What to do when Windows XP Service Pack 3 won't install

XPShrunk.jpg Windows XP Service Pack 3 has been out since April, but it's only now being widely pushed out onto Australian desktops via Windows Update, meaning that pretty much everyone is going to have to deal with it regardless of their geek status. For most people, that means a hefty download (60MB or more) and the usual delays and reboots to have a fully-patched PC. But what if the service pack doesn't install? Read on for our guide to fixing some common SP3 problems.I've installed SP3 on several XP machines by now, and haven't had problems with most of them — but today I encountered a machine that flat-out refused to install SP3, even though it had detected that it was available. That process has ended up with Microsoft Support (and still isn't resolved), but there's plenty of steps you can take before you're forced to hit the phones.

Get the basics right

Although SP3 doesn't add much major new functionality (as we've pointed out before), it is a fairly invasive update, so maximise your chances of getting it to install right. Reboot your machine, and close down any applications that launch during startup. Fire up Internet Explorer (Firefox isn't a good choice in this context). If you haven't previously been through the oh-so-annoying Windows validation process, you'll need get that out of the way first by visiting this page and clicking on the 'Validate Windows' button in the top-left corner. Then go to Windows Update and follow the prompts to install SP3.

Troubleshooting steps

Unfortunately, there are plenty of elements that can make SP3 go wrong, from strange hardware drivers to individual hardware products. If you encounter a specific error message pointing to a particular product, try disabling it and attempt a reinstall. If you get a very generic message (like the one at the top of this article), you'll need to try some more general steps. For no obvious reason, Microsoft has produced a troubleshooting guide to installing SP3 as part of its Knowledge Base, but doesn't actually link to it from the SP3 installation error page. Once you do find it, it proposes five steps: reboot and try again, try install a downloaded version rather than the Windows Update version, disable your antivirus software, make sure Background Intelligent Transfer Service is enabled, and clear the software distribution folder. You can read the details of each step in the support document, but here's two important points to note which it doesn't mention. Firstly, if you choose to download the standalone SP3 installation rather than using Windows Update (step 2 in Microsoft's list), be aware that it weighs in at 316MB — a hefty amount if you're on a restricted download limit and an impossible amount if you use dial-up. Microsoft does offer an alternative service where you can order SP3 on a CD, but that costs $14.95 for delivery charges. Even nastier, despite that huge price, delivery takes between 2 to 4 weeks. Secondly, if you do download the full installer or order the CD, Microsoft telephone support recommends installing it in safe mode, though this isn't mentioned in the Knowledge Base article. (Access Safe Mode by holding down the F8 key during booting.)

Contact support

If all that fails, Microsoft is offering free telephone support for XP SP3 service pack problems until April 2009. Ring on 13 20 58 (for Australian users); be prepared to wait for a while and repeat information several times. With that said, the staff I encountered were courteous, and everyone was aware that SP3 users are entitled to free support.


    I have 4 pcs that required the sp3 update so far two have worked and one has refused the update, while the other had quite a number of error messages relating to driver errors, I had to turn off every program that may have been running in the background, the machine that refused to update is actually the newest machine but is also running XP Medis Centre Edition so not sure if this would make a difference, the others were XP Pro on a laptop and XP Pro on a desktop oem version and a very old oem version that started out before sp2 was even a gleem in Bill's eye. I'll have to try the download and install in safe mode.

    With Microsoft the only real OS that caters for all hardware shapes and sizes (linux phh yea right...to hard if i wanted to write code i would) Im not suprised people have glitches and problems especially when a majority of people use non Microsoft signed drivers and the like. I had no probs installing this.

    Im not justifiying Microsoft at all becuase Ive had my fair share of issues with Microsoft but at the same time, Just seems to easy to slag the big dog when Majority of people know bugger all about how there OS works and what drivers ETC to install to minimize the impact of problems.

    I bet Microsoft tested this to the hilt with Microsoft approved drivers and found little fault.

    meh... read on...

    Dear Ben. I dare you to insert the Ubuntu hardy cd into your computer, and tell me the hardware that doesn't work out of the box. (btw, you can get the cd for free here: www.ubuntu.com look for thttps://shipit.ubuntu.com/) and I bet if any hardware doesn't work, you can install it with a simple search of www.ubuntuforums.org.

    I believe that as a 10 year old OS with many many applications written for it, XP is a great old sturdy product, but that Ubuntu like the other modern OS (OSX) is only getting better, and will be much more widely used in the future as more people discover it. So before all that criticism, check it out, give it a go, I bet you'll pleasantly be surprised!

    Move on people... Time to get a Mac...

    Well, Ben, what can I say, Ubuntu or even Fedora.

    I have installed and used various Linux and FreeBSD systems for over a decade.
    This on both servers and workstations.
    Never a problem on this scale, nor is it a problem on strange or unusual hardware, unless it's broken, or has unpublished interfaces.

    Given that Microsoft only cater to mainstream Intel boards and processors, this nonsense should never happen.

    What's more, my clients are NOT Geeks, they are business people, who don't write code, they just make or save quids.

    Also, all they want to do is just get on with business, not sorting out vendor software issues.
    So, you would think that after all these decades, Big Bill would have learnt how to write a stable Operating System.

    Yeah - I know about this one.

    I had a relatively old but stable Dell with all the Redmond Rubbish up-to-date. I downloaded the standalone installer and tried, many times, to install SP3. Virus check off / on, etc, etc.

    SP3 would work away for a while then report that it had been cancelled. Honestly, my hands were nowhere near the keyboard or mouse. Plenty of RAM, plenty of disk. Just didn't want to know about installing correctly. I didn't have problems with my office machines.

    Solution: Apple Store opened in Sydney, and I lined up on opening night to order a 24" iMac with 750GB HDD and 4GB RAM. Problem solved. Forever!!

    As an aside, I have an old IBM Pentium III laptop with 512MB RAM running Ubuntu. I'm playing with Sun's VirtualBox VM so I've set up an XP Pro VM under Ubuntu. Guess what - the XP VM wanted to upgrade itself and included SP3 - and did so successfully. Best not upgrade a Microsoft operating system whilst operating a Microsoft operating system . . . . .


    I have 4 computers running various levels of WinOS--XP/SP2's and older. Also have been trying Ubuntu 8. On my two XP systems, SP2's, the damned SP3 will not fully install--and gives no error messages, just dies after the install. Microsoft sucks, IMO, and always has. The only good thing about the company is that Bill Gates has established a multi-billion $ foundation. I won't buy an Apple, even they are more stable, because the hardware and apps are too limited.
    Even though I spent a major part of my life as a computer systems engineer, I just want to get things done efficiently. All the upgrades and upgrading cycles waste an incredible amount of time--usually in trying to fix things because they never upgraded properly. With Ubuntu, I have spent hours trying to link to my Canon printers, with only limited feature availability. On the other hand Ubuntu itself runs nicely. Get us out of the time-wasting screwing around with the computer and let us get some real work done, Bill, Steve and all the rest of you full-time geeks. (Where's the AI program that would solve these issues?)

    Buy a MAC.

    LOL, buying a Mac isn't the answer.

    Like someone else said earlier, Mac's are great for designers or non computer literate people, but they simply don't have the software support and versatility of the PC. They are great for beginners though, and we do keep one in the office for photography and designing our advertising material.

    PCs are far better for working (unless you are a designer/photographer), coding/hacking, playing games, and running various other apps. There really is no comparison. The Mac OS is far too restrictive and basic in comparison to PC and for this reason the PC will always win hands down in a serious work/network environment. Yes the PC is more complex to setup/work with sometimes, but the rewards are far greater if you persevere and learn how to use them properly!

    SP3 can sometimes be a tricky issue. Usually you can revert to SP2 or reinstall this service pack which fixes the issues. If it does not it could be a string of different issues.

    For more information visit our site.

    i wan to serviece pack3

    after test many ms fix's and test many solutions over the net, that did not solve my problem, behold now i can install all the updates from windows update.

    how? install this updates offline and then you will be able to start update from windows or AU.



    and run to windows updates :D

    and of course . . . have to be legit

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