Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Windows XP SP3 is releasing, should I install it?


I’ve read that Windows XP Sp3 is to be released this week. Should I install it?

That depends on who you are, and your tolerance for risk. Smile

If you’re someone like me, techie and proud of it, or willing to set an example for others … well, then by all means go for
it. I will.

On the other hand if you’re not me … you might want to wait.

Here’s why…

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

SP3 is big. And while I honestly don’t believe it’ll be a problem for most people simply by virtue of everything it’s
attempting to encompass it will cause problems for some.

You don’t want to be one of those folks unless you’re in a position to take the time to work through whatever issue pops up.

I’ll of course be updating my machines as soon as it hits. But even then, I’m not going to take unnecessary risks … my
wife’s machine, of course, will be one of the last. I’ll want to make sure that SP3’s working well on the other five or six XP
machines I have around here first.

“Regardless of when you take the update, now or later, at a minimum take a full backup of your system drive
immediately prior to installing SP3.”

So, what should you do?

For most folks, I recommend the following:

  • Make a full backup of your machine. If anything goes wrong you’ll always have this point to come back to. (You should, of
    course, be doing this regularly anyway.)

  • Make sure that if Windows Automatic Updates is on its set to “download and notify” only. Don’t let it automatically install
    anything. Yes, that means you may have to live with the “updates are available” notification for a while after SP3 is

  • Wait. Wait for others to take the update. Wait for problem reports to circulate. Wait for some level of confidence that the
    update will in fact work. Pay attention to tech news sites, even the popular press, and sites like Ask Leo! for problem reports and
    a sense for just how bad it is, or isn’t. How long to wait? I’d recommend 3 to 4 weeks, though I know that others recommend even longer, and it’s hard to argue against it.

Regardless of when you take the update, now or later, at a minimum take a full backup of your system drive immediately prior to
installing SP3. It’s the only way to truly protect yourself in case something goes wrong.

Like I said, I don’t expect SP3 to have a tremendous number of problems, or cause the same number of issues that, say, SP2 did.
But unless you have a specific need to hurry, waiting for others to try it out first is a safe and sensible approach.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

8 comments on “Windows XP SP3 is releasing, should I install it?”

  1. Long ago when XP SP2 came out, I was using dial up (eeks) so I ordered the CD-ROM disk from Microsoft.
    I had no problems or issues whatsoever.

    I now have DSL, so the big download shouldn’t take all that long.
    Also, I use “Crap Cleaner” and a few other junk removal programs, I plan on having my hard drive ready as possible to handle this new update.
    Oh, I did read elsewhere that running a full “error check” before applying the XP SP3 would be a good idea, and a disk defrag prior as well.
    I plan on downloading SP3 next Tuesday.

    [Side-note: I Vista home prem on my Toshiba notebook, again no problems after running SP1 on that unit]
    Maybe I’m just lucky. :)

    Leo, your newsletter email is the very first one I read when I see it in my in-box.
    Thanks ever so much!
    Brad D.

  2. I was wondering if a system restore point will be of any help? ..As the first line of defense in addition to the backup. It is just that it is faster than a full backup/restore.

    Hash: SHA1

    I’m actually not a big fan of system restore for this kind
    of thing. System restore is better than doing nothing, but
    it’s important to know that system restore doesn’t actually
    backup and restore *everything* … only certain system
    files and the registry. Like I said, better than doing
    nothing, but with an update this large I would feel much
    safer with, and thus strongly recommend, a full backup.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  4. I installed windows XP SP3, and everything was going great but after I tried to restart my PC it did not turn on. I don’t Know what happened but I am not recomended to install this update until Microsoft gets ready to support it …. thanks …

  5. I downloaded and installed SP3 without a single problem. From start to finish it took approximately 1 hour. I also prepared my computer in advance by cleaning out all the junk (Ccleaner) and ran an error check and then a defrag.
    I also disabled my anti virus program.

    I’ve now noticed my PC boots up faster. That said, I have 2 gigs of RAM and a Pentium4 3 gig chip so it’s never really been slow. My guess is the 10% overall increase that people have commented on is actuate.

    Happy camper Brad

  6. Well, a week has gone by and I’m happy to report that my XP SP3 upgrade has had no ill effects on two computers.
    The only strange thing (and it’s trite) Windows media player acted like I had never used it before. A simple 2 second fix.
    In my opinion, this update is a must do.
    Both XP (HP & DELL) computers are booting up faster, and also running faster and using less RAM memory.


  7. Well it wont work on my Dell Inspiron. The install goes fine but then windows will not start in other than safe mode so I have had to restore it to the point before install – twice. FYI the install process automatically creates one if you have system restore turned on.

    I’m not alone but the common thread *seems* to be nvidia graphics cards…

    I’ve set this on to ignore with windows update until it matures :)

  8. OK, for anyone who uses ANY, yes it is in CAPS and the word is ANY remote services, do not install SP3. I have it on two platforms and can no longer use RDP, Remote Registry, Remote Web Workplace to RDP, remote shutdown and restart, and the new RDP client (Yep they snuck that in there too) although FAST when connecting to a system you have not had the misfortune to upgrade, cannot set the screen resolution correctly.

    If you do any remote work, SP3 is not for you. BTW, I use ATI video, so I will not try the Nvidia fix. I may try upgrading my drivers for the ATI’s, but if that does not work, I will declare anathema on SP3 and refuse to allow it to be in my domain (small pun intended)

    For the record, all forms of remote access work just fine here on my XP/SP3 systems. Check your firewall to ensure that perhaps something wasn’t reset to block remote access as part of the SP3 installation.

    – Leo

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.