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

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


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

    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

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.

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

As of April 8, 2014, support and updates for Windows XP are no longer available. Find out how to stay protected.