Fears among system administrators and IT managers that XP SP2 may break homegrown applications have already caused some corporate rollouts to be delayed. To get users back on track and keep developers' blood pressure down, Microsoft is offering the application compatibility testing guide.
The guide, which can be retrieved from Microsoft's Download Centre, is designed to help administrators "test and mitigate application compatibility issues." Microsoft adds that the guide is meant for a network of any size and is "as relevant to peer-to-peer environments as it is to Active Directory environments."
At over 100 pages long, the guide doesn't make for light reading. It covers the changes that SP2 could wreak on machines running Windows XP, how to go about testing for incompatibility issues and how to fix the problems that come up. The guide also provides two possible deployment road maps for businesses unsure about how to roll out the service pack.
In the guide, Microsoft warns: "(SP2's) increasing security in the network environment can result in legitimate applications or features not operating as expected… applications that were not designed to meet these higher security requirements may experience some compatibility issues."
The guide gives advice about how to reconfigure XP to help keep applications on their feet, but adds: "This procedure is not recommended but may be necessary in the short term." The party line from Microsoft, however, is that it's the applications, not the operating system, that should be rejigged and that security settings should always be left at their highest settings once administrators have finished tinkering.
Microsoft is well aware of how SP2 can cause applications to need an overhaul -- the software behemoth has already published a list of nearly 50 programs that will appear not to work when the service pack is installed and has had to issue a patch to allow its CRM (customer relationship management) product to go on operating post-SP2.