Guy’s Ezine 143 XP SP3 – Personality Assessment

Guy’s Ezine 143 XP SP3 – Personality Assessment

Update: Beware XP SP3 Problems.  June 2008.

Perhaps I should have emphasised a few more points with XP’s SP3.  However, the good news is that you can uninstall this service pack if you suspect that it is causing any of these problems.

Even better, if you do have a problem contact the nearestMicrosoft Support for your locale.  There is unlimited free support until April 2009.

Check the pre-requisites:

Microsoft require that either you install XP SP1 or SP2 before you install SP3.

Microsoft recommend uninstalling either of these programs before you apply XP SP3:

  • Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit
  • Remote Desktop Connection (RDP) 6.0 MUI pack (Update 925877 for Windows XP)
  • I had forgotten to remind you to disable any anti-virus software for the duration of the SP3 install


Booting: Problems with HP/AMD.  Also AMD motherboards (A8N 32SLI Deluxe) only boots if you insert a USB device.

Registry Corruption, particularly if you have Symantec Norton software.

AutoUpdate  Problems with Restore Points.

Microsoft Word stops working.  Starts working if you uninstall SP3.

Sundry other problems: The key to solving your XP SP3 problems is identifying the symptoms as accurately as possible.  Then follow-up by searching the internet for a solution.  Believe that if you keep trying, then will come up with a fix. 

One other source of solutions, post your predicament in a forum such as:

XP SP3 Personality

Each Windows service pack has its own personality.  XP’s SP3 is the last of the line.  However it seems to be disruptive influence and needs watching. 

The demeanour of each service pack varies enormously.  If you have recently applied SP2 to Windows Server 2003, then you may find that XP’s SP3 has a different feel.

Compatibility Problems

The more I research this SP3, the more I find unexpected quirks.  For example, Microsoft recommends that you install XP’s service packs sequentially, SP1, SP2 and then SP3.  In practical terms, this is unlikely to be a problem as most people will already have XP SP2.

If you need to check which service pack you have look in the System Icon.  My favourite way of bringing up the screen is to hold down the Windows Key and press the Pause / Break key.

There is (was) a problem with Retail Management System (RMS).  Bluntly, those using Microsoft’s using RMS solution should not install RCs (release candidates) of XP SP3.  It is best to wait for the RTM (Release to Manufactures) version.  If you have to uninstall a service pack on an XP machine, then launch the Control Panel and head for Add or Remove Programs.

The lesson from this RMS saga is always try SP3 on a test machine before rolling it to zillions of machines.  If you think about all the combinations of hardware and software, it’s impossible for Microsoft to test every combination.

False Dawns

XP’s SP3 has more than it’s fair share of false dawns.  As with other service packs, there have been betas and release candidates, however, the last minute discovery of problems with RMS has meant another delay for the release of the definitive RTM version of XP’s SP3.

Depending on the XP machine’s settings, you may wake up one day and find that SP3 has been applied via the Automatic Update service.  Alternatively, when you see an announcement in the press that SP3 is available, visit Microsoft’s Download Center and download your copy.  While you are in the Download Center take the opportunity to search for other service packs, for example Microsoft Office. 

Urban Myths

Sooner or later every service spawns at least one urban myth.  In the case of SP3, the rumour is that it also installs IE 7.0 – not true. 

On the other hand, good news: reports which indicate that XP with SP3 runs 10% faster than XP with SP2, appear genuine.

Features Decommissioned

Occasionally, a service pack decommissions previous stuff.  My old friend ‘Mad’ Mick complains that SP3 RC removed his Address Toolbar.  Nobody else knows what he is talking about.  But according to Mick, XP formerly had a box amongst the Taskbar icons where he typed in URLs, and now he this Address box has gone.  What Mick says is that with XP and SP2, if you clicked on the Taskbar, and selected Toolbars, you saw an option called ‘Address’. 

Mick gave me an article which attempted to justify the removal of the Address Toolbar, it had some phobus ballonus about political correctness and privacy.  To return to my main point, if you are an aficionado of XP’s Address Toolbar, don’t beat yourself up if it disappears after applying SP3, this removal is ‘by design’.  I would add that if this is the only feature that has been removed, then we ordinary users have nothing to worry about when we apply SP3.  If you troll around the Microsoft XP forums then you can discover if SP3 removes any more features.

Why bother to download XP SP3? 

In a nutshell, we may as well go for it and install SP3.  There is nothing to lose (apart from that Address Toolbar).  Tests claim that XP will run slightly faster once you install SP3.  Other benefits depend on whether you are home user, or if you a builder of XP images.  If you have to keep installing XP it’s a pain to apply SP2 then all those hotfixes in the correct order.  SP3 will save you time.

1) Consolidation.  Did you, or your XP machine, miss a hotfix?  SP3 rolls-up all those kb security fixes since 2004.  Is it possible you skipped one or two in these last four years?  I know they are supposed to update automatically, but one or two just may have been aborted.

2) Do you need NAP (Network Access Control)?  If so, this is the killer reason to get SP3.  The idea behind NAP is that network managers can prevent ‘unhealthy’ Vista machines accessing their networks.  SP3 extends this Vista / Longhorn technology to XP.  Consultants trying to gain internet access via a company’s network maybe the biggest beneficiaries of NAP.

If your XP laptop has SP3, and is fully patched (healthy) then it too can be checked, and if it passes it would be allowed onto the protected network.  If the XP machine has not got SP3, or is unhealthy, then it’s not allowed on to the production network where it could potentially infect other machines.

3) Other advantages, you can install XP with SP3 without a product key.  The idea, as with Vista, is to install quickly, then worry about the product licensing at your leisure.  This feature is only important if you creating an XP build to install on multiple machines.

‘Black hole’ router detection.  XP with SP3 will ignore network routers that incorrectly drop some kinds of network packets. This is another feature found in Windows Vista.

Many service packs trial aspects of the next major version, and introduce new features for example, Windows Server 2003 SP2, adds features of Longhorn.  However, SP3 has no flashy Vista-like features, such as Aero graphics or Bit-locker security; NAP is the only significant Vista feature.

One last point, SP3 is only for 32-bit XP; for 64-bit XP, SP2 is the latest and last service pack.

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Where next?

The imminent arrival of XP, brings with it subliminal questions.  How long am I going to carry on with XP?  When is the best time to upgrade?  Should I gain maximum benefit and upgrade to Vista now.  The answer to these questions in 2007 when all we had was Vista beta was clearly ‘no’.  However, if you wait until 2010 when Vista reaches SP3 that too sounds a little silly.  Only you know the answer to the question, ‘When should I upgrade’. 

Guy says the key question is: ‘Do I need to buy new hardware?’  If the answer is ‘no’ then stay with XP.  The very worst experience you could have is to attempt an in-place upgrade of XP to Vista.  If the answer is ‘yes’, you are splashing out on new kit, then I would install Vista as the operating system.

Summary of SP3 for XP

The purpose of this ezine is to alert you to the imminent release of service pack 3 for XP.  As of early May 2008, the service pack has been sent back to Microsoft’s technicians to fix a problem with RTM.  My long-term mission is to alert you that each service pack has a distinct personality.  Traits or quirks present in SP1, may not exist in SP3, and this applies for all service packs, not just XP.

Will and Guy’s Humour

Will is not very computer literate, thus he really enjoyed this collection oftech support and call center jokes.  Guy, who is computer literate, only found them averagely funny, although some of the tech support exchanges did ring a bell with real customers. Check out our computer humour.

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