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Will SP2 Crash my machine?

Will SP2 Crash my machine?

There’s been a lot of press about Windows XP SP2 crashing or hanging machines
or applications. The good news is that like most “news”, you only hear the bad stuff.
In fact, the news reflects only a minority of installations – the vast majority of SP2 installations are
working great. The bad news is that if you’re in that minority,
it doesn’t matter to you that it works fine everywhere else.

So what can you do to make sure that you stand the highest chance of success?

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Here are a few steps to take prior to installing SP2:

  • Scan for viruses and spyware: several spyware applications are known
    to cause problems with SP2. Make sure your spyware and virus definitions
    are up to date and scan your machine to clean out these pests.

  • Get the latest pre-SP2 updates: your chances for success installing SP2 are already
    high, but to make them even higher, make sure you’re as up to date as possible on
    everything else. That means visiting Windows Update and
    taking everything except SP2 itself. You might also make sure you have the
    latest hardware drivers for your system, including video, network and any other
    components – especially if they are not mainstream brands. This might involve a little leg
    work to visit those manufacturer’s web sites. Alternately you can wait and update those
    drivers if you have a failure installing SP2 that might be caused by out-of-date drivers.

  • Back up your computer: I honestly don’t care how you do this, but do it. In fact,
    even if you don’t install SP2, do it. I get questions every day that could
    be quickly and easily solved had folks simply had a recent backup of their system.
    If you lost everything on your computer, could you recover? If not, start
    backing up
    . Now. Do it.

  • Make sure you have room: The process of installing SP2 can take up to 1.8 gigabytes on
    your hard disk. That’s not how much room it will take up once installed. SP2
    doesn’t take up nearly that much room once you’re done installing. However the process
    of installing, including making backup files, setting a restore point, copying temporary files
    around, and so on may require that much room on your primary hard drive.

  • Check the release notes, and known problems list: Microsoft had made a
    ton of information available for Windows XP Service Pack 2, and I’ve included
    links to important documents and portals below. Two of the most interesting to
    review prior to installation are Release notes for Windows XP Service Pack 2,
    and Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2.
    The later, in particular, includes a list of applications that are known to have
    issues with Service Pack 2. In many cases, updates or workaround are already available from the
    various manufacturers.

  • Read Microsoft’s “Before you Install” Article:
    What to Know Before You Download and Install Windows XP Service Pack 2
    is an overview article that Microsoft has provided that covers several of the topics
    I’ve covered and several more. In particular it includes links to step-by-step
    instructions for actually installing SP2.

And finally:

  • Don’t Panic if an application stops working: XP SP2 includes changes that
    attempt to make your computer more secure and safe from viruses, spyware, and other
    malicious applications. In doing so they’ve changed the way a couple of things work, or changed the
    default settings for certain aspects of the operating system. Applications that
    rely on lax settings, or worse, actually rely on bugs that allowed them to misbehave
    in the past are going to have problems. Use the Microsoft Support web site,
    use the support web sites for the manufacturer of the software that seems to be having issues,
    and use the internet to search for the fixes and workarounds that are most likely already out there.

At this writing, Windows XP Service Pack 2 has been out in the field long enough
that I feel confident enough to endorse installing it.
The vast majority of SP2 installations
have gone smoothly and without incidents.
A lot of the noise about problems is due to a small percentage of applications that were behaving
improperly to begin with, or security related changes that simply require user
intervention before being allowed to continue.

I run SP2 on my computers running Windows XP, and have had no issues.

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41 comments on “Will SP2 Crash my machine?”

  1. You missed one of the critical steps before installing SP2 – Run a spyware detector like SpyBot Search&Destroy or Adaware to remove spyware from the computer. Several spyware applications are known to have conflicts with SP2.

  2. I’ve had a problem installing SP2 on my Advent 7027 laptop (serves me right for buying this I think).

    Computer crashes on start up after 15 dots on the “please wait…” page

    Contacted the support line on 3 occasions to remedy – been told to clean-boot, told to uninstall AV and Firewall. Nothing helped.

    This morning told by support line that Microsoft are going to issues a Service Pack 2A by Xmas as I’m not the only poor chap with problems.

    What really peeves me is that my laptop is less than a year-old. Every computer I’ve ever owned seems to be redundant and stops working within about a year. Whilst I’m not an IT professional I’m certainly not an IT cretin either so I blame Microsoft!

  3. I have just had to do a system restore. Within a few days of installing SP2 I installed Real player but my system kept shutting down & rebooting. After checking through my system and found it was still rebooting, I uninstalled Realplayer and to be on the safe side (in case I had made any other changes & forgotten them), I system restored from a few days before the real player download . It has been fine since with no more rebooting. But the only thing I have noticed is the HDD activity. All of a sudden when nothing seems to be running I hear and see my hard drive red light flickering, then after a few minutes, it stops. Can you suggest anything as this has only started since the xp2 install.
    Julie Rice

  4. Hello, I installed SP2 on a 8 month old high end laptop, and started getting problems. I got “delayed write errors”, and had to schedule scandisk. This found bad sectors and fixed them. Then it happened again! I copied my website and work folders to another PC, just in time as the laptop crashed again. This time, nothing would make it restart. I tried to re-install XP, and had to repartition the drive. Even this failed, my hard drive is now unformattable and I have had to buy a new one! Could just be a coincidence, but I got a message saying write cacheing had to be disabled before it died. I’m leaving it off until the next release, lost all my emails etc. I ran full spyware, adware and virus checks first, so it wasnt that.

  5. Regarding “Get the latest pre-SP2 updates”. This *was* the right thing to do, but now I’m not so sure. Now that SP2 has been around for a while, there have been patches issued after SP2 (such as for the JPG/GDI problem). If you install patches more recent than SP2 and then later install SP2, who knows what will happen?

  6. I’ve just installed SP2 onto my laptop. Now the thing keep rebooting. I’ve tried starting Windows in Safe mode but all that happens is it just reboots again. I can’t boot from a disc as the Windows came preinstalled on the laptop. I have no idea what to do now and I can’t even access the C drive.

  7. since installing sp2 as an automatic update im in a living hell.yep a living pc will not power just has a little orange light flashing and i dont know what to do.if any one out there has a solution please let me know and if anyone out there works for ms.stay out of my way…unless you can fix it :)

  8. Hi, Windows update started downloading xp sp2. 33% got downloaded before I went offline. Not realising that the windows update would not start sp2 download again. Ever since I’ve had my computer crash, memory errors. I can’t find it, sp2, anywhere on my computer, only in updates and that says cancelled. Need help please.

  9. A day before i’ve installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 on the next day when i ve tryed to swith on my computer it crushed!!!!It sayed A system 32 file is missing what should i do????I dont have a Windows XP CD.Please Help!!!!!!!

  10. Dont know if anyone else has experienced this problem but my pc froze midway through SP2 download, i had to unplug pc because nothing else worked. When i turned it on to restart it was missing system32 files and basicaly i had to reset machine and reload windows with the little grey magic diskette, losing nearly 1000 mp3,s and recent photos in the process. I know i should have backed up the recent photo,s but if you cant trust microsoft who can you trust.

  11. Sorry, Leo, but if my experience is anything to go by, you should change your recommendation. I resisted for about a week before accepting Microsoft’s invitation to install SP2 on my new PC (ten days old) running XP Media Center Edition. When I installed it, the PC would reboot every time I logged into Windows. I’d done every step Leo listed, including one which it turned out I shouldn’t have done. At the bottom of the Windows Update list of updates (for SP1, after booting for the first time into Windows with a new PC) are various hardware updates and one of these was for a software modem. I’d installed everything.

    Luckily for me, I have a Mac (this has never happened to me with a Mac OS upgrade) and could go on to Microsoft’s website on it to find out what to do. The PC would start in safe mode and safe mode with networking, so I managed to stop it rebooting and give me a nice safe Blue Screen of Death to give me the stop code – nothing relevant on Microsoft’s support site. Next step, free email support and some quick, helpful replies which didn’t fix the problem. So up to a support professional.

    In the meantime, I’d found the article on the Microsoft site which told me you can uninstall SP2 using the standard Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel, so back to being able to use the PC, with only one minor glitch when it reported a driver error on the NVidia 5200 driver.

    These guys are up to their necks in problems and the turn round is near the maximum of three days. It probably took longer than it should because the support guy concentrated on the NVidia driver and it turned out it had been OK all along. Very frustrating having to wait 2.5 days for each response after my response went back within minutes.

    In the end, the guy asked for the crash dumps (I had eleven in a row within two hours) and I sent a selection. He finally came back after a further 2.5 days with the answer – I had two software modems installed and should remove one. Guess what, it was the one from Windows Update and when I removed it, I was able to reinstall SP2 and the PC is now fully up to date.

    I asked about the signed driver I had installed and he said it isn’t a good idea just to install new drivers as even if they have been signed by Microsoft, they can’t be guaranteed to work! In this case, I don’t even think the driver was for the correct software modem.

    I think I know a bit about PCs but shudder to think how an ordinary person would have coped with a completely unusable machine. Mind you, I didn’t buy it retail and paid half what it would have been in a shop as it was remaindered, so that’s the kind of risk I was willing to take. Oh, by the way, following Rob’s comment, it is an Advent Media Centre PC …

    The good news is that so far I have had zero software problems, three days into the world of SP2.

    Install SP2 at your own risk. Hindsight says I should have kept ignoring the nagging from Windows Update and I don’t intend installing any new drivers unless there is a critical reason for doing it.

  12. I have a 30 month old Sony Vaio laptop. Came with Windows XP Home edition. I used to keep it up to date using MS update until the machine became unusable, when I restored it back to the factory state losing a lot of quite useful info. (It was backed up on another machine).

    I turned off automatic updates and all worked well again.

    Some time passed and SP2 came out. Being somewhat suspicious of MS updates, having experienced problems already, I did some investigation work around the web and magazines before buying one with a cover mounted CD containing SP2.

    I installed SP2 and all seemed well for a couple of days, when mysterious reboots occurred, none of which completed successfully and each required a hardware reset to get the machine restarted. Sudden freezing of the machine started too, with the mouse pointer just stopping, again, a hardware reset required to get it restarted.

    There was nothing consistent about what caused these problems, they did not happen before SP2, apart from when I had MS updates installed.

    I backed up everything (again) and clicked the remove SP2 button (from control panel) and I now have a functioning machine again.

    Fortunately, I use Linux for as much of my computing needs as possible, so protecting myself from MS and their poor quality software. The laptop is used where I can’t use Linux or for family usage where they want to use MS software (Word) for compatibility with school work.

    It is a bore though, when you try to follow the guidance of those good guys in Redmond, to find that my expensive laptop no longer functions as a result. Is this why they take so long to do things there, they use there own software and are continually rebooting their machines ?

    My view (for what it is worth) , ONLY update windows if you KNOW that you NEED a particular update and do not do it for any other reason.

  13. YES! SP2 MAY VERY WELL CRASH YOUR MACHINE! I’m not talking about problems with a few applications. After I installed SP2 and tried to reboot, Windows refused to load. The infamoue Blue Screen gave no clue as to what was wrong, no error message number, just “Windows has to shut down because someone has tried to change your settings.” I have to reboot in Safe Mode and remove the damn thing. I’ve done this repeatedly. Now, before you go telling me I’ve got some unique problem, let me tell you I have a perfectly ordinary Dell Dimension running Win XP Family Edition, I scan regularly for spyware and have standard antivirus software running. Nothing I could find on Microsoft’s website even acknowledges that this can happen. Proceed at your own risk.

  14. I want to reiterate to everyone that SPYWARE is probably the number one cause of problems installing SP2. Microsoft acknowledges this. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS in this article – SCAN for spyware. Scan again with another tool, even. BACKUP. CHECK the Microsoft website for *known* compatability issues. GET UPDATES from other vendors who’ve been inpacted by SP2.

    SP2 is a VERY worthwhile upgrade for a host of security related reasons. But because it makes some significant changes to your system, preparation on your part is essential.

  15. Prior to installing SP2, I bought the latest Norton System Works software & scanned my system for viruses, etc. After SP2 was installed, I started experiencing issues with my Microsoft Picture It program, so I called Dell for assistance & they instructed me to call Microsoft. After on the phone with Microsoft support for over 5 hours, moving “unsigned” drivers to a new file, and doing step by step what I was instructed to do, including an attempt to uninstall SP@ & repair/re-install from my XP CD, my system crashed & the Microsoft rep told me “sorry, someone from system recovery will contact you within 1 week to attempt to restore your data; however, the chances are that you will loose your all your documemts. I had not backed up for about a year, lesson to be learned, but of course now I am upset that I have to wait for a phone call (no appointments are made nor will they provide me with the contact number for the system recovery department.) I called Dell afterwards & they told me I

    Does anyone know how to go about contacting the Microsoft Systems Recovery Department?

  16. My computer has been freezing for about 5-15 seconds at random intervals. this has been happening for a wile, at first i just reformated when i couldn’t fix it, but the problem didnt go away. I noticed that the only thing i had installed other than xp was SP2. I reformated again and there was no change. Now im trying to fix it with virus scanning, ad ware, you name it and nothing is working. If anyone has had this happen or knows anything about it plz help me

  17. FAO: Rob

    I had the exact same problem, Advent 7027. Figured it was something to do with the bios, so flashed it but still no joy. My workaround that has been successful is to disable acpi. This means you have to use the power button to swicth the notebook off button after sgutdown, but it did enable me to install sp2 successfully.

  18. I made the bad mistake of installing Service pack 2 when it came in through the MS updater last week and afterwards- no connectivity at all and the system was going real slow.

    I’d already done a spyware scan and cleared it all out with Adaware and run Norton Security and Anti-virus.

    So I eventually after trying a microsoft “fix” for this problem but to no avail decided to roll back to before SP2 was installed and initally things worked ok again but then a few days later my connectivity has messed up again.

    Everything was working fine for many months-no problems at all…that was until I installed SP2 and it’s made my pc practically incapable of net access now.


    After this experience I have turned off my MS updater and will never trust Microsoft enough to download any more of their rubbish again.

  19. alright, as some of you have made…i also made the biggest mistake of all and tried to install sp2, and of course i restarted my computer and of course it was going slow. so, i went into safe mode and used system restore. problem was the restoring files froze up! it was 20 minutes and still at the same part. so, i restarted and held the power button for 10 seconds to shut off. so here is what it is doing now.
    It restarts the computer, shows a black screen with words as to “Your computer was not shut down properly. Please select an option to load Windows.” something among those lines. so, the options are safe mode, safe w/netwrking, safe w/command prompt, local config settings and start windows normally. ive tried all 5 and none work. when you press on them it starts to think flashes a blue screen with white letters that i cant read b/c its too fast and then restarts the comp, a boot loop…it sometimes can come with different options when i press f8, but i do not know what to press…

  20. SP2 killed CD Anywhere on my system; V-Com says they are withdrawing it from sale since Microsoft is not forthcoming on how or why it is broken.

    Like many people, I had a thing against Microsoft simply because “*everyone else” did.(*always a stupid reason to do anything).
    I decided to get it over with and install SP2. UGH!,On Dial-Up, I knew it take hours! I went to the SP2 website and was amazed to find that Microsoft would send out SP2 on CD in the (postal) mail absolutely FREE. (they even paid postage!) I received it, decided to *format and start clean, installed XP pro, SP2, and then everything else I like. It runs perfectly. The most important part after you install SP2 is to disable anything you do not want. (security alerts, firewall restrictions, or whatever) You control “IT” rather than “IT” controlling “YOU”. If you need help, ask a competent person to help. !Keyword: Competent! It’s just a silly machine. You can’t break it. Nothing except a hammer will destroy a computer.(except maybe flashing the BIOS improperly) If you buy a new one because it wont run properly, you wasted a lot of money and got $crewed-but “not by Microsoft”.
    *FYI: the most vital part of reformatting is:![1.fdisk /MBR]! [2.fdisk] [3.format] [4.install OS] or check out – FDISKdotcom/FDISK/

  22. Hi, I have a hp pavilion 722a with XPSP2ProAcademic on it. A lot of programs (not all) and websites will appear sometimes for a few seconds and then disapear. Assuming this might be a virus I have tried running/updating/removing NAV2002 and installing a later version. It wont let me even with RNAV2003.exe.I cannot even run regedit. As you can see it has let me write you this. Any ideas please? Mike

  23. I’d boot in safe mode to run both a virus scan and a spyware scan. If after that you still can’t update your anti-virus and anti-spyware packages, I’d see about using a different computer to get them downloaded, burned to CD or whatever, and run the updated ones in safe mode as well.

  24. HELP ME !!!
    at around the same time that i installed SP2 my multiple user windows xp, dissolved all knowledge of my different users. SP2 i think has wiped the slate clean for all of my users, they have reverted back to the original state, this means that i have no access to the programs that i have installed, although i can access my work through my documents and settings, im running a 60 – 60 hard drive partions, and dont know whether it was sp2 or ….. ok it was defintly sp2. Any help to fix this problem would be much appreciated.

    Do not install SP 2

  25. I had the same problem with SP2. I bought a PC Beginner Unitilities CD from and their support guy gave me a good solution. Here is a copy:

    1. Unplug your PC power cord, all network (internet) cables. Wait for several seconds and then plug back.

    2. Set all your BIOS settings to “Default” one. For more info about BIOS settings:

    3. Enter Safe mode and uninstall SP2 using the standard Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.
    How to enter Safe mode: Restart your computer. When the machine first starts again it will generally list some equipment that is installed in your machine, amount of memory, hard drives installed etc. At this point you should gently tap the F8 key repeatedly.

    4. Reinstall your Windows to see if the problem will be fixed.
    How to Reinstall Windows, While Leaving My Programs and Files Intact?
    Use PC Beginner CD to create bootable floppy disks for Windows (D:\WinTool\Windows boot rescue disks).
    During installation, if you see a prompt that asks you to select one of two options, please do NOT select “format hard drive”. Instead, select the one like “Leave your programs/file there” (or something like that). This way will reinstall your Windows, while leave all your programs and files intact.

    5. If all above do not help, you have to back up your files first and then reinstall a clean Windows.

    Backup files:
    You can remove this “bad” hard drive and then install it into a good PC as a slave hard drive. Then you can access this slave drive.

    Reinstall a clean Windows:

    (1). First, erase anything from hard drive:


    (D: is PC Beginner CD)

    In a good computer and in Windows environment, use the tool in this folder to create a bootable floppy disk. Use this floppy to boot up your “bad” computer to do “low-format”.

    (2). Insatll Windows:

    D:\WinTool\Windows quick install disk

    (D: is PC Beginner CD)

    In a good computer and in Windows environment, use the tool in this folder to create a boot/setup floppy disk. Then use this floppy to boot up your “bad” computer.

  26. I’ve the same problem, on 2 seperate computers. My friend also had it but said it was caused by a virus. That may be the case as all the solutions for fixing it i’ve found online don’t work (setting the registry entry for the windows shell and tweakui). My virus scanner doesnt pick anything up though.

  27. Service Pak 2 loaded ok, but afterwards, my computer crashed and it corrupted windows. I would like to remove SP2 and get Windows back to the way it was before installing that. Is there a way to do that without re-installing Windows?

  28. I have Advent labtop and my running system is Windows XP I tried to access to the SAFE MODE status by pressing Delet,or F8,or Space bar, when the system is starting I faild,so I would be so grateful if you could help me how can access the SAFE MODE ?
    BEST Regards

  29. I am surprised that not one reply has mentioned using the system restore utility in XP. Simply use a restore point before the sp2 installation. I am 99.9% sure that it will undo the damage that sp2 has done.

  30. I installed it on my P2-266mhz system with 64MB RAM. I didn’t damage my system but it really slowed it down. I’m back to SP1.

  31. where can I get rescue disc for advent 7027 laptop.My laptop wouldn’t boot up in any mode.In the end I put in advent3000 series desktop rescue disk.Lap top works fine but lost most of my wireless,sound and dvd ..stupid of me I know
    Regards Max

  32. Hi
    I have no problems with sp2 but you said you talked to pcbeginner???HOW. I bot their program 2 months ago and have tried to get some help. Hell I can.t even make contact. No one answers the phone nor numerous emails. Loos like a big scame from here
    m nelson

  33. I downloaded Windows XP 2 after receiving a prompt. The download took 10 minutes or so and then prompted me to restart my computer, now all I have staring at me is my beautiful tropical island wallpaper, no icons and no start menu, and pressing ctrl-alt-delete does nothing…PLEASE HELP!

  34. Both the computer in my basement and my room have windows XP SP2 and no problems, and the computer in my room has Internet Explorer 7.

    My dad had to reinstall Mirosoft Windows XP on my PC because it has errors like not playing system sounds, internet connection (wireless @ home) problems, C Drive not formatting sice it had 3.8GB of Hard Drive Space left: all of the cache, programs, etc. Now I can do everything except downoads from internet sites (McAffee 2007 installed and PC protected). WinRAR not installed at the moment.

  35. The answer is YES. It will crash your computer. I installed it after receiving a prompt, it finished downloading, and then it asked me to restart the computer. After the restart, my PC couldn’t recognize the local profile anymore, it lost my Word documents, all my music files, and all my pictures, etc. I ran a system recovery in order to take the comp. back to its original state, but it was already too late to save my files. Luckily, I had backed most of them up. And yes… I DID run an anti-spyware scan before installing. Nothing warned me against going ahead with it. The long and short of it: don’t install. You’ll lose everything. I nearly cried.
    Crap on you, Microsoft.

    Hash: SHA1

    I’m sorry that you had a bad experience, but “The Answer” is
    most certainly not yes for everyone. Hundreds of thousands
    if not millions of people have installed SP2 without a


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  37. Coulda, woulda, shoulda…..Was downloading photos from a card reader to Canon’s photo download/viewing application to an external hard drive. Got XP error: “Server busy, click Switch to or Retry (buttons)” Buttons did not work, had to use Task manager to shut down. Then re-opened application – folder was still there but all files of photos currently being downloaded as well as previously downloaded photos were gone! Folder properties were 0 files, 0 bytes! How do I recover these files? Is it just the folder or all files that have been corrupted? They are not in the recycle bin and could not be found using searches. Thank you!

  38. O.K. I have a Dell Dimension and had to do a clean re-install of my windows XP using the SP2 disk. I understand that if I have the SP2 disk, then I shouldn’t need the SP1 disk (at least according an article I read on your site). It started as a system32 error, which I couldn’t bypass. I had just run updated virus scans and performed a system update, so I don’t think I had a bug. I ended up having to reinstall. Now, after I’ve done the reinstall, I can get NO applications…it doesn’t recognize my printer, modem, nothing…and its stuck on a crappy resolution (680/16-bit) so it looks like I’m half-blind if you don’t know any better. I’ve tried the troubleshooting solutions unsuccessfully, then informed that I need to be online, which I can’t because its not recognizing any networks…I’ve even tried to download my server disk…doesn’t recognize. So, is it fried? Could this be something that can be fixed by someone with better knowledge than me (which isn’t difficult). I’ve got all the files off of the computer that I need, so there’s nothing left to salvage in the hard drive.


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