Fresh installation of Windows XP 32 bits with Service Pack 3 and the Windows Update nightmare

Update (2014/01/15): It seems that Microsoft has fixed the update service problem and these steps are no longer needed.

If you have recently (since October of 2013) tried to perform a fresh installation of Windows XP SP3, you may have found that updating Windows, after the final boot, seems to take forever, while one of your CPU cores is 100% busy due to a svchost.exe process at full throttle. This issue has been discussed many times all over Internet, but I found that some solutions did not work for me, and the one that worked was not clearly explained. For the latter reason, I decided to share what I have learned struggling with this problem for two days. Here we go:

  1. You may start reading about this problem in this post.
  2. Windows XP SP3 comes with Internet Explorer (IE) 6, but IE8 and its offline installer is needed for solving the problem. You should check that the installer matches your operative system language.
  3. Perform a fresh Windows XP SP3 installation. When you are asked about automatic updates, disable them. I will assume that a user with administrator privileges is used to perform any of the following steps.
  4. Verify that you are connected to the Internet. If not, install network adapter drivers, and configure your network.
  5. Before you proceed with the installation of IE8: a) enable automatic updates “notify but do not download” option, b) disable the automatic update service. For disabling automatic updates, execute the command line net stop “Automatic Updates” or, alternatively, go to Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Services and disable the automatic update service. Do not restart, or the service will be up and running again.
  6. Run the IE8 installer (“IE8-WindowsXP-x86-ENU.exe” for English language) and check that the download updates option is on. It should take a while to download the updates and install everything. If the automatic update service is running while IE8 is downloading its patches, the problem will arise and it will take forever to install the browser.
  7. Restart.

Hopefully, after all these steps, you will see again the yellow shield in the task bar and you will be able to use the Windows Update service through IE8 without problems.

NOTE: Bear in mind that support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014.

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