Service Packs are collections of security updates and stability enhancements from Microsoft. For Windows XP, every new Service Pack includes all fixes from the previous Service Pack so that you don't need to download and install them one by one. Just grab the latest one and you're good.
Service Pack 3 is the last service pack for Windows XP because XP is really old by now. Remember, XP was launched in 2001 and it reached end-of-life on the 8th of April, 2014?
By the way, ZDNet lists a simple hack to continue receiving security updates for Windows XP until the 9th of April, 2019. This date is also long past.
NB! Messing with Registry incorrectly can lead to unbootable Windows!
Service Pack 3 is a cumulative update (includes all previously released fixes), therefore you do not need to install Windows XP Service Pack 1 or 2 before proceeding with Service Pack 3 installation.
Right-click the My Computer icon on Desktop or in the Start menu and choose Properties. Or use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+PAUSE to open the System Properties window.
Open the General tab and see what's written in the System section.
If you have Service Pack 1 or Service Pack 2 or no line about Service Pack at all, continue reading this article. Close System Properties window by clicking OK.
If you already have Service Pack 3 installed, you can safely skip this article.
Before applying Windows XP Service Pack 3, please follow the steps in the following articles - otherwise, the installation might fail because of some trivial reason such as messed up files on the system drive or not enough free space on disk, or some malware blocking installation:
- Check disks in Windows;
- Free up disk space in Windows (you need 1500 megabytes [1.5 gigabytes] of free space to install Windows XP Service Pack 3);
- Full anti-virus scan, such as Microsoft Security Essentials on-demand scan;
- Optionally, create a disk image backup. There are free tools available for this: Macrium Reflect, AOMEI Backupper Standard, etc.
First, close all open programs and documents.
You cannot apply it via Windows Update / Microsoft Update anymore because this requires SP3 to be installed already.
Full download (aka Network Installation Package) of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP has been removed from Microsoft Download Center, but you can get the file from MajorGeeks. Make sure you try one of the [email protected] links.
Please save the file instead of running it.
If you see some error before or during the update, try restarting your computer first. If this does not help, use this Fix It tool for repairing Microsoft Update problems.
After the download is complete, click Run to open Service Pack 3 Installation Wizard. Click Next.
The installation process will take quite a while. It could consume up to an hour or more on slower computers. Have a nice glass of juice and do some exercise while the Service Pack is being installed.
When it gets to the point where you see the "Finishing installation" screen, it will still take several minutes to complete.
After successful completion, click Finish to restart your computer.
After restarting, your computer will do some post-install configuration and you will see screens like this. Starting Windows will also take a little more time. This is normal and it happens only once. But after all this, you are done applying Service Pack 3!
Please apply all security updates after installing SP3 for Windows XP. If you have not yet configured Windows Update, read the Configure Automatic Updates in Windows article.
And last, but not least: do set up automatic backups just in case something goes wrong in the future.