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I receive this question quite frequently, “How often should I install Microsoft service packs and Windows Updates?”  The answer is simple, are you ready to troubleshoot?  If the answer is “No”, then I would wait to install the update / service pack until the rest of your friends have troubleshooted the latest update.   Before installing the next update from Microsoft, please continue reading below.

Now segwaying to the latest snafu from Microsoft Engineers.  Service Pack3 (SP3) for Windows XP.  Maybe this might not be all their fault, however, it appears there are enough complaints and issues from consumers and computer repair folks like myself with the latest service pack that Microsoft has open a Free, yes Georgia there is something free today, telephone technical support hot-line by calling (866) 234-6020.

A Microsoft employee, posted in the newsgroups on May 11th, 2008 that there is now free installation and troubleshooting support for SP3. This may be a real help to those who need interactive help solving the problem.

There are several issues that can cause a Windows XP computer to not reboot properly after installing Service Pack 3. Most of them affect relatively specific configurations, and most appear to have relatively simple work-arounds. Please: do not do anything rash. I have seen a lot of reports of people who reformat and reinstall when they run into this problem, losing all their data in the process. There is often no need to do anything that drastic. First read this post, and see if anything here helps you. If not, call Microsoft’s technical support line and see if they can’t help you.  

The problem:

There are many possible reasons why a computer may crash at boot time. SP3 seems to introduce two that are related to AMD-based computers, and, possibly, one or two more that appear to affect Intel-based computers. Which one it is impacts which work-around you use. At this point, the information is still trickling in. It might be best to contact Microsoft for some free support.

Possible Resolution paths   <Disclaimer: try at your own risk>

Uninstall Service Pack 3 – Using the Recovery Console in XP

If you cannot boot into safe mode you can try using the Recovery Console in Windows XP. This requires you to have a Windows XP CD. Knowledge Base Article 307654 has directions on how to use it. You do not need to follow the instructions for how to install it.

In brief, to boot from the recovery console in XP, do this:

  1. Insert your Windows XP CD
  2. Boot the computer
  3. Select to boot from the CD. On many computers you have to hit a button to do that. On Dell computers the button is usually F12. On HP it is usually ESC.
  4. The computer will work for a while and eventually you get a screen that says “Welcome to Setup”. Hit the R key here
  5. If will ask you which installation you want to boot. If you have several XP installations on this computer, select the one you want. Of course, if you have several installations, and one still works, you would not need these steps.
  6. Type the administrator password for the installation you need to repair.

At this point, you should be at a command prompt. The commands you can run are very limited and they are often different from what you are used to.

At the command prompt, type cd $ntservicepackuninstall$\spuninst, and then press ENTER.  
7.  At the command prompt, type batch spuninst.txt, and then press ENTER.

Note The Spuninstal.txt file appears. As the file scrolls down, you will see errors and the files that are being copied. This is typical behavior.
8. After Windows XP SP3 is removed, type exit, and then press ENTER.
9. Restart the computer in safe mode. To do this, press F8 when the computer restarts.

Note After you restart the computer, the computer may stop responding, and you may see a black screen. The mouse will work. In this case, restart the computer again by turning the computer off and then back on. The second restart will let you log on.
10. When the computer restarts, Windows Explorer (Explorer.exe) does not run, and the Windows icons and the Start button are unavailable. To resolve this problem, follow these steps:a.  Press CTRL+ALT+DEL, and then click Task Manager in the Windows Security screen.
b.  Click File, and then click New Task (Run). 
c.  In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK.
d.  Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
e.  In the details pane, right-click ObjectName, click Modify, type LocalSystem in the Value data box, and then click OK. 
f.  Restart the computer

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