SP3 time yet?

Question

After reviewing your May 2, 2008 advice regarding SP3 (Windows XP Service Pack 3), when will we (the general public) know it's the right time to install the update? I stopped the automatic install of updates right after reading your advice and now notice SP 3 is available for install on my system. Based on your comments and those I've read from other reliable sources, I'm still not sure the time is right to update. Any suggestions?

- Helen

Answer

This question was answered on June 5, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

There will never be a definitive date for when SP3 is safe for everyone to install To add to the complication, many folks that are experiencing issues with Service Pack 3 are blaming it for pre-existing problems in their computer that were brought to light because SP3 was installed.

In other words, Service Pack 3 is being blamed in some cases when it was really not the actual cause of the problem, because the person installing it didn’t realize there were pre-existing problems.

I am not suggesting that Service Pack 3 is bug free and should work for everyone, because there are lots of specific situations that we know for sure that Service Pack 3 was the cause of a problem.

Hewlett-Packard for instance, reported a specific issue of endless rebooting and BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) errors for their computers that used AMD processors and warned their customers not to install SP3 until they came up with a patch.

Various workarounds have been posted by both HP (search for Service Pack 3 at www.hp.com) and in the Microsoft Knowledge Base ( http://support.microsoft.com/kb/888372 ).

Unfortunately, your unique situation (the combination of your hardware, software, applications, security programs and the hidden problems that may currently exist) can not be duplicated, so the only absolute way to know if there is going to be a problem for you is to install the Service Pack (not much help is it?)

Waiting to see how much more info the technical community can gather is the safest bet for the time being, but if you want to try installing it, here are my recommendations:

- Don’t do anything until you have a verified backup of your critical data just in case you are forced to wipe out Windows and start over (rare, but possible)

- Make absolutely sure that you do not have any malicious code installed in your computer by running a full scan with your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs

- Make sure you have plenty of free hard drive space – Microsoft recommends a minimum of 1.5 Gb (1,500 Mb)

- Temporarily disable your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs so they don’t interfere with the SP 3 installation (and be sure to reactivate them once the update is complete)

- Make sure you are logged in as the Administrator to perform the update

- Make sure you are plugged into a Battery backed power unit in case of a power outage during the update

- Make sure all other users are logged off (especially if you routinely use Fast User Switching)

- Windows XP Professional users should create an Automated System Recovery set before getting started (search Windows Help for Automated System Recovery)

If all this sounds like more than you want to deal with, consult a professional to evaluate your situation and make a specific recommendation based on a thorough evaluation of all of YOUR variables.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on June 5, 2008