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Microsoft slams OEMs over XP SP3 install cock-up

Suffers serious image problem

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Microsoft has blamed computer makers for the Windows XP service pack three (SP3) install debacle that has wreaked havoc on PCs.

The firm said today that the endless reboot cock-up reported by many XP customers after installing SP3 was not a new issue. In fact, Microsoft first identified the problem when Windows XP SP2 was released four years ago.

It said that the snafu, in part, relates to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – understood to include the world’s biggest computer vendor Hewlett-Packard – loading the wrong "Sysprepped"* XP image on to machines with non-Intel chipsets.

“Microsoft is aware of a reboot issue experienced by some users who have attempted to install Windows XP SP3,” said a Microsoft spokesman. “While the root cause of this issue is complex, it results from OEMs improperly placing a Windows XP image created for an Intel-based computer onto machines with non-Intel chipsets. Microsoft issued guidance to OEMs advising them to only load Windows XP images onto like hardware in 2004.”

Indeed, the software giant also updated a knowledge base document (888372) on the same day it spat out the final XP service pack on 6 May.

It points out that the Intel processor driver (Intelppm.sys) may try to load on non-Intel-based PCs because of an errant registry key left over from the original Sysprep image that was intended for Intel machines only.

The Microsoft spokesman, however, added that: “Until we complete our investigation, it would be premature to comment on any theory.” That suggests the firm is looking into more than one issue with installs of SP3.

Meanwhile, AMD has responded to our request for comment – perhaps unsurprisingly, it sang from the same hymn sheet as Microsoft on the service pack blunder:

“The problem is the result of applying a non-AMD processor Windows operating system image to AMD processor-based PCs; this is a configuration issue only and not an HP platform, AMD processor, or operating system issue,” it said.

However, the chip maker also reckons that Microsoft is working on a fix that should be available in the next few days.

Many will probably find that a surprising, and perhaps even optimistic statement, given that the Sysprep image issue has been something that Redmond, OEMs and chip vendors have been aware of since 2004.

Yesterday we reported one theory from Reg reader Gary who pointed out that Microsoft appears to have left key updates out of the automatic version of SP3 (316MB), given that it’s missing 238MB compared to the manual .ISO version of the service pack (554MB).

So perhaps the fix is a simple one – Microsoft will bundle all the necessary processor drivers onto the automatic update.

But while the outcome remains uncertain, we recommend you take Gary’s advice and install the manual version by downloading the full .ISO file onto a CD. ®

Bootnote

*The Sysprep tool is widely used by IT bods, especially those who support hundreds of users people in big organisations, in order to speed up deployment of the same model of Windows-based machines by using one image containing all the relevant drivers.

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