I repeat: don't be in a hurry to install XP SP3
As I described in last week's column, HP recommends that its customers put their XP Service Pack 3 installation plans on hold. According to the Microsoft Update Product Team blog, Microsoft plans to block the service pack from being offered to users of the systems affected by the reboot bug.
If you prefer not to wait, Dr. Jesper Johansson has created a fix that can be downloaded from his blog. In fact, Dr. Johansson's site is probably the best resource for tracking issues associated with XP SP3.
In addition to the many readers who have e-mailed me to describe problems they've encountered after installing XP SP3, a second and larger group of people ask whether they even need the update if they've been applying security and other XP patches as they become available.
Given that every analyst — including me — is telling them the service pack's most noteworthy enhancements involve networking and other IT-related matters, many ask whether they need XP SP3 at all.
You needn't hurry to install XP SP3 right now, but there will be a time to do so. According to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle page, old Office service packs are supported for only one year after a new one is released, but Windows service packs receive a full 24 months of support following the delivery of their successors.
You're safe as long as you plan to install XP SP3 prior to Apr. 14, 2009, which is the date Microsoft's free, unlimited support will end for XP SP2 (although security patches will still be offered). Microsoft will provide free "installation and compatibility" support for SP3 until that same date, as stated on the company's XP SP3 support site.
For me, the wait time before installing a Windows service pack is typically from two to six months after its initial release. By that time, the kinks have likely been worked out of the service pack, and you can bring all your XP systems up to date.