Problems with Windows XP SP3 persist

Dennis o'reilly By Dennis O’Reilly

If you’re still on the fence about XP’s Service Pack 3, best to stay there for a while.

We continue to hear from readers whose PCs choke on the update, and for very different reasons.

XP SP3 should ship with two aspirins

I’m sure Microsoft made every effort to ensure that the distribution of Windows XP Service Pack 3 would go smoothly. Unfortunately, the company’s efforts didn’t keep some Windows Secrets readers out of the update muck.

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One of the many people who shared their SP3 pain with us was Almer Procyshyn, who was seeing the Internet Explorer customization screen every time he started IE 7:
  • “Recently, like many others I have noticed, I experienced problems with my laptop after SP3 was installed, one being the RunOnce setting for IE 7. Many forums suggest modifying the Registry, but the simple most effective solution is:

    Tools, Internet Options, Advanced, Reset (under Reset Internet Explorer settings), OK.

    “This allows you to [reset your] RunOnce settings. Simple, and it works.”
If only all SP3 glitches were so easy to resolve. Note that this workaround changes all IE 7 settings back to their default values, which may not be what you want. To fix the problem with a specific change to the Registry or using local security policy, see an explanation at Online Tech Tips.

While most XP users who have installed SP3 experience no problems, the risk/reward balance suggests that there’s no hurry to apply the patch, at least until Microsoft stops supporting SP2 — many months from now.

Renewal pop-ups tick off antispyware user

Reader Ted Cohen is mad as hell at SpySweeper, his antispyware vendor, and he’s going to take his business elsewhere.
  • “I have used SpySweeper for years and agree it is among the best. However, 30 days prior to my subscription expiration, the software begins automatic renewal-notice pop-ups every time the machine reboots — for me, several times a day.

    “SpySweeper support says the pop-ups cannot be removed. It is intrusive and annoying, as the pop-ups override my applications. I pay SpySweeper to stop hackers from installing trash on my machine, but it seems they are as guilty as the bad guys where their own revenue is involved.

    “All it would take is the usual ‘do not show this message again’ checkbox to make me happy, but these guys are shameless. I like their software, but I am going elsewhere.”
The computer industry may not own the patent on alienating customers (see Automobiles, American), but software vendors in particular have made an art form out of it.

How good does a program have to be for you to put up with such annoying renewal reminders, not to mention update pop-ups and other intrusions? How loathsome do a company’s marketing practices have to be for you to toss a product you’re otherwise happy with?

Readers Almer and Ted will each receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for sending tips we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

The Known Issues column brings you readers’ comments on our recent articles. Dennis O’Reilly is technical editor of
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-09-04: