By now everyone is aware of the problems associated with installing Windows XP SP3. The amount of time and money wasted with this demon is immeasurable. The publicâ€™s lack of acceptance of Windows Vista has only added to the feeling of being blindsided by an old friend.
I am outlining the problems and providing information to fix the issues found to date. Above all Iâ€™m telling you to avoid the problems. Donâ€™t be one the unfortunates that is rear-ended while slowing to view the carnage. Stay far away from this Update. I am not telling you to take preventative measures and then install. I’m telling you to wait, “Do not install SP3.”
DO NOT INSTALL WINDOWS XP SP3.
Only for testing, I installed this viper three times. I also removed it three times. A seemingly simple and straightforward installation with no obvious problems does not mean there are no problems. All of my experiences are anecdotal, like Microsoft Word not working after SP3 installation. The problem ceasing with SP3 removal proves nothing, but when it happens twice, I must attribute it to the service pack. Rather than continuing to coupe the fallen victim, lets get on with it.
1. Registry Corruption After Installing Windows XP SP3. Starting one day after the May 6th release, users were reporting problems with their network connections. Reports of vanishing connections and missing network cards were pouring in. Bewildered users on the Microsoft support site noted the link between Symantec Corps, Norton Internet Security, and the huge number of broken registry entries all beginning with â€œ$%&â€.
Users were quick to point fingers but Symantec responded that there was no cause and effect found between their software and this problem. Even so, Symantecâ€™s Senior Director, David Cole was quoted by Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld as saying â€œOnce weâ€™ve figured out how may customers this affects, [an automated tool] is absolutely possible. If there is something we can do to address the problem, weâ€™ll do it.â€
True to his word, on May 23rd David Cole identified the problem as a particular Microsoft file named â€œfixccs.exe. This .exe file is a part of both SP2 and SP3, which explains why similar problems were seen with the XP SP2 release. “We finally got to the bottom of this last night,” said Dave Cole, Symantec’s senior director of product management for consumer software. “All of these problems are related to the same thing, a Microsoft file that created all the garbage entries [in the registry].”
The long and short of it is that Symantec has done the work for Microsoft, who has still not responded. The smart user will refrain from installing Windows XP SP3.
If you are one of the â€œrear-endedâ€, there is now a fix. Our own Doug Bender spent many hours reproducing this problem and trying various fixes. There are some needed conditions but he did come up with an acceptable fix.
Reboot your computer and enter SafeMode. You can reach SafeMode by tapping the F8 or F5 key during the boot process. After entering SafeMode you will need to run as Administrator and restore your system to a time before SP3 was installed: Start/Help and Support/System Restore/Restore to an earlier time. Without entering SafeMode and running as Administrator you will not be able to restore or remove the offending service pack. Upon rebooting SP3 will no longer show up in the Add/Remove programs list and you will no longer find the multitude of $%& registry entries.
2. XP SP3 removes previous restore points from System Restore. One of the first things I noticed after installing SP 3 was that my one and only restore point was missing. I keep my allotted System Restore space to a minimum and make sure I have at least one up to date restore. Normally, when you install an update, Windows will create a new restore point for the update. Because this is such a large update, the 1035 MB of space I had set aside was not enough. Instead of just not installing the new update, SP3 decided to also delete my previous restore point. This left me with no ability to use system restore. Windows Help and Support said I had the option of restoring; there was a â€œboldâ€ date showing, but no option to restore. To confirm, I repeated this several times and finally was able to prevent the problem by raising my restore space to a whopping 5035 MB. There is no excuse for Microsoft removing my restore point. I consider it a serious intrusion and feel rear-ended.
2. NO FIX
Microsoft should absolutely give a WARNING and advise how much space is needed before allowing the install of SP3. There is no fix for this, meaning that once the restore point is gone there is no getting it back. The only thing that can be done is to raise your allotted restore space before installing SP3. If you have already installed SP3 be sure to check your System Restore settings. Raise your allowed space to 5035 MB and create a restore point. Be sure to do this before being rear-ended by Auto Updates.
3. XP SP3 and Windows Home Server. Itâ€™s reported by users of Windows Home Server that SP3 disables terminal Services Active X control in Internet Explorer, by default. This prevents users from accessing their systems remotely.
There is a fix for this problem. You will need to enable Terminal Services ActiveX control in IE 7. To do this, open Internet Explorer and click on Tools/Manage Add-Ons/Enable Add-Ons in IE.
If you do not see â€œenable the terminal Service ActiveX control in IE7 on XPSP3â€, the only work around is to delete the following registry keys:
WARNING, PC Pitstop does not suggest making registry deletions. We are only reporting what is suggested on other forums for dealing with this problem. If you do this, it is at your own risk.
4. Branded versions of IE7 crash during installation. For those who have already updated and installed XP SP3, you may have problems installing IE7 offered by your ISP. These â€œBranded Copiesâ€ from Comcast, Qwest and others, tend to crash during the installation. This is because they are older versions of IE 7. Updated IE7 Administration Kits are available to the ISPs from Microsoftâ€™s TechNet site. These are needed to make the necessary changes before offering the IE7 upgrade. Before installing IE7 from your Internet Service Provider at least call to be sure they have made the necessary changes.
My suggestion and Fix is, if you must have IE7, download and install it from the Windows Website.
5. HP/AMD desktop and SP3. Because HP added a command to load a particular driver on their install disks, some of their AMD based desktops are subject to endless reboots or blue screens after installing Windows XP SP3.
We first reported on this problem in our May 15th news letter. At that time we provided information from Jesper’s Blog on various preventative measures and fixes. Today I suggest the patch offered by HP to prevent the problem. This is not a fix and the patch must be applied before installing SP3.
If youâ€™ve already been rear-ended and need a fix, the best I can offer is to remove the offending SP3 from your computer. Because â€œnot bootingâ€ is the problem, you will need to use the Microsoft Recovery Console. The following Microsoft Help and Support article also outlines using the Add/Remove Programs options and System Restore Options. Steps for restoring your registry can be found on the Microsoft Help and Support site here.
6. SP3 and AMD motherboards (A8N 32SLI Deluxe). After installing SP 3, users receive an error code stating “Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer. Your system BIOS is not ACPI compliant.” There just hasnâ€™t been much reported on this issue but I can attest to past BIOS issues with the A8N board listed above. In fact I have three of these boards stacked in my closet. There is still no fix, that I found, other than to be sure you have a usb device plugged in so the board will boot. That can be in the form of a USB storage device or even a USB mouse. Checking the Asus site I see the latest bios for this board is dated March 20th 2007 so that tells me that ASUS has done nothing to prevent the problem.
This rather unprofessional fix reminds me of putting electric tape on a leaky radiator hose, but so far thatâ€™s all we have. If you have installed SP3 to your AMD/Asus based computer, cannot boot, and feel rear-ended, the fix is to stick a USB device in your machine. How pitiful is that?
7. AutoUpdate. Automatic Updating is a problem unto itself. As outlined earlier in this article you may loose your restore points because of a lack of restore spcae. You an also experience any of the problems outlined above because Automatic Updates installed this mess without your knowledge. The fixes or lack of fixes can vary with each individual situation. Rather than a fix, I suggest avoiding the problem completely.
There are a couple of ways to prevent this problem. The most obvious is to turn off Auto Updates. Start/Control Panel/Security/Turn Off Automatic Updates/. You can also turn it off in Services. Start/Run/type”services.msc” without the quotes/Automatic Updates/Stop/Disable/Apply/OK.
If you would like to continue with updates but avoid Service Pack 3, use this helpful link provided my Drew Mathers. The link and download are from Microsoft’s Website. It stops Automatic Updates from downloading service pack 3 for one year.
I’m including it here incase you want updates but not service packs. Thanks Drew.
New problems seem to be surfacing almost hourly. Many times in the last 72 hours Iâ€™ve stopped writing only to go back and add additional information as it surfaced. Articles and rewrites of articles abound on the Internet but mostly people are getting rear-ended after installing Windows XP SP3. Both the HP/AMD problem and the Norton/SP3 problem, have very similar reports dating back to the SP2 roll out years back. You gotta wonder why Microsoft doesnâ€™t learn. Surely Microsoft has employees with more than 4 years tenure. Since itâ€™s been almost four years since the first release of SP2, there has certainly been time to get it right.
Without getting back into to the â€œWhose To Blameâ€ game, it appears that even in the case of the HP/AMD issue, there is more involved than HPâ€™s added dll instructions. Clearly the responsibility for a clean and problem free Service Pack sits on Microsoft.
Oh, by the way, have you hard anything from Microsoft other than the sound of squeeeeeling tires as you get rear-ended?