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Post-SP3 patch breaks Windows Update

I broke Windows Update on two XP machines.

On two Windows XP machines of mine, the installation of post-SP3 patches has broken Windows Update.

I first wrote about this yesterday, when it happened on one machine. Today, on a computer with very different hardware, the problem repeated itself.

In both cases the computers had no application software installed. Each had only Windows XP SP2 and a handful of vendor installed utilities. Neither machine had any anti-malware software of any kind, not even a firewall (other than XP's firewall). Both were running Internet Explorer 6.

Each time I started by installing SP3 and rebooting. Next, I ran Windows Update manually and opted to install all the post-SP3 patches, with the exception of Internet Explorer 7. I prefer to install IE7 by itself. The patches install fine, and I reboot again.

At this point Windows Update no longer works.

A screen shot from the Windows Update website. Microsoft's recommendation differs from mine

As I suggested three months ago, it's best to hold off on Service Pack 3.

Update July 27, 2008: This problem is not related to IE6, it was re-produced on two machines running IE7. At this point, I have tried to reproduce it on five computers. My best guess now is that the problem has to do with the type of license for Windows. On four machines that were purchased from the same hardware vendor (very different models), Windows Update broke. However, a copy of Windows XP purchased at retail in a shrink-wrapped box had no problems with Windows Update.

One Windows XP test machine started out with no service packs. I installed SP2, rebooted, installed IE7, rebooted, installed SP3, rebooted and then installed all the post-SP3 patches except for one. One patch had to be omitted because without something to install there is no way to know that Windows Update is broken. Specifically, I chose not to install KB923789, an update to the Adobe Flash player. The post-SP3 patches that I did install were KB951748, KB951978, KB890830, KB951376, KB950762, KB950760 and KB942763. One of them broke Windows Update.

For the fix to Windows Update see Fixing Windows Update on XP SP3
See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.