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Install a Windows Service Pack That Refuses to Install

Is Windows XP giving you trouble with its very own SP3 update?

I like the fact that Microsoft regularly updates Windows with bug fixes, security improvements, and the like. What I don't like is when the OS refuses to install its own updates, which is what happened to reader Debby:

"I recently had to wipe out my Windows XP and reinstall it. After reinstalling XP, the computer always has an update for Service Pack 3 that will not load. How can I fix this?"

Well, Debby, you broke rule #2 of how to ask for tech help--"Share important details"--so I'll have to do some guesswork here. You didn't mention an error message, but I'm assuming that "will not load" means you're seeing something like "Service Pack 3 setup error. Service Pack installation did not complete."

There are a couple likely causes for this problem and a couple easy fixes. All of them are documented in Microsoft's support page for this particular issue. Rather than reading through them, however, I recommend scrolling down a bit until you find the Microsoft Fix-it--an automated utility that promises to tweak the Registry entries that are the likely root of the problem. If that doesn't do the trick, then read the support page more closely for some other solutions (including downloading and installing SP3 manually).

Stuff like this can be really frustrating. Can't Microsoft do something as simple as update its own operating system? Of course, given that an overzealous third-party security utility probably caused the problem in the first place, I'll cut them a little slack.

That said, issues like this are among the many reasons I think XP users should make the move to Windows 7, which in my experience causes way fewer headaches.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.

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