XP SP3 cripples some PCs with endless reboots

More from Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld U.S.:

Installing Windows XP Service Pack 3 sends some PCs into an endlessseries of reboots, according to posts to a Microsoft support forum.

Jesper Johansson, a former program manager for security policy atMicrosoft Corp. and a prominent Windows blogger, has worked with usersto tentatively identify the problem as involving only machines usingprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Messages from frustrated users began accumulating on the XP SP3support newsgroup Wednesday, just a day after Microsoft released theupdate to the general public.

“I just installed Windows XP SP3 and after completing the processesand when the system reboots, the system cannot proceed to load theWindows,” said a user identified as “Olin” in a message that kicked offa long thread. “It just displays the flash screen of Windows then afterit reboots again.”

Most users who left messages on the forum said that they were unableto boot into Windows Safe mode — a last-ditch way to sidestep thenormal boot process for troubleshooting purposes — or revert to apreviously saved System Restore point.

Some were understandably upset. “Way to go, Microsoft, releasing thepile of dung called SP3 that hoses your system so bad even Safe Modeisn’t working!” said a user identified as Mike Voss. “Props to your QAguys, they certainly have done their job.”

Johansson, who watched one of his PCs repeatedly reboot afterinstalling XP SP3, traded accounts with several other users on thenewsgroup and summarized the results on his blog.

According to Johansson, there appears to be two separate issues. Oneaffects only AMD-equipped PCs sold by Hewlett-Packard Co. “The problemis that HP, apparently along with other OEMs, deploys the same image toIntel-based computers that they do to AMD-based computers,” saidJohansson. “Because the image for both Intel and AMD is the same, allhave the intelppm.sys driver installed and running. That driverprovides power management on Intel-based computers. On an AMD-basedcomputer, amdk8.sys provides the same functionality.”

Running the intelppm.sys driver on an AMD-powered PC isn’t normallyan issue, but on the first reboot after a service pack installation, itcauses “a big problem,” Johansson said. The machine either fails toboot or crashes and immediately reboots.

The other problem, according to Johansson, also seems to affect onlyAMD machines, and involves an error message indicating trouble with thePC’s BIOS. Johansson said that the ensuing recommendation to update theBIOS is “most likely not your problem,” but said that the problem maybe isolated to a specific motherboard. “Possibly, it is related tocomputers with the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard in them,” he said.

Johansson also spelled out workarounds for both problems on hisblog. The HP issue can be solved by disabling the intelppm.sys driver,while the second fix requires the user to plug in a USB flash drivebefore booting.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment early Friday,but someone identified as a Microsoft employee on the support forum hadasked users to e-mail him information about the PC’s systemconfiguration and whether they were able to enter Safe mode, and tosubmit event viewer logs.

This isn’t the first endless reboot problem Microsoft’s faced inrelation to a service pack recently. In February, the company pulled aWindows Vista SP1 prerequisite update from automatic delivery becauseit was crippling some machines.

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