firewalls such as ZoneAlarm.

The Windows Firewall can cause a number of problems with your system. Here's what you need to do in order to fix them.

Can't Configure the Firewall

XP gives you control over how you use the Windows Firewall by, for example, allowing certain programs and services through--and even just by turning it on and off. You configure it by clicking on the Security Center icon in the System Tray and then, when the Security Center appears, clicking on the Windows Firewall icon at the bottom of the screen. The Windows Firewall dialog box, shown in the nearby figure, appears.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Windows Firewall dialog box lets you configure the firewall.

But you may find that when you click on one of the tabs, some or all of the options are grayed out, preventing you from configuring it. What gives?

The problem is that you're not logged on with an administrator account. Log off, then log back on using an administrator account, and you'll be set.

Windows Firewall Blocks Programs or Services

You've just installed SP2 and you're ready to chat with a friend, telling about your experiences. So you fire up AOL Instant Messenger, but no one can send you messages. What's wrong?

Actually, nothing is wrong. The Windows Firewall is doing its job. It blocks incoming connections that you haven't initiated, and so it's blocking AOL Instant Messenger messages from getting through.

Figure 4
Figure 4. If you want to allow specific programs and services through the firewall, add them to this dialog box.

To solve the problem, you need to add it as an exception--in essence, you tell the firewall to let it through. Get to the Windows Firewall dialog box as previously outlined, click on the Exceptions tab, and see if your program is listed. If it is, check the box next to it and click on OK. That'll do the job. If it's not listed, click on Add Program; from the list that appears, select the program you want to let through; select it; and click on OK and then on OK again. You'll be set. If the program doesn't show up in the list, click on Browse, then browse to the program you want to allow through. Double-click on it, then click on OK and on OK again.


If you're lucky, you won't face these problems, or any other SP2 woes. So if you haven't yet installed SP2, don't be put off. It would be worth the download just for the pop-up blocker and better wireless security alone. But other extras, like built-in security under the hood, make it worthwhile as well.

Preston Gralla is the author of Windows Vista in a Nutshell, the Windows Vista Pocket Reference, and is the editor of He is also the author of Internet Annoyances, PC Pest Control, Windows XP Power Hound, and Windows XP Hacks, Second Edition, and co-author of Windows XP Cookbook. He has written more than 30 other books.

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