mechBgon's guide to building your first PC from parts   : )
  1. Start

  2. Case prep 1

  3. Case prep 2

  4. Data and power cables

  5. Serial ATA stuff

  6. General motherboard/CPU info

  7. Testing & installing the motherboard assembly

  8. Installing the hard drive

  9. Final connections

  10. Security during Windows Setup

  11. Best practices for ongoing security

  12. Resources (drivers, diagnostics, links, online antivirus scans, antispyware resources)

  13. A brief visual glossary

back to the Windows Setup Security page

Why such a big deal about installing Service Pack 2 before connecting?

In practical terms, installing Service Pack 2 before exposing WindowsXP to a network connection benefits you in these ways:

  • Service Pack 2 enables the Windows Firewall by default. This protects Windows from common worm attacks and hacker probes.

    Q: I thought that was what the router is for? A router with SPI is a good perimeter firewall, but if someone plugs a worm-infested computer into your router, or connects to your wireless access point, the router's firewall will not protect you from that computer. It's on "your side" of the router's firewall. This is where a software firewall would be your last line of firewall defense.

  • SP2 patches many vulnerabilities that worms and hackers would be looking for if your firewall protection did fail, as well as many vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and other Windows components like DirectX.

  • SP2 adds Data Execution Prevention as one of the efforts Microsoft made to reduce the "attack surface" of WindowsXP.

  • SP2 adds the Security Center feature. The Security Center watches over many popular antivirus programs, and alerts you if the antivirus software is disabled or out-of-date. Recent viruses are designed to turn off the Security Center, so do make a habit of noticing whether your antivirus software's icon is showing in the System Tray.

The bottom line is that unlike WinXP SP1 or SP0, a WinXP SP2-equipped computer is not likely to get immediately subverted if you happen to plug it into your modem directly. We're talking the difference between a sloth and a panther here.  ; ) The world won't come to an end if you have to start without SP2, and just use your router for initial firewalling, but if you can install SP2 offline, it'll be safer that way.

back to the Windows Setup Security page