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Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) is a complex update with many ramifications for IT pros. TechRepublic’s Windows XP Service Pack 2 Quick Guide drills down on critical SP2 need-to-know areas, with sections on fundamentals, changes that occur after installation, deployment procedures, problem areas, and removal.


Depending on the chipset, motherboard manufacturer, BIOS
version, and CPU, installing Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack
can result in an unbootable computer system. The problem is generally
associated with Intel “Prescott
CPUs and its chipsets, but not every such combination will cause a problem. As
of this writing, motherboards exhibiting the behavior include:

  • Albatron
    PX865 PE Pro
  • Shuttle
  • Jetway
  • Soyo
  • Aopen
    AX4SG Max
  • Asus
    P4P800-E deluxe
  • Abit
  • Foxconn

Technically speaking, the problem revolves around the
machine’s BIOS not installing a production level microcode update. To check
whether the BIOS is at the correct level, download the Intel Processor Frequency ID utility. The microcode version is
identified by this utility as CPU
, which should equal at least 8.

Solution 1

If the Intel utility shows that you have the wrong microcode
version, the primary solution to the problem is to update the system BIOS for
your motherboard before you install SP2. Here are some motherboard manufacturer

BIOS updates

BIOS updates can be dangerous—please
follow the manufacturer’s instructions very closely to avoid a major

Solution 2

If you have already installed XP SP2 and have a PC that will
not boot because of this microcode version problem, there are two workarounds
you can try to get to a bootable state.

In the BIOS setup you should temporarily disable the L1 and
L2 cache. On some motherboards, this will allow the computer to boot. You
should then remove SP2, turn the L1 and L2 cache back on, and then update the
BIOS to reflect the correct microcode version. After completing these steps,
you should be able to re-install SP2 without running into this particular
problem again.

If disabling L1 and L2 cache does not work, you can use a
second workaround suggested by a representative at Intel: Boot the problem
computer with an alternative OS or to the safe mode command line if possible.
Assuming you can get to the Windows directory on the boot partition, navigate
to this file and change its name so that it does not load the next time the
machine is booted:


After rebooting you should be able to install XP SP2, but
keep in mind this is a temporary fix—the system will be unstable until you
update the BIOS and reactivate the update.sys

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Intel® Processor Frequency ID Utility

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