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Windows XP Service Pack 3 is relatively stable for most people. If you have issues you may want to block Windows Update from installing SP3.
My machine can't handle Windows XP SP3. How do I prevent Windows Update from continually trying to install it?
Window XP SP3 has had a fairly reasonable success rate, but it definitely causes some people problems. While I don't think it's a long term solution, you can indeed prevent Windows Update from trying to install SP3.
First, let's make sure that you've done everything correct to prepare for installing SP3. It's not as fragile as SP2 was when it first came out, but nonetheless, the following steps from the "are you ready for SP2" information still apply:
Make sure you've scanned for both viruses and spyware, and that your scanners are running with up-to-date malware databases.
Make sure you're up to date with all the patches prior to SP3.
Back up your computer.
Make sure you have room for the service pack to download and install. (Microsoft recommends at least 1.5 gigabytes.)
Microsoft also has its own knowledgebase article, Steps to take before you install Windows XP Service Pack 3, with these and other tips for a successful SP3 installation.
But what if all that still fails? There are reports of machines where SP3 causes problems which force users to uninstall it to recover.
Microsoft has also made available a Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit. This tool will add a registry entry that will prevent Windows Update from installing SP3.
Note that manual installs will still work; this blocks only the installation via Windows Update.
When the time comes to install SP3, you can then also use this tool to remove that block.
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