Learn how to install Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) is an important update that includes previously released security, performance, and stability updates for Windows XP.

How to get SP3

The recommended (and easiest) way to get SP3 is to turn on Automatic Updates. For more information, see Set up Automatic Updates.

Automatic Updates can automatically download SP3 when it's available for your computer. You just need a few clicks to begin the installation and the rest of the process is automatic. If Automatic Updates isn't turned on, you can install SP3 by using Windows Update at the Windows website.

In order to install SP3, you must first have Windows XP Service Pack 1a (SP1a) or Service Pack 2 (SP2) installed. These are also available when you have Automatic Updates turned on. For more information about these and other Windows service packs, go to the Service Pack Center.


  • There's no SP3 for the 64-bit version of Windows XP. If you're running the 64-bit version of Windows XP with SP2, you have the latest service pack and will continue to be eligible for support and receive updates until April 8, 2014. To find out what version you're running, see Is my PC running the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows?

  • For the best experience on your PC, consider upgrading to Windows 7. For more information about the options available in your country or region, go to the Shop webpage.

To learn if Windows XP SP3 is already installed

  • Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.

    If Service Pack 3 is listed in the System section, SP3 is already installed on your computer and you don't need to follow the instructions below.

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Before you begin

Before you install SP3, we recommend you do the following:

  • Log on to your computer using an administrator account, make sure all other users are logged off of the computer, and close all open programs.

  • Back up your important files to an external location, such as an external hard disk, DVD or CD, or USB flash drive. For more information, see "Backing up files and folders" in Help and Support Center.

  • If you're using a laptop, connect it to an AC electrical outlet and don't unplug or restart the computer during installation.

  • If you have a third-party wireless network adapter, make sure that the device is supported by Windows XP SP3. For more information, go to the device manufacturer's website.

  • If your computer is running Windows XP Professional, we recommend that you create an Automated System Recovery (ASR) set. This can help repair your system if the installation fails. For more information, see "To create an Automated System Recovery set using Backup" in Help and Support Center. (ASR isn't available for Windows XP Home Edition.)

  • Some antivirus software might prevent SP3 from installing, or might slow down the installation. You can try temporarily disabling your antivirus software. If you do so, be sure that you're aware of the risks involved, and be sure to enable it after the service pack is installed.

  • Make sure you have enough free disk space to install SP3 (even though much of that space will be reclaimed after the installation). If you need to create free disk space, see "Using Disk Cleanup" in Help and Support Center.

    Amount of free disk space required to install SP3 (estimated):

    Installation methodApproximate free disk space required
    Installation method

    Windows Update

    Approximate free disk space required

    1,840 MB

    Installation method

    Downloading SP3 from the Microsoft website

    Approximate free disk space required

    1,500 MB

    Installation method

    Installing SP3 from a CD

    Approximate free disk space required

    1,765 MB

Installing SP3 using Windows Update (recommended)

If your computer is set to automatically install updates, you'll be prompted by Automatic Updates to install SP3. For more information, see Set up Automatic Updates.

If you aren't prompted to install SP3, follow these steps:

To install SP3 using Windows Update

  1. Click Start, click All Programs, and then click Windows Update.

  2. Click Express (Recommended).

  3. If your computer is up to date, Windows XP SP3 will be one of the updates that is automatically selected. Click Install Updates. If your computer isn't up to date, Windows Update will offer some other updates that you have to install first. Install those, and then repeat steps 1 and 2 to obtain Windows XP SP3.

  4. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

  5. After the installation is complete, click Finish to restart your computer.

  6. If you disabled your antivirus software, enable it again.

Manually installing SP3 using the Microsoft Download Center or a CD

If you have problems obtaining the service pack from Windows Update, you can download SP3 as a standalone installation package from the Microsoft Download Center website, and then install SP3 manually. The installation package is intended for IT professionals and developers, but you can still download and install this file.

You can also order a CD from Microsoft containing SP3. For more information, go to the Microsoft website.

To manually install SP3 using the standalone installation package or a CD

  1. Do one of the following:

    • If you downloaded SP3 from the website, to install it immediately, click Open or Run and follow the instructions on your screen. To install the program later, click Save and download the installation file to your computer. When you're ready to install the service pack, double-click the file.

    • If you're installing SP3 from the Service Pack 3 CD, insert the disc into your computer with your current version of Windows XP running, and the Software Update Installation Wizard should automatically appear. If this wizard doesn't appear, click Start, double-click My Computer, right-click your CD or DVD drive, and then click AutoPlay.

  2. On the Windows XP Service Pack 3 page, click Next.

  3. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

  4. After the installation is complete, click Finish to restart your computer.

  5. If you disabled your antivirus software, enable it again.

Uninstalling SP3

If you installed SP3 yourself, you can uninstall it. However, if your computer came with SP3 already installed, it can't be uninstalled.

To uninstall SP3

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Click Add or Remove Programs, click Windows XP Service Pack 3, and then click Remove.

  3. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.


  • If you choose to uninstall SP3, a dialog box displays a list of the programs that you installed after you installed SP3. If you continue, these programs might not work correctly.

Help stay safe and keep your computer up to date

Make sure you're taking advantage of all the ways that Windows can help keep your computer safe:

  • Install an antivirus program. Antivirus programs scan for viruses trying to get into your e‑mail, operating system, or files, and can help protect your computer. To find an antivirus program, go to the Windows Security software providers webpage on the Microsoft website.

  • Don't open e‑mail attachments. Many viruses are attached to e‑mail messages and will spread as soon as you open the e‑mail attachment. It's best not to open any attachment unless it's something you're expecting. Microsoft Outlook and Windows Mail can help block potentially dangerous attachments.

  • Use a firewall.‌ Windows Firewall or any other firewall program can help alert you to security threats. It can block viruses, worms, and hackers from attempting to download potentially harmful programs onto your computer.

  • Use the latest version of Windows Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 8 contains security and privacy improvements, such as SmartScreen Filter and InPrivate Browsing, which can help protect your computer so you can browse the web with more confidence. For more information, go to the Internet Explorer webpage.