Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Windows XP SP3 is releasing. If you're on dial-up, or have many machines, you may want to wait for the Network Install or for a CD to be available.

I'm on dialup and downloading Windows XP SP3 will take hours, if it even manages to complete without dropping the connection. I was able to get a CD for SP2, but I can't see that option for SP3. What can I do?


As I write this, while there are reports that XP SP3 is starting to appear in Windows Automatic Updates, the Microsoft web site has almost no information on it.

Here's what I expect will happen, and what I think you should wait for, with updated links now available:


As expected, Microsoft has made the network install, and an actual ISO image of the CD available for download.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 - ISO-9660 CD Image File is an image of the actual SP3 CD that can be downloaded and burned directly to CD, and then used on multiple machines. As you might expect, it's large: 550 megabytes.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals and Developers as discussed in the original article below is also a single download for SP3 that you can use to install on multiple machines. You can burn this to a CD if you like, but it's not required. It's 320 megabytes in size.

How to replace Microsoft software or hardware, order service packs and product upgrades, or replace product manuals is a general support article that includes the phone numbers to call to order service packs on CD. If you visit Windows Update this page is referenced when you are given the option to download Windows XP SP3.

At some point Windows XP SP3 will be covered on Microsoft's web site, specifically in the Windows XP section. There, at some point, you'll find information and download links for SP3. (Be careful not to confuse Office SP3 with Windows SP3 - they're two very different things.)

One of the things I'm counting on finding there is called the "Network Install" of SP3. That's typically a single, large download that you can save to your machine, and then use to apply SP3 on as many machines with Windows XP as you like. Download once, install many times. The Network Install is perfect for small businesses and people like me who have half a dozen machines running Windows XP.

"The Network Install is perfect for small businesses and people like me who have half a dozen machines running Windows XP."

Again, as I write this, the network install isn't available yet, though I hope it will be soon.

Naturally, you can burn the Network Install to a CD to take it from machine to machine, or as the name implies, you can simply install it over your local area network.

In the past Microsoft has made actual physical CDs available for service packs. There is a rumor - and I must stress it's only a rumor - that they don't plan to for SP3. If that's their plan, I personally expect them to change their minds after some amount of consumer backlash. As you've pointed out, downloading SP3 over a dialup connection is a problem; a big problem.

If they don't, or you don't want to wait, the Network Install can come to the rescue. Get yourself to a location with broadband speeds and download the Network Install. Burn it to a CD, bring it home (or wherever) and you're good to go.

In the worst case, ask a trusted friend to do so for you, and get it to you somehow. (Just take care that it's the correct version for you - at a minimum that will probably mean selecting the correct language, but may involve other specifics that we won't know until the Network Install becomes available.)

But until it's available, my advice is to continue to wait. In fact, even when it becomes available, my advice for many is to wait a while anyway.

(I'll update this article when I find that the Network Install has been made available.)

Article C3375 - May 7, 2008 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Robert Palmar
May 7, 2008 7:44 PM

You can find the network install here Leo:

I had been waiting for it myself.

May 8, 2008 9:34 AM

Or you can pre-order the SP3 CD from Microsoft by calling 1-800-360-7561 (Mon-Fri, 5a-7p PDT.) Cost is around $10 depending on the shipping and handling and they estimate shipping will start at the end of this month (May 08.)

May 13, 2008 9:09 AM

Thanks for the info. Leo. I'm not an IT Professional or Developer but I have three computers than will need SP3. Do I want the Windows XP SP3 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals and Developers download or something different? I do plan to wait a while before installing as I'm not keen to be their guinea pig.

May 13, 2008 9:48 AM

Hash: SHA1

Network install is where I'd send you. :-) They call it for
"professionals and developers" but really it's for anyone
who wants to download once and install multiple times.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


Jerry Cassel
May 13, 2008 10:03 AM

SP3 down loaded on my notebook, by my auto update program.

May 13, 2008 1:41 PM

Update to my 5/8/08 post. I ordered the SP3 CD and MS said it probably won't ship until early 6/08. I took a chance and downloaded SP3 from the Windows Update site. With DSL it took right at 45 minutes and added about a half a gig to my hard drive (even after doing a disk cleanup and getting rid of all the temp files it created.) Installation went without so much as a hiccup and, maybe it's my imagination but, start time and web page download times seem to be just a tad faster. It's been almost a week since I installed SP3 and everything (knock on wood, crossed-fingers, burning white candles, etc) is fine.

May 13, 2008 1:45 PM

One more thing. I strongly suggest doing a defrag after installing SP3. My files were scattered all over the hard drive. Defrag usually takes 20 minutes but it took twice that long the first time after installing SP3. All is back to normal and my last defrag earlier today was right at 20 minutes again.

May 13, 2008 7:32 PM

As with the SP2 hotfixes/updates, etc., I downloaded SP3, saving it to a temporary file, to be put on CD for later use if needed. Of all the updates that are, or were, available, only about 5 or so I had to downloaded directly from Microsoft. All the others I downloaded and put on CD. What I did was get the knowledge base (KB) article number from the MS updates. I then closed the updates and GOOGLE'd the article number. I looked for the or ... URL to download the related fact sheet and download the update, fix, patch, whatever. I use Internet Download Manager (IDM) to assist me in downloading and saving to temp file. Afterwards, I would put all this "stuff" on CD for later use and also, install them manually to my computer (Windows XP Home - now with SP3). Feel free to email me if you have any question.

Richard Grieves
May 14, 2008 3:32 PM

I down loaded SP3 for windows XP to day and my anti virus would not let me get my Outlook Express.So I am going to wait now to see if anybody else has problems.

Brad L.
May 15, 2008 11:48 AM

Downloaded, run. Opening screen says, 'What to know before installing service pack 3.' Click on that..only to find:

More information about installing Service Pack 2

How long will it take to install Service Pack 2?


Where can I get more information about Service Pack 2?

How hilarious is that?

It doesn't lend just a tad of caution about the whole process, does it? (spoken tongue-in-cheekly).

Rick Kirchoff
July 7, 2008 6:46 AM

This morning, July 7, 2008, I contacted Microsoft's customer service online and was going to order an xpsp3 cd to be shipped to my home but then noticed the price of shipping. WOW!!! I need 2-cd's in xpsp3 and 2-cd's in vista sp1 since I am in the computer repair business and will need them when rebuilding damaged hard drives. Microsoft wanted $5.99 for each cd shipped. Their customer service told me that they could put all the cd's in one package but I'd still be charged $5.99 shipping for each cd. What a ripoff!! And then I also had to pay $3.99 for each cd too plus tax. So, my total for ordering 4 cd's was 4 x $3.99 = $15.96 plus sales tax of 7% = $17.07 total plus 4 x 5.99 shipping cost of $23.96 for a grand total of $41.03 for buying 4 service pack copies. Another ripoff! I recall ordering xpsp2 on several cd's a few years ago and was charged for shipping only which was about $4.00 total. Microsoft must think everyone is rich!

July 15, 2008 7:02 PM

I am on a somewhat slow satellite net connection, so I will try to get the download once for my 3 machine home network, all on XP. I am surprised that none of my machines have been offered SP3 through Windows Update. I allow just about all updates, however I do choose to download or not on every one to save time downloading stuff for MS software I don't have like OE. It is now July 15th, and I am wondering if I should pursue SP3?

Randy Prince
July 30, 2008 12:14 PM

I suggest everyone to simply Google "Windows XP SP3 Problems" and then make up your own mind if you should install SP3.

But here's something no one has mentioned.

I ordered the CD and the label clearly states it is "Microsoft Windows XP SP3." However, when I click on the link, "What you should know before installing SP3," all the information there relates to SP2 (TWO), not SP3.

No wonder so many folks are having problems with SP3 if Microsoft can't even match up installation instructions with the proper CD.

August 26, 2009 8:18 AM

I have a Dell Dimension 3000 system and i would like a window xp sp3 cd to install on my system. Can't it be download from any site and install it cause i don't have a burner.

The article you just commented on includes a link for exactly what you're looking for.

October 27, 2009 3:58 AM

im doing it now and its working perfectly cheers LEO using this site for everything now!!! thanks

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.