Windows XP SP3 Released

May 6th, 2008

The long awaited release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 has finally arrived. Its been almost 4 years since SP2 was released. With close to a hundred updates since SP2, Service Pack 3 has been needed. It appears this will be the last service pack for Windows XP. Microsoft plans to stop selling retail versions of Windows XP on June 30, 2008. So anyone who has not upgraded to Windows XP should think seriously about upgrading before this date.

Is there anything special in the Windows XP SP3 release?

Although Windows XP SP3 will not include any major changes, it will include all the patches and updates since SP2 was released along with 4 minor new features dealing with reliability and security.

The new features in Windows XP SP3 are:

Network Access Protection compatibility. This feature allows Windows XP machines to interact with the NAP feature in Windows Server 2008. This functionality is built into Windows Vista as well. NAP provides "computer health" policies that must be met before a particular computer is allowed to access the network. If a client cannot prove it is compliant with system health requirements (for example, that it has the latest operating system and antivirus updates installed), its access to the network or communication on the network can be limited to a restricted network containing server resources so that health compliance issues can be remedied.

Product Key-less install option. As with Windows Vista, new Windows XP w/ SP3 installs can proceed without entering a product key during Setup.

Kernel Mode Cryptographics Module. A new kernel module that "encapsulates several different cryptographic algorithms," according to Microsoft. Kinda technical, but it deals with security.

"Black hole" router detection algorithm. XP gains the ability to ignore network routers that incorrectly drop certain kinds of network packets. This, too, is a feature of Windows Vista. I just hope this doesn't cause more "limited or no connectivity" issues like I saw in SP2.

There are some minor changes to the security settings and the removal of a few things including the "Address Bar" from Taskbar. It appears from the latest whitepaper that IE7 is NOT included in SP3 but available for download separately.

What Versions of Windows XP will work with Service Pack 3?

You can apply Service Pack 3 to Windows XP Home Edition, Professional Edition, Tablet PC Edition (any version), or Media Center Edition (any version). Although it appears you must have at least SP1 installed to install the new service pack. SP3 does not apply to the x64 version of Windows XP. Instead, that operating system is updated via service packs aimed at Windows Server 2003.

What Version of Internet Explorer ships with Service Pack 3?

Windows XP Service Pack 3 ships with Internet Explorer 6 and contains a roll-up of various security updates. If you have IE6 on your computer, you can safely install Service Pack 3 and then end up with an updated version of IE6 and all your preferences intact.

If you have Internet Explorer 7 currently installed, all your preferences and settings will be retained. However the ability to uninstall IE7 will be taken away. Since an uninstall requires a rollback to a previous version that has since been updated with SP3, this option will no longer be available. If you must uninstall IE7 at this point, you would have to first uninstall service pack 3, then proceed to uninstall IE7. To get around this issue, uninstall IE7 first, then install Service Pack 3, and finally reinstall Internet Explorer 7.

If you are running IE 8 Beta, you should UNINSTALL IT FIRST, then install Service Pack 3. After the service pack is successfully install, you can upgrade to the latest beta version of IE8.

Why Should I Upgrade to XP SP3?

Since it appears this will be the last major development of Windows XP and the date is approaching when Microsoft will no longer be selling retail versions of XP, its a good idea to download this update and install it. If you haven't bothered to download updates since the last Service Pack, then I would highly recommend that you download and install this update. It wont dramatically change the way you work like Windows Vista did, but it will make your computer as secure as it possibly can be at the moment.

Problems Rebooting Computer After Service Pack 3 is installed

Depending on the type of processor installed in your computer, you may experience problems rebooting your computer after SP3 is installed. The computer will reboot continuously with a Stop error. Read this article to learn how to fix this issue.

Where can I download Windows XP Service Pack 3?

After a delay because of a compatibility issue between Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) and  XP Service Pack 3 as well as Vista SP1, Microsoft has finally released SP3 to the web for download. You may download it via Windows Updates or from the link below for the standalone full download distributed for anyone needing to update multiple computers. From previous statements by Microsoft, it wont be pushed to customers automatically until June 10, 2008 according to Microsoft's schedule.

Download Windows XP Service Pack 3

For more information regarding Windows XP Service Pack 3, you can visit the Microsoft Support Article regarding it

My Experience Installing Windows XP Service Pack 3

I downloaded the standalone installer for SP3 from the link above and installed it on one of my laptops running Windows XP Home Edition. I thought it might be good to show some screenshots of the installation screen so you know what to expect. After saving the service pack to my desktop and double-clicking on it, I was greeted by the following setup screen recommending that I backup my system first (this is the same sort of screen that greeted users when installing SP2).

SP3 Install

After clicking Next, I was greeted with license agreement

XP SP3 License Agreement

Next, the installation prompted me for the location to save backup files to (accept the default location)

Then the installation proceeded to check for the necessary disk space, backup files, and install SP3

Finally, the system asked me to reboot now or later, I chose to reboot immediately. Upon reboot, the computer displayed a blue install screen to finish the installation and then boot into my profile. It took several minutes to show my profile as the system finished with cleanup and such.  Then a couple DOS boxes appeared for a minute and the installation was complete.

The complete installation on a Home edition system took approximately 20 minutes.

I opened the System Properties window to show the system was now updated to SP3.

System Properties showing SP3 update

Good luck with your update to Service Pack 3!

Written by Mark Hasting

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