What We Need to Learn from the XP SP3 Upgrade Fiasco


Good (and Not-so-Good) Solutions to the HP Laptop Upgrade Mess

If you've been a victim of the AMD-based HP and Compaq BSOD-reboot loop after installing Windows XP SP3 or you've been waiting for a solution, take your choice. Real solutions include:

    • Download and run HP's Microsoft Windows XP SP3 Upgrade Utility, also known as SP37394
    • Download and run Jasper Johansson's VB script tool (featured in our last posting )

Microsoft's current "answer" falls into the Not-so-Good category:

    • According to InfoWorld , Microsoft has temporarily halted automatic distribution via Windows Update of Windows XP SP3 to HP laptops running AMD processors. Update 5-28-08: WU will offer SP3 to HP/Compaq laptops with AMD processors after the erroneous Intel power-management reference in the Registry is removed (a hat tip to reader Cassandra).

HP and Microsoft's approaches bring us to the following questions: Does HP talk to Microsoft? Does Microsoft talk to HP?

Why It Happened

Microsoft frequently is slammed by computer users for a multitude of sins, but this time, it's clearly not Microsoft's fault.

Way back when Windows XP SP2 was being rolled out, OEM vendors had used the same corner-cutting method of using a common image for earlier generations of AMD and Intel-based systems, and the same BSOD-reboot loop happened. Microsoft's KB888372 discussed why this happened with SP2, and unfortunately required only minor editing to bring it up to date for the SP3 problem.

Preventing "The Fire Next Time"

So, history repeated itself with the rollout of Windows XP SP3. How can we keep this problem from happening again?

Part of the solution already exists: Windows Vista, unlike Windows XP, handles differences in hardware better, so you can prepare a common image that can be deployed to different systems. However, Windows XP still has a long way to go before it joins Windows 98 in the grooveyard of forgotten operating system favorites. What should vendors - and users - do now?

How to Prevent Future Upgrade Fiascos

1. Microsoft should stop assuming that vendors listen to its advice. The advice given by KB888372 - that vendors should not create XP images on Intel hardware and expect them to work on AMD hardware - was ignored by HP - and possibly by other vendors. When Microsoft re-releases Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update, it should improve its hardware-detection features and override the 'time bomb' lurking in some OEM images.

2. Vendors should start paying attention to Microsoft. KB888372 is now in version 4.1, so it's obvious that Microsoft's been telling vendors for quite a while to be more careful about how they create Windows XP images. So, if you're a hardware vendor that builds Windows XP images on both AMD and Intel-based platforms, get your imaging act together if you've been cutting corners. And, to those of you who are already building different images for Intel and AMD platforms - thank you, thank you very much .

3. Users should build their own images instead of relying on a possibly-fouled up OEM image. If you don't want to (or can't) install a fresh Windows XP installation on your AMD-based laptop of any brand, follow the advice in KB888372 to remove the Intelppm registry key if it exists on your system - then use a program like Ghost or Acronis True Image to create an image of your OS and installed applications before installing an upgrade.

So let it be written - so let it be done.

(article updated 5-28-2008)

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