I"m trying to decide whether to deploy the SP3 patch for Windows XP (Pro).

What are the benefits?

So far all I've found is some security stuff (preventing a new pc from accessing your network unless it meets certain security criteria, etc.)

When we upgrade from SP1 to SP2 we had some problems due to the tighter security. (Yes, that improved security was an improvement but it broke stuff and I noticed not benefits : we already have a firewall and I didn't see any other benefits).

So... I'm just checking out SP3.

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    What information resources have you already looked at? Here's Microsoft's XP SP3 Resource document: microsoft.com/downloadS/… However, even Microsoft themselves says this about SP3: "This update also includes a small number of new functionalities, which do not significantly change customers’ experience with the operating system." – Wesley Jun 25 '09 at 2:20
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    A better question might be: Why not use Windows XP SP3? Unless you have an application or driver that has some kind of problem with it, I'd think that it makes sense to just use it. I've had one minor problem that I think might be SP3 related (problems w/ folder redirection of "My Pictures"... haven't researched it yet), but nothing major has gone wrong. It's sure easier and cleaner to install SP3 than all the post-SP2 updates. – Evan Anderson Jun 25 '09 at 2:55
  • while this question is in no way directly related, you may want to look at it all the same serverfault.com/questions/15025/… – Matt Jun 26 '09 at 18:23

Pretty much that's what this is mostly for: Security, but it also implements newer features/capabilities to the OS:

  • Stability updates: These updates impact on how the already stable XP runs increasing the availably and reliability of the operating system.
  • Performance updates: These updates improve XP performance and enhance interoperability and hardware compatibility.
  • Security Updates: These updates include previous security updates and new updates. Out of band releases:** These updates include some releases that Microsoft has developed like MMC 3.0 and core XML services 6.0.
  • Minor feature updates: Features like NAP have been added so that customers can now take advantage of Windows 2008 server. Support for WPA2 is also available as a separate download.

I found this article pretty informative about what comes with Windows XP SP3: http://www.windowsecurity.com/articles/Windows-XP-SP3-Security.html


I rolled it into my images because it eliminated about 100 windows updates. That in itself justified the change. ;)

The only issue I ran into was where putting SP3 on a new unpatched XP image leaves it without the DST update from a couple years back, and requires a registry edit. Other than that, it was a big yawner.

  • Yah, exactly why I went to it. Eliminated a lot of windows updates. – Troggy Jul 10 '09 at 6:13

Sources to check the benefits.

Notes from the Wikipedia Support lifecycle section.
Support for Windows XP without a service pack ended on 30 September 2004.
Support for Windows XP Service Pack 1 and 1a ended on 10 October 2006.
Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be retired on 13 July 2010.

I would suggest, for good continued support and latest fixes, you shift to SP3.

  • Sounds prudent but does beg the question "What support? [from Microsoft]" <g> – Clay Nichols Jun 25 '09 at 17:37
  • @Clay, many patches and updates (for whatever they are worth) need the service pack to be the recent one. When MS stops support for a service pack, machines running that one usually do not get all the recent patches. – nik Jun 25 '09 at 17:47

It seems that I vaguely remember some minor inconveniences, but for the most part the upgrade was seamless and went totally unnoticed by staff.

I would recommend it. I try to keep my machines all patched and up-to-date.


Whatever the update you are evaluating you should have a method for finding out yourself if the update will cause problems for your environment. With WSUS this is easy - you assign a representative sample of your machines to a Pilot group, which receives updates first. If there are no ill effects you can release the updates to the remaining machines.

The only issues I remember from SP3 deployment were with a very few machines of a certain type where the actual installation hung - the solution was to manually execute update.exe from %WINDIR%\Software Distribution\Dowloads\...\i386.


I'm a little perplexed that you think you need to decide whether or not to apply a service pack. Test it to make sure that it doesn't break an important app- absolutely. Not apply it because it doesn't have enough features? I'm not too sure about that. Service packs (aside from extending the support lifecycle) rollup previous hotfixes and applyu additional hotfixes. Every service pack provides stability, performance, and security updates. Most times (but not always) a service pack might add some functionality, but that additional functionality (or lack of) shouldn't cause you to not apply the SP.

  • I would guess that you're right, but what do you based this assumption of "improved stability" on? I tend to follow the simplistic "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. And SP2 broke a lot of stuff with improved security. I technology environment can sort of "evolve" to be an interconnected web of dependencies. Changing one thing can create the Butterfly Effect. An extreme example: Upgrade to Vista, now you need more than 3 GB of RAM, so you upgrade t to Vista x64, but can't get drivers. Now you need all new peripherals. – Clay Nichols Jun 25 '09 at 17:42

I installed SP3 on some 4 desktops, I noticed no difference. I tried to install it on my Sager laptop, the audio would not work with SP3, I had to roll-back to SP2. Many hours wasted.

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