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How do I remove Windows XP SP2?

Question: How can I remove Windows XP SP2 when the “run” command can’t find the hidden file? It was installed by a computer place and not through Windows Update. I can’t find it in “add/remove” through Control Panel, nor System Restore.

There are two ways to get Windows XP SP2. One of them can be removed, and the other cannot.

I’ll bet you can see where this is headed, can’t you?

And, as you’ll see in a moment, you really don’t want to remove it anyway.

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Windows XP SP2 can be installed either of two ways:

  • As an update to Windows XP, or Windows XP SP1. That means the system was running without SP2, and it was installed either via Windows Update, or via the Automatic Updates feature. In this case, there is a “before” and an “after”, and you can return to that “before” state, usually through uninstalling via Add/Remove programs.
  • As an integrated part of a fresh install. Once SP2 was released, the changes it contained were integrated directly into new copies of Windows XP. Thus the CDs and other installation media simply install copy of Windows XP with SP2 already incorporated. In a case like this, there is no “before”. The machine has SP2 included from the beginning, and there’s no way to go back, because there’s nothing to go back to.

If your machine arrived with SP2 already installed by the computer store, I would bet that that’s exactly what they installed … a copy of Windows XP with SP2 already integrated.

In my opinion, this is a good thing. Typically when there are issues with SP2 that might cause someone to want to install it, it’s because there was a problem with the upgrade, or the state of the machine prior to the upgrade. In your case, there was no upgrade, SP2 was there from the beginning. That implies that any problems you are experiencing are not likely to be SP2 related.

If you are absolutely, positively, dead set on removing SP2, the only way I know to do it would be to find and install a copy of Windows XP that did not have SP2 integrated, make darned sure you have replacements for all the security enhancements that SP2 provides, and make sure not to take SP2 as an automatic update.

But I really don’t recommend it.

I mean, I really, really don’t recommend it.

In my opinion SP2 remains a very good thing, and an important part of keeping your computer safe and secure.

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26 comments on “How do I remove Windows XP SP2?”

  1. Hi. I am having trouble removing xp sp2. I tried several ways from the microsoft website. it didnt work. There is nothing that says xp2 in the control panel remove section even under hidden files. Nothing in the recvovery area. There is a ton of hotfixes and windows updates…but nothing that sp2. How do i get rid of this irritating update? PLease help, thanks

  2. how do i uninstall Win xp i just want a blank hard drive so i can start clean and maybe install windows 98 and Linux i just want to install both or eighter one for practice.

  3. I want to delete XP SP2. I downloaded it, tried to install it, and it gives an error message during the install saying there is a a corrupt file. How do i delete the uninstalled SP2 so that I can download a new copy? The microsoft update website tells me I already have the SP2 downloaded, so I cant get a fresh copy.

  4. I recently installed SP2 and it’s just caused too many problems. I do have the option of uninstalling it in my control panel. If I uninstall SP2, will I need to reinstall SP1? What problems can occur if I uninstall SP2?

  5. The biggest issue is that you will no longer have many of the security updates that SP2 includes, and will be at risk from various forms of malware.

    Rather than uninstalling it, if it’s really causing you that many problems, I recommend a reinstall of Windows with SP2 (either a Windows CD that has it already, or an immediate application of SP2 onto a clean Windows install.)

    Many, if not most, of SP2’s problems are traced to problems that were on the machine before it was installed. A clean install of Windows avoids those issues.

  6. thinking i would be smart i attempted to install XP from sp2 cd on wife’s computer. Found out too late that it will overwrite 98 and all info lost. Can’t use repair fix methods described elsewhere because computer not configured to start up with cd. can’t get rid of the continual cycle of f3, restart, etc. Just want 98 back and not the pernicious, wormlike sp2.

  7. Hi there Mr Leo,
    I need to uninstall my Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 “integrated” (according to your definition) and then reformat my Hard Drive. And YES, I want to go through whatever hassle I must to get my PC just the way I had it when I just built it 4 months ago.
    And NO, you have NOT yet answered this question.
    Now; Do you know how to do that?
    Would you please tell me how to do it?
    Million thanks in advance.

  8. Apparently you have not read the article, because the question is answered clearly. SP2 cannot be “uninstalled” from an integrated installation.

    Your question actually makes no sense. Why uninstall anything if you’re just going to reformat? Reformatting will erase everything – Windows, SP2, all your apps, etc..

    Perhaps I’m missing some nuance of your situation?

  9. Hi again, Mr Leo.
    Thank you for your answer.
    You’re right; I didn’t make myself clear. I actually want to reformat my HDD. I had never done this from WinXP SP2 but from previous versions. I didn’t find such an answer in your site or in Microsoft’s, so there was my missing nuance.
    Let me clarify this: I was looking for some “step by step” instructions aplicable to my situation. But as I researched, it could be unlikely to be found.
    Thank you anyway. Your site seems to be most helpful for many people, and it is very nice to see you sincerely trying answer every question and sharing your knowledge.

  10. I have alot of music videos i have burnt to data ever since sp2 icant play no mpeg or mpg files do i need to uninstall sp2 or is there another way to fix this problem

  11. I have a similar problem, except with one difference. I downloaded the service pack and because of problems with programs I decided to uninstall it. Uninstall went fine until the reboot.
    The computer hung on the reboot and did not complete the uninstall. After I manually rebooted I checked the ADD/Remove programs and SP2 was there But, when I checked the sp2 files the uninstall program was not there. Now there is no way to uninstall it again and since I have a pre sp2 cd I can’t repair thru windows install without creating a slipstreamed disk. If you have any help for those of us in this situation it would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Ok, i am confused here.. i got a windows xp pro disk today, tried installing it, the windows came up then i click install , then i get this message Setup cannot continue because the version of Windows on your computer is newer than the version on the CD.

    Warning: If you decide to delete the newer version of Windows that is currently installed on your computer, the files and settings cannot be recovered.

    i am currently using xp home, but when i try to activate it, it says i exceeded the amount of i cant activate it. i tried looking in add remove but xp unistall isnt thanx

  13. Hi Leo,I’ve tried to reformat my windows xp.I even insert the windows xp cd-rom but my pc doesnt show anything.. It stated boot from cd-rom but nothing happen.When i start windows,the error msg was “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM.Can you please please help me….

  14. Hi Leo,I’ve tried to reformat my windows xp.I even insert the windows xp cd-rom but my pc doesnt show anything.. It stated boot from cd-rom but nothing happen.When i start windows,the error msg was “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM.Can you please please help me….

  15. I’ve been getting a LOT of blue screens, starting a year ago, and it’s reached the point where it looks like I MUST reformat. I have an HP Compaq Presario 2199US laptop, and today received replacemet setup XP and driver disks. I’ve also got a link to a program called “killdisk” from HP. I know I’ve tried to reformat a couple of years ago (I think I used the repair option) and received the message “Setup cannot continue because the version of Windows on your computer is newer than the version on the CD.” As my new disks only contain the updates thru SP1, I’m just looking for some advice before reformatting, which I DREAD doing. I’ve backed up my docs to an online storage device. Is there anything else I need to do? I WAS using ZoneAlarm, which caused a lot of program conflicts (couldn’t use msn at the same time w/o crashing). I got the blue screen about 10 times yesterday after running chkdsk, which showed numerous errors.
    Question: am I correct in my thinking that I must totally reformat? if not, what then? and if so, what else do I need to do before taking this drastic step?

    And I’ve read all your advice.. is there any way to install SP2 on the new setup disk, or do I need to just redownload all updates?

    Thanks so much for any advice!

  16. i want to install original windows xp sp1 to my laptop but service agent install xp sp2 demo, what i will do ???

    Hash: SHA1

    I’ve never heard of an SP 2 *demo*. If it’s SP2, I’d just
    live with it. Or I’d install SP3.

    If you MUST have SP1, and SP2 is not listed in Add/Remove
    programs as removable, your only option is to reinstall


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  18. I have acquired a virus “antivirus xp 2008” and it is invading everything on my laptop. I think i need to uninstall my windows xp pro and i guess I need to reformat and then reinstall. It appears that it is some big secret process. No where on the web are there any directions on how to uninstall and reformat. Can you help me????????? My add remove file does not have windows xp on the list so i can remove it. Help!!

  19. IM trying to format my c drive and tells me i cant because i have a newer version on computer do i format c drive with newer version .


  20. Leo, it doesn’t work by installing the windows XP sp1… “setup canpt continue because…” current windows is a newer version. Did you even try this?

  21. I had had SP 3 for a long time and from what you have said, I might be better off without it. It was downloaded automatically along with anything else MS feel I should have. Should I now revert to SP2 ? Many thanks Leo and kindest regards.


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