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Firewalls harm SP2



Published: Sat, January 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Q. I have installed Service Pack 2 on my Windows XP computer and now Microsoft Internet Explorer won't access Web pages -- it gives me a "this page cannot be displayed" message.

The computer is definitely accessing the Internet. I am able to send and receive e-mail through my AT & amp;T connection, which is where I use Internet Explorer browser for Web access. I am able to access all Web sites and e-mail by logging on through AOL.

The folks from Dell suggested that I simply uninstall SP2. The Microsoft chat room suggests something about making changes to Winsock. Do you have suggestions?

A. Most of the time folks get this problem when they have been running a firewall on their computer and then have the Windows Service Pack 2 install the new and quite effective firewall that lies at the heart of Microsoft's new security features. If you do have another firewall running -- perhaps one offered by your Internet service provider -- then you should either shut it down or else disable the Windows XP firewall.

You don't need to decide which way to go right now. Start by shutting down the SP2 firewall to see what happens. To do this click on Start and Control Panel and then open the panel called Security Center. This pops up a menu that lets you get to the Windows firewall settings and change them or disable the whole thing.

I'm betting that after you disable the SP2 firewall the Web pages will start appearing again.

Next, you should find whatever other firewall was provided and shut it down and restore the SP2 firewall. Nearly all firewall programs put an icon in the system tray at the bottom right of the screen. Give it a right-click and look for the Exit or Disable choice. See what happens with it disabled and SP2 enabled. Assuming that the pages also load this way you can decide which product to use.

Finally, in rare instances, some of the "exceptions" the Windows XP firewall uses get improperly set, causing this same kind of problem.

If necessary, go back to the Security Center Control Panel and then click on the Firewall option and open the tab marked Advanced. At the bottom you will find a Restore Defaults button. Click it. Or, if you are curious, you can do things by hand.

To do that, open the tab for Exceptions next to the Advanced option. There you will find a list of programs with America Online at the top with a check mark alongside, indicating that the firewall will not block AOL from accessing Web pages. I know the check mark is there because you can access the Web using AOL. So look at the other items for missing check marks. Check any unchecked boxes to find out if one of them is at fault. You can always remove checks from boxes by trial and error afterward.

Q. My 40-gigabyte drive died and I replaced it with a Western Digital 160 gb drive. But I can't seem to unlock the area above 130 gb. I'm running Windows XP with SP1 upgrade. I haven't been able to get a solution from either Microsoft or the manufacturer.

A. Look out: This answer must include some serious gobbledygook, but it addresses a growing problem as many folks are tempted to upgrade Windows computers with ever-bigger hard drives rather than replacing the whole machine. With little change in computer chip speeds for more than a year now, people see less need to buy new computers even as their needs for data storage space grow. Hard-drive manufacturers have responded with products far larger than before, and this often leads to confusion, because for most of its history the Windows operating system imposed size limits.

The limit is 137 gb of storage before users of Windows XP without Service Pack 1 hit a glass ceiling known as atapi.sys. And even those with SP1 are advised to seek out a "hot fix."

You can find how to change your computer's settings by using the Microsoft Knowledge Base at http://support.microsoft.com. Use the article number 303013 as a search term. You will find how that hidden Windows file named atapi.sys can be updated to handle larger drives as well as where to download that hot fix.

It's worth adding that Microsoft has replaced Service Pack 1 with the new Service Pack 2, another update to the operating system that is a must-have for just about everybody because of the protection it provides against hacker mischief. Both service packs are supposed to come with support for very large hard drives toggled on. I suspect that you will find when reading the Knowledge Base material that you changed that setting while trying to get that new drive up and running.

Knight Ridder Newspapers




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