May 8, 2008

XP Service Pack 3: An Existential Threat?

Posted by in category: rants

Bill Gates: Existential Threat?

Wow! I installed the XP Service Pack 3 yesterday after it was provided by the Windows Update feature and my computer crashed. I tried a few variations and did some investigations and couldn’t make it work. At least I was able to use a system restore point to keep the system alive. I should point out that I wasted hours on this as I had a variety of problems including the installation process just freezing up. (My computer is 100% solid, it passes a multi-hour memory test, etc.)

My investigations showed *many* people having serious problems with this service pack which is ridiculous since it shouldn’t be a big upgrade for people with fully updated XP Service Pack 2 setups as I had.

This plus the Vista disaster makes it rather likely that I will switch to a Macintosh for my next system. I have been using Microsoft operating systems on my PC since 1986 so this is a major thing to say. (Hey, my first computer was an Apple II+, so perhaps I am coming full circle…)

Now that the Macintosh uses Intel/AMD chips instead of slow proprietary crap, and is now based on Unix which is extremely useful for me since I have been using Unix systems since 1995 (for all webserver activities), and now that my main browser works on the Macintosh (Firefox), a switch seems like a reasonable thing to do. It also helps that you can now boot Windows on a Macintosh now that Macs use the same chips.

Even though I’ve upgraded my Windows system so it can run some Unix commands and Perl, I don’t have nearly the Unix functionality that I would get from the current Macintosh operating system. And finally I should mention that the reason I’ve been using Unix systems for webserver activities since 1995 was due to past disgust for Windows capabilities… (Was running 500 Linux servers at one point.)

Microsoft has admitted that their latest service pack is incompatible with both Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 8! Users of XP SP3 can not downgrade from IE 7 to IE 6 and can’t even install XP SP3 if they are running IE 8. There have also been reports of XP SP3 users being unable to install IE 7.

Microsoft has admitted that their latest service pack will cause data loss and corruption with Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS).

My specific problem was identified by Computerworld. It turns out that XP SP3 doesn’t work on AMD based machines sold by the little company Hewlett Packard which oh, by the way, happens to be #1 in the PC market!

This article also mentions that “This isn’t the first endless reboot problem Microsoft’s faced in relation to a service pack recently. In February, the company pulled a Windows Vista SP1 prerequisite update from automatic delivery because it was crippling some machines.“

Below are some quotes that I dug up during my research.

Quote 1.

After several more months of investigating and interviewing friends, I took the plunge. I was comforted by the fact that underneath the slick Mac OS exterior was real Unix… including Perl, Vim, bash, X11, etc. I spent many years of my career neck deep in Unix so it did help to see some old familiar things. Oh, and by the way, don’t tell me about the various Windows Unix-like shells — it is not the same! I can’t do “real” unix stuff like named pipes and I can’t do things like, “runapp | grep –i error | tee error.log” or run programs in the background (&), etc.

Quote 2.

“However, if you already have IE7 on your system when you install Service Pack 3, you will not be able to migrate back to IE6.” Just in case I decided to remove IE7 (no problem); install SP3 (no problem); install IE7 (PROBLEM). IE7 just would not install!

I had to remove SP3 (no problem); install IE7 (no problem); install SP3 (no problem).

I wonder if this is the “best possible experience” Microsoft were aiming for. I am not aware of Microsoft advising of a limitation.”

Quote 3.

Windows update offered it to me today and I accepted… BIG mistake. PC won’t boot, won’t restore to last good config. Safe mode appears to be starting up and I’m crossing my fingers. I’m a techie PC for a living — this is NOT ready for the general user.

Quote 4.

Windows XP service pack 3, SUCKS! Our computers were running perfectly on XPSP2, my husband I and I downloaded and installed SP3 and BOTH of our systems CRASHED, DUMPED to where they were not even bootable. We BOTH had to reformat and reinstall Windows XP. What a WASTE of time and the DAMAGE??? OUCH

No we have no idea what in SP3 did this, but we have 6 computers in the house, and THANK GOODNESS we only tried it on these 2 computers. Too bad we did not try it on a backup computer instead of our main systems. How dumb were we? All I had read were GOOD results. Not for us! We both have huge hard drives, Pentium 4, 3.75 GHZ and 2 gigs of ram, the best of everything, and up to date.


Quote 5.

I installed SP3 on my up-to-the-minute XP sp2 and discovered a number of previously done updates were rolled back. For example, IE7 was rolled back to IE6 and Mediaplayer 11 was also rolled back. Nice going Microsoft. What the hell is going on in Redmond these days?

Quote 6.

Microsoft hasn’t so much as fixed the incompatibility problem that prompted it to delay pushing out Service Pack 3 last week. Instead it put filters in place so that customers running the incompatible software installed won’t be offered the update.


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. Jack Lail says:

    One wonders if Microsoft hasn’t wittingly or unwittingly embarked on its own scorched earth camapaign against Windows. They seem to be driving people to the Mac OS, Ubuntu, almost anywhere from the disaster of Windows upgrades and new versions. I guess that’s one way to leave your legacy biz behind.

  2. Ryan says:

    I was able to install SP3 without any problems. The computer had IE6 on it before the upgrade. It was a brand new install of XP SP2 so that may have something to do with the ease of installing SP3.

  3. Elam says:

    Have you considered Linux? Ubuntu 8 is fantastic, but lacks some applications that I need, like Photoshop.

    I still have XP running via VirtualBox, but I’m never going back to Windows full time unless I have to( ie for work )

  4. ek says:

    “Have you considered Linux? Ubuntu 8 is fantastic, but lacks some applications that I need, like Photoshop.”

    I have been using Linux since 1995 for webhosting, so am quite familiar with it. It is the lack of key applications such as Photoshop that stops me from using it as a home machine. Currently Apple has less than 10% of the operating system market so it also is a bit weak on applications (although it has Photoshop) but I feel that it will grow past the 10% mark since it will take Microsoft awhile to fix its multiple errors.

  5. netmarcos says:

    I have installed SP3 on approximately a dozen systems with no problems whatsoever. Most of these are my own home systems, 3 are virtual machines (One on Msft Virtual Server, 2 on ESX) and one is my company provided laptop. All were running IE7 before the upgrade.
    No problems at all…anywhere. This is the first complaint I have seen. None from my collegues, none from my customers. (I work for a large IT consulting firm). Odd.

  6. RM says:

    I manually downloaded (so I can update other computers later) and installed XP SP3 last night with no problems. Everything works fine (same as before the update).

    I also run Ubuntu 8.04, 7.10 and 6.06 on a few other boxes (PCs and old Macs) and don’t want to get into an OS discussion.

  7. mike j says:

    It would be nice if OSX had at kernel as solid as the new Linux 2.6 kernels though.

    comparing OSX to Linux, in performance, process management and basic
    stability Linux wins hands down.

    Though compared to Vista, OSX is a clear winner.

  8. Joe says:

    Man, did I ever have the same issue!!!! I will say that I am running XP media edition SP2, which according to Microsoft’s website was ok, as long as it was SP2! Once all downloaded and installed…time for the reboot, which turned into a looping reboot!!! only way to get in was via safe mode..Then I went into control panel and add/remove programs, then uninstalled SP3…back up and running this morning…Most Deffinately will not be doing that again anytime soon!!!

  9. Sean says:

    Nothing personal, but isn’t it common sense to NEVER install major Windows upgrades within the first 30–60 days?

    Microsoft ALWAYS messes up those first releases.

    So while I feel your pain, you should have done what most people did when they saw “Service Pack 3″: sit back and watch the auto-updating lemmings take one for the team.

  10. Orion says:

    Huh. If I were paranoid I’d suspect SP3 was a trick to force older OS users into Vista. Up until a month ago I was a committed Win2K user. System ran fine, everything I own works under W2K, saw no need to upgrade. One update later and my PC was slow, buggy, tended to crash. I figured with all the driver problems Vista owners were reporting I might as well go to XP SP2 first and wait for MicroSludge to work out the kinks in Vista. XP turns out to be just as reliable (if not a little moreso) than W2K and even runs a little faster. Now you’re telling me the latest upgrades to XP may do the same thing to it as happened with Win2K.

    “Cue the X-Files music, please.”

  11. Elam says:

    “don’t want to get into an OS discussion.”

    Then you should have stopped reading at paragraph 3! :)

  12. epobirs says:

    I’ve done close to 90 installs of SP3 so far, on my own machines and those I maintain for clients. Not a single failure thus far. Without fail, every time someone tells me they have an ordinary system that failed after install, there is always something installed or altered on that machine I’d strongly advise against.

  13. Light says:

    You can install GIMP on Ubuntu. It’s like photoshop.

  14. Fred says:

    I was expecting the classic Microsoft strategy of embrace, enhance, and extinguish where they would support XP (embrace), bring in features from Vista (enhance), and when XP has morphed into Vista lite they will dump it (extinguish).

    Did Microsoft jump straight to extinguish?

  15. Eric B says:

    I recently started learning how to write Mac apps in Cocoa; the ease of this process next to the byzantine legacy crap you have to go through in Windows quickly showed me why Mac apps tend to be so much better-written and usable, even by small-time developers.

    As a user of Ubuntu, I can heartily recommend it as well. I just upgraded Ubunto to 8.04 (from 7.10?), and the experience has been fantastic.

  16. ek says:

    “It would be nice if OSX had a kernel as solid as the new Linux 2.6 kernels though.

    comparing OSX to Linux, in performance, process management and basic stability Linux wins hands down.

    Though compared to Vista, OSX is a clear winner.”

    This is all true which is why I don’t run any sites on OS X. If Linux had a greater share of the home market, I would use that for my home machine. It has plenty of the webserver, etc. markets and there it is my favorite way to go.

  17. ek says:

    “Man, did I ever have the same issue!!!! I will say that I am running XP media edition SP2, which according to Microsoft’s website was ok, as long as it was SP2! Once all downloaded and installed…time for the reboot, which turned into a looping reboot!!! only way to get in was via safe mode..”

    Yes, there were lots of reports of looping reboots on the internet. Not good!

  18. ek says:

    “Nothing personal, but isn’t it common sense to NEVER install major Windows upgrades within the first 30–60 days?

    Microsoft ALWAYS messes up those first releases.”

    This is my first disaster so far. I’m always doing little updates that they say are for security, and I thought they knew what they were doing. Obviously I was wrong.

    After working on a service pack that is really just a minor upgrade for FOUR YEARS you would figure that the service pack wouldn’t crash your machine! (Well, that is what I thought, anyway.)

  19. ek says:

    “I was able to install SP3 without any problems.”

    I would assume that most people wouldn’t end up with crashed machines, but when Microsoft admits that SP3 has problems with their own software such as Microsoft Dynamics RMS, things definitely aren’t right!

    If I had little glitches of a program not working here or there, I could have lived with it. But an “update” that stops your machine from booting — PLEASE!

  20. Found a very useful article at Network World:

    “You could just jump into the fray, but Microsoft has a whole list of steps it recommends prior to installing XP SP3. The list talks about prerequisites and hard disk requirements, mentions (but doesn’t recommend) disabling anti-virus protection and suggests several other moves, including making a full backup before you begin.

    “That document is also a good resource, or at least a good starting point, for troubleshooting a balky XP SP3 update; it includes information on a host of potential error messages.”

    This is why I refuse to install bleeding-edge upgrades, particularly from Microsoft.

  21. Gregory says:

    While not shilling for Microsoft, I would say that the Windows ecosystem is a large and varied one, and quite possibly interactions between the millions of applications out there would cause some combination that Microsoft is unable to account for, causing such problems as described*.

    Although, not ensuring compatibility with their own products? That’s just shameful, that is. What the hell was Microsoft thinking?

    *I’ve run SP3 (the full pack) on an ancient Compaq Presario with no problems whatsoever.

  22. Ken Mitchell says:

    I have a number of Windoze machines; two XP Pro, one W2K, one XP MCE, and one Vista Home. Of all of those and many others over the years, the W2K boxes were the most reliable and fastest, and the XP Pro machines close behind. I’ve upgraded one of the XP machines to SP3, and it was straighforward, aside from taking 1.5 hours to do. It came right back up and is (appears to be?) working fine.

    I’ll probably upgrade the other XP machines next week, assuming that this one doesn’t croak.

    I’m not sure which Windoze was the worst; I think ME and Vista may be tied for that dubious honor.

  23. Ryan says:

    I think what you’re forgetting is that if you have a DECENT PC with Vista, you won’t have any problems. =]

  24. If it were not for the fact that most of the world (business wise) operates on Windows, I would have already switched to a Mac (or even Ubuntu).

    Unfortunately this is not the case, although I may just pick up a refurbished Alienware (which is IMHO just as good as a Mac–hardware wise).

  25. I believe this post is totally irrelevant to the Lifeboat Foundation and blurs the focus of this blog.