Having applied the newly released Windows XP Service Pack 3 to my virtual administrative machine yesterday I can now safely say "mistakes were made". This morning I spent a good couple of hours trying to determine what went wrong, and how to correct it. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. This is what I discovered.
1) Once you install Windows XP Service Pack 3, you will never be able to change your browser. If you were running IE 6, you will be stuck with it from here until re-installation (that's a joke). If you have IE 7, you can never revert back to IE 6. That "uninstall IE 7" ability will be removed upon successful installation of Service Pack 3.
2) If you were running IE 6, and then installed SP3, you can never have IE 7. Attempts to install it manually will fail.
3) If you are stuck with IE 6, you cannot install post IE 7 updates, for which there are about three. You would think Windows Update would recognize this flaw and not attempt to install these updates that you cannot even accept, but that is not the case. If you get stuck in this loop, you will have 3 updates that are pending installation ... forever. Every time you update, it will fail. Every time. Sucks to be you.
4) If you install Windows XP right out of the box (like a normal clean install) and run through the updates that are recommended to you - you will effectively screw things up. That's because Windows Update will not offer you the IE 7 update until after you have installed SP 3 and it's too late.
With all that said - here is how you *should* update Windows XP. First, install Windows XP Service Pack 2 if it's not all ready streamlined into your product disc. Then run Windows Update and grab the dozen or so updates that are offered, and reboot. Run Windows Update again. If it offers you Service Pack 3, stop there and don't install it. Now browse to the home for IE 7 and choose to "Download Now". You want to install it manually. Once that completes, reboot. At this point you can run Windows Update and accept the Service Pack 3 update.
Hey Microsoft, what the hell are you thinking?