RealTime IT News

XP Service Pack Rocky for Some, OK for Others

Days after Microsoft started public downloads of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), some users have experienced serious problems installing the update. In fact, at least one published report cites large numbers of problems and of users angry about it.

However, from a sampling of postings on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows XP newsgroups Thursday, as operating system service packs go, the numbers of users experiencing glitches appear to be what would likely be considered normal on the release of a major service pack for the most widely-used operating system on the planet.

That said, given the impatience of users for XP's final service pack, the glitches may be particularly annoying. The issues that are cropping up are all over the map, but some of the worst include random reboots or the inability to boot at all. Other users cited problems with downloads that terminate with an "access denied" error message.

"I downloaded and installed [the SP3] package for IT Professionals and Developers on one of my computers. Now I can't get the computer to boot …. I don't think Microsoft should have made this a critical update," said a user on one Microsoft newsgroup.

Oddly, though, even users with a reason to be frustrated were largely forgiving of the glitches.

"Maybe it's the hardware, or some program that isn't compatible, or malware, or someone previously tampered with their registry, the moon. Who knows? The results people are posting are very wide from working great to a dead PC. It does seem to be a gamble," said one user, who calls himself "Big Al," in a posting on a Microsoft newsgroup.

Indeed, an analyst who closely follows Microsoft told InternetNews.com that he personally has not seen serious problems so far.

"It's not my experience [and] I've installed it [SP3] on a number of machines so far, and haven't seen anything at all," said Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft.

The service pack has been long awaited by XP users, especially those who are putting off moving to Windows Vista. SP3 went into broad distribution on Tuesday, after a last minute delay a week earlier.

Release of SP3 gives XP a significant extension to its useful life, even though the company says it will quit allowing its sale except on ultra low-cost PCs after June 30. Users running SP3 will be able to receive Microsoft's mainstream support until April 14, 2009, and extended support until April 8, 2014,

In Microsoft argot, mainstream support combines both free warranty support as well as paid support, while extended support is all fee-based.

Like its sibling, Windows Vista SP1, XP SP3 has been rolled out in stages. Microsoft was prepared to release SP3 to the broad public on April 29. However, compatibility problems with another Microsoft product delayed that release by a week.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had no immediate comment on whether users have been encountering problems in any significant numbers when they install SP3.

Users who experience problems installing XP SP3 can get free tech support at (866) 234-6020. Alternately, XP Home users can get free support here, while XP Professional users can go here.