Windows XP SP3's aches, pains and user complaints

A few tips on what to do when SP3 installation doesn't go well

Even though my SP3 update went well, maybe yours didn't. So far, I've heard from about a dozen readers experiencing problem installations. This week, I share a few complaints and show you a fix for one of the most common errors.

Fix for debug version issue

Some users who installed the version of SP3 for developers ("This installation package is intended for IT professionals and developers downloading to a machine intending to debug or develop software on Windows XP Service Pack 3") encountered an error.

The installation error that some folks saw — "Service Pack 3 Setup cannot update a checked (debug) system with a free (retail) version of Service Pack 3, or vice versa" — is complete gibberish, of course. But lucky for us, Microsoft supplied a solution:

  1. Manually download the SP3 installation file from Microsoft's Download Centre. Note: This link is also appropriate for home users. Please save the file to C:\ (The root directory of partition C).
  2. Install SP3 in Safe Mode. To do this, we can avoid third-party programs conflict and make sure the installation can be performed completely.

  3. Restart the computer and keep pressing the F8 key until the Windows Startup menu appears.
  4. Choose Safe Mode, and press Enter.
  5. Double-click the downloaded file "WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe" on "C:\" to install Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) in Safe Mode. Note: In Safe Mode, your system display and Desktop will look and perform differently than in Normal Mode. This is only temporary. To return the system back to Normal Mode, restart the computer.

Stop, stop, said SP3

Don G. wrote me with his tale of woe: "I restarted and the screen went all blue with the following message: 'stop:c0000139 (entry point not found) can't find Gdi32.dll' — etc., etc. I tried everything to get XP Pro to start — getting into the Bios or safe mode, or anything else — to no avail. F8, F9, and any other 'F' I could think of and none worked. I Just kept getting the same screen and message over and over again."

Don found details and a partial solution on Microsoft's TechNet forums; read "Windows XP will not start after SP3 install" for details.

There's a wealth of SP3 incident reports, along with solutions for many of them, on TechNet.

Safe SP3 solutions

Jesper Johansson has a good write-up for dealing with SP3 problems, and PC Hell talks about resolving the continuous rebooting problem. Microsoft's euphemistic "change in functionality" Knowledgebase article has a short list of programs that may not, uh, work so well after installing SP3; it includes ATI's Catalyst and NeatReceipts. Oddly enough, I had no trouble installing or using NeatReceipts. I'm sure the list will grow as more people complain.