Is it Safe to Just Ignore Windows' Service Packs?

Don Dalton installed Vista's SP1 update, encountered "a multitude of problems," and uninstalled it. Can he safely go on indefinitely without it?

Windows service packs can be the stuff of nightmares. Do you let Microsoft do a major, remote-control overhaul of your operating system that might break something that was working just fine? Or do you ignore a service pack that plugs some serious security holes and is more likely to fix something that's already broken than to break something new?

Besides, as the months go by, your unupdated version of Windows will fall farther behind, unable to accept additional updates or even run some new programs.

I generally wait about three months after a service pack becomes available before I install it. By that time, the bugs are usually squashed by subsequent updates, and all problems are either fixed or repored.

But just in case, take a few precautions when you let Windows change itself:

1.) Scan for malware, preferably with more than one program. Use your installed antivirus program, then, for extra protection, try SuperAntiSpyware or Malwarebytes.

2.) Make a fresh image backup, just in case. If you don't have an image backup program, click here for some software recommendations.

3.) Close all of your applications before starting the update, and don't try to work on your computer until it's done and Windows has rebooted--even if the update tells you that you can safely continue working.

If you still encounter problems after waiting some months and installing the update carefully, start searching the web for solutions specific to your hardware and installed programs. And check forums. A reader posted a similar question on the Answer Line Forum recently, mentioning that he had a Hewlett-Packard computer with an AMD processor. Tech4me knew of that particular problem, and pointed to a solution on the HP web site .

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

Subscribe to the Best of TechHive Newsletter

Comments