XP Service Pack 3: should it be trusted?
July 26, 2008 3:57 AM   Subscribe

XP Service Pack 3: should it be trusted? My computer keeps nagging me about SP3. I've read some things, such as this AskMe post , that make me wonder if SP3 will create more problems than it solves. What are your experiences with SP3?
posted by Termite to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It installed. XP works as well as it always has. None of the things I use it for - games and running the software that came with my digital camera - have been adversely affected.
posted by rodgerd at 4:17 AM on July 26, 2008

Do I need it if everything is running as it should?

(Well, actually things are not running as they should, my computer has become agonizingly slow, taking forever just to alt-tab between three running programs; perhaps it's time for a Windows reinstall?)
posted by Termite at 4:17 AM on July 26, 2008

I've let SP3 install itself on my parents' computers and haven't seen any problems. Certainly not going to fix your performance issues. And on that topic: These days it's overkill to totally reinstall Windows with the tools out there that can help with a cleanup.
posted by poppo at 5:21 AM on July 26, 2008

SP3 is a roll up of the more than 100 security patches since SP2, with some minor new functionality additions that are mainly of interest to users on larger Windows domains. The full list of rollup and new functionality is summarized in this .pdf file.

I've had it on since June, with no problems. I just downloaded and installed it on my machines as an individual user through the normal Windows Update site.

There were some 8 additional post SP3 updates offered from Windows update on July Patch Tuesday.
posted by paulsc at 5:28 AM on July 26, 2008

I've installed SP3 on over 150 machines so far, comprising about 16 different hardware models.

The few issues I've seen so far are compatibility issues with certain programs that affect network connections: ZoneAlarm on a couple friends personal computers, the ZENworks agent on some our work machines, that sort of thing. There have been fixes available for every one of those issues.

The only case where I encountered a problem and just went with a new clean XPSP3 reinstall was on one of my Parallels VMs on my work Mac. I'm pretty sure that could have been resolved too...I just didn't bother.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:40 AM on July 26, 2008

Thanks for all answers! It seems like I've been worrying about it too much. I will give it a try later.
posted by Termite at 5:51 AM on July 26, 2008

I haven't had any issues with SP3 installed in both physical machines and VMs. However, I refuse to install it on my main machine because after the install the address bar portion of the task bar disappears and I can't figure out how to get it back.
posted by krisak at 6:52 AM on July 26, 2008

On the work network, we have various and sundry home-rolled, customized and not-well known software packages that we need to do our work.

About 50% of them went tits-up on XPSP3. So, we're holding off until we get that PITA solved. Maybe it'll help with the Vista Problem (75% of them have problems under Vista.)

If you use common, supported software, you'll probably be okay, but I'd check with the manufacture on everything you need to run to see if they have SP3 problems.

Incidentally, this is good advice for *all* service packs and upgrades. You can pretty sure that any software made by the OS vendor will work, but if you *need* it to work, you need to test and investigate first. Clients don't accept "MS broke our programs."

This is also why production sysadmins do *not* rush to patch unless there's a clear security issue that is being exploited. What that patch is fixing may well be used by something that's doing the real work you need to do, and breaking that isn't a good way to get on the good side of upper management.

Ideally, if you *have* to have this machine working, you have two of them, with the same applications. You backup one, patch, and test. If you can resolve the problems, you then patch the other one. If you can't, you either spend extra time running down the application patches/changes you need to make everything work, or you restore the test box and wait for the fixes.

If you don't have two machines, I'd backup -- with something like Ghost, that images the entire hard drive -- then apply the patch and run through everything. If it doesn't work, you can then restore the machine to the *exact* point it was at before the upgrade and get back to work.
posted by eriko at 7:53 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Be careful if your XP is very old. I had an XP disc that was from way back when it first came out. I (re)installed it in the machine it had always been on, then seeing SP3 was out, installed it. Suddenly, I was required to BUY A NEW LICENSE FOR IT FOR $100 OR PAY $60 TO TALK TO SOMEONE STFU MICROSOFT.

This contributed to my decision to abandon Microsoft all together.

Sorry about the caps. That's me yelling.
posted by cmoj at 8:21 AM on July 26, 2008

Let me take back what I said about SP3 - it just failed for me. Last night I created a new VMWare VM, installed XP SP2 VL, then updated to SP3 and got all of the latest updates beyond that. I just tried to install SQL 2005 Standard and it failed - looked like a regioning issue.

I've done this multiple times on SP2 and never had an issue. Using the same ISOs I normally do, so this appears to be an issue related specifically to SP3. I'd second the recommendation about, run a test before deploying it.

If you have access to Acronis back or something similar, you can take an image off of a physical PC, then restore it to a VM to test with. We've used it multiple times in our company with great success.
posted by krisak at 9:17 AM on July 26, 2008

I do this kind of thing for a living and have updated around 100 machines to sp3. Of those 100, I've only had a problem on a couple machines, but they were pretty major. One wouldn't boot to windows and I couldn't use the system restore point from before the update, because it was corrupted. argghh!

Anyway my point is that you will probably be fine, but I would definitely recommend backing up your data if you haven't recently, just in case.
posted by meta87 at 9:35 AM on July 26, 2008

First off, sp3 is really just one big roll-up. You already have it 99% of it if youve been doing windows updates. It'll also update some stuff like remote desktop, windows installer 3.1, mmc, WPA2, etc. You probably have most of those too.

The real issue is that if you have a messed up box to begin with then doing anything to it could make matters worse. If its as slow as you saw Id try to clean it up, remove malware, etc. If that doesnt help Id just do a full reinstall.

The only bug Ive found so far is that when I use FAST to do a quick profile copy from a sp2 machine to a sp3 machine I get an error. Theres a hotfix for this.

Its also worth noting the sp3 does not include IE7 and .NET framework 2.0. Youll need to install those via windows updates post-install.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2008

Have not had any problems with SP3 on any of my four systems that run XP (including a VMWare virtual machine) or any of about 300 systems at work when we finally rolled it out.
posted by mrbill at 10:38 AM on July 26, 2008

I've installed it on a few personal computers, almost all the PCs at work (>150), and on some pretty old computers at a non-profit I volunteer for. No problems anywhere.
posted by pmbuko at 8:54 PM on July 26, 2008

When they installed it on my machine at work, Windows wouldn't boot, not even after a fresh install of Windows. (I think -- it wasn't me working on fixing it. All I know is that it took him a day, and then he gave up and hooked up the hard drive to a hard drive with a working version of windows.) You should probably back up your system and all.
posted by salvia at 5:30 PM on August 14, 2008

Is this still the received wisdom on this topic? I'm building a sysprep clone master for my network of new(old) IBM ThinkCentre P4s, and it's prompting me for it.

This is currently a bare metal XP install, upgraded from the SP1 CD to SP2 by redistributable.

I heard *lots* of bad things about SP3 when it hit...
posted by baylink at 4:50 PM on October 7, 2008

But I've just installed it over SP2 on a machine installed from HP SP1 media, and so far, I haven't had any problems... so maybe it's settled down now.
posted by baylink at 7:05 PM on October 8, 2008

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