How to optimize your chances of installing Windows XP SP3 successfully:
Verify that your disk drive has the free space required to install SP3: I recommend at least 2GB for a PC that is fully loaded with applications. Use ‘Disk Cleanup’ to free up additional space on your hard drive.
Laptop users tip: If your laptop is a few years old and only has a 20 or 30GB hard drive and you have been saving drive space by reducing the amount of space available for System Restore points, be aware that a during the installation of SP3 a new restore point will be created and the size of the restore point could exceed 850MB. So you may need to change your restore point setting to increase the space available for restore points.
Do not use the Windows Update web site: If at all possible download the SP3 installation file (WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe) directly to your hard drive and install SP3 using this file. Users who connect to the internet using a Dial up service or standard DSL may want to consider ordering the SP3 CD mentioned at the end of this article.
After downloading this file, you are not required to be connected to the internet to install SP3. So disconnect your PC from the Internet, as there is less of a chance for a glitch to occur.
The installation of SP3 using the above file will take less time, typically 20 to 40 minutes. When using this file the ‘SP3 Installer’ is will clean up after itself, leaving no space wasting temporary files behind to clutter up your hard disk. Also if you have a second drive or more than one partition, the ‘SP3 Installer’ will place any temporary files it needs on the drive or partition with the most available free space and deletes them afterwards.
Another benefit of using the full SP3 installation file instead of the Windows Update site, is that during the install process you will be given a chance to change where the SP3 uninstall file ($NtServicePackUninstall$) will be located, which is approximately 470MB in size. So if you have more than one drive partition or a second hard drive you can change the drive letter and path from the default: C:\WINDOWS\$NtServicePackUninstall$ to any drive and folder name of your choice, example F:\SP3Uninstall\$NtServicePackUninstall$.
Note: If you use the Windows Update site none of these benefits are available. But if you insist on using the Windows Update site to install SP3, then the ‘Installer’ will only use the partition where Windows is located, typically C: and does not clean up when finished, leaving behind more than 650MB of the temporary files on your drive.
Before you start the installation process: Read the Knowledge Base articles and other information provided at the end of this page, they provide useful information and in some cases can save you some grief.
Install SP3 in 'Clean Boot' mode: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310353 See the section titled: Manual steps to perform a clean boot in Windows XP, skipping step #4. Print a copy of this article for a reference as you will need later.
A “Clean Boot” insures that only a minimal set of Windows Services and applications are running. This means your Anti Virus software, third party Firewall and other background applications will not be running; thereby reducing the chances that installing SP3 will fail.
Start the installation: Close any open applications before you start. Double click on the “WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe” file to start the install process. Take the time to watch the display as the installation proceeds. If you wish to change the default location of the uninstall file do so when prompted.
When the Installation Completes: You will be prompted to restart the PC. During the reboot cycle some additional tasks are performed, this is obvious due to the unusually large amount of disk activity while the Welcome Screen is displayed. I suggest you wait until the disk activity stops for at least 15 seconds before you logon. After you logon you will see two “Command Prompt” windows open and close in a matter of a few seconds. Wait a few more seconds for the remaining disk activity to cease.
Reboot the PC and test all your applications: Verify that you can connect to the internet, use your MS Office and other major applications, check that your printer and scanner work as expected, USB ports function and check that Device Manager does not display any Yellow questions marks.
Defragment your hard drive: After installing major software update your hard disk is likely to have a large percentage of disk fragmentation.