Institute for Advanced Professional Studies

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) Installation Guidelines


Microsoft released Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) on May 6, 2008. SP3 contains a "roll-up" of 1.174 hotfixes and security updates, all of the improvements issued since the October 25, 2001 introduction of Windows XP. A free download, SP3 also contains a number of new features, mainly security enhancements developed for Windows Vista.

SP3 can be installed on the following Windows XP versions with Service Pack 1 or 2:

  • Windows XP Home Edition
  • Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Windows XP Professional Edition
  • Windows XP Starter Edition
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

The following Windows XP editions cannot be upgraded with Service Pack 3:

  • Windows XP Embedded Edition
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition

These guidelines reflect the best practices for assuring a successful installation of SP3 and include a few recommended information protection and computer upkeep

Installation Issues:

Given the almost unlimited number of combinations of underlying computer hardware, device drivers, BIOS firmware, third-party security utilities, as well as operating system infections and corruption, users should be concerned about possible SP3 installation

Known issues include problems with HP's AMD-based systems, Symantec's antivirus products, ASUS motherboards, various video cards and customized login screens. Prior to installing SP3 on computers with known compatibility problems, users should explore available patches and recommended workarounds. If workarounds are unavailable, there are ways to block SP3's installation.

Despite Microsoft's extensive pre-release testing and confidence in their service pack, users should back up their data before installing Service Pack 3. They should also postpone the installation until the third week in June, 2008 to enable Microsoft to fix problems with SP3 and develop workarounds for specific hardware and software

As of May 27, 2008, a survey of Windows XP SP3 users by PC Pitstop revealed:

  • 75.4% of those surveyed experienced no noticeable problems
  • 24.6% of those surveyed have experienced noticeable problems
    • 53% of affected users have not been able to fix the problems
    • 22% more say they have only been able to fix some of the problems they are having

See PC Pitstop's full report for additional

Since Windows XP Service Pack 3 overwrites key SP2 settings, the only solution for some problems is reinstallation of SP2. This procedure results in the loss of the data on your hard


Before installing SP3 (or any other major operating system upgrade), computer users need to make the following preparations:

  1. Call your computer's manufacturer or check their support website to see if there are any compatibility issues with your computer. Confirm that your BIOS firmware and device drivers are up-to-date. At minimum, your XP computer must be running Service Pack 1 for SP3 to install.
  2. To cover every installation option, make sure that you have at least 1.8 GB of free space on your computer's hard drive. Take this opportunity to confirm that you have enough available storage for optimal performance of your computer. Delete any unused programs and data.
  3. Perform complete antivirus and spyware scans with up-to-date virus and spyware definitions.
  4. Back up your data and make certain you can reinstall it.
  5. Remove any Microsoft applications, such as Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit and Remote Desktop Connection (RDP), that will prevent SP3's installation.

Aside from Steps 1 and 5, these preparations should already be part of your regular computer maintenance program. This list of preparatory steps may appear to be excessive, but experienced computer technicians will agree that these steps are important to


  1. Reboot the computer (This is the operating system equivalent of starting the day with a good breakfast.)
  2. The computer must be on AC Power: SP3 will not install on systems powered solely by batteries.
  3. Download SP3 from Microsoft's Windows Update (You can skip this time-consuming step if you install SP3 from a CD)
  4. Disconnect the network: This will minimize your computer's vulnerability when its security programs are disabled.
  5. Shut down your software firewall (ZoneAlarm)
  6. Disable your antivirus program and any other utility that continuously monitors your system (this includes some anti-spyware programs).
  7. The installation of SP3 is a major event in the life of your operating system, so make sure that no applications are running during the installation. Do not interrupt or interfere with the installation.
  8. Install Service Pack 3 from downloaded code or CD*
  9. Reboot twice and confirm that your previously-disabled programs are working (you may think this is one reboot too many)
  10. Connect to the network
  11. Rerun Windows Update (to verify that all of the high-priority updates have been installed)
  12. Download and install any remaining high-priority updates
  13. Reboot
  14. Defragment the hard drive

* If a problem occurs any time after starting the installation, contact Microsoft for free technical supporttop

Service Pack 3 will install any missing critical updates issued prior to May 2008. The new features improve security and should not result in noticeable changes in functionality.

How to Block or Remove Service Pack Installation:

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