Every other week or so, FOXNews.com tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.

Got Them Steadily Depressin', Low Down, Mind-Messin', Windows Update Blues

Q: Every article I've read said that SP3 is only available if you run Windows Update manually. I was working on someone's computer yesterday; the yellow shield appeared saying there was one Windows Update so I selected it.

It was SP3!! I immediately killed it. I always wait until a Service Pack has been out a while before I install it. They had so many problems with SP2 that I waited until Kim Komando said it was "worth the risk" before I installed it.

Should we go ahead and install it? Does it matter whether we have an Intel or AMD processor? And if I select to download it, will I get an option to "Install" or "Not Install" it? How do we prevent this if we are set to run Automatic Updates?

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A: Early reports claimed the schedule was to make SP3 available for download on April 29th and start pushing it out via Windows Update on June 10th.

Microsoft had to extend the April date because of a software glitch. They are still reporting that they "will begin automatically distributing Windows XP SP3 in early summer" on their Windows XP Service Pack 3 Forum.

If it's coming to you via Automatic Update, it appears that summer has come a little early this year.

Whether or not you choose to install it is a matter of personal preference, I suppose. There have been reports of a serious problem occurring if (1) you run an AMD processor and (2) your XP image was "originally captured by an OEM [original equipment manufacturer] on an Intel-based machine."

Microsoft has a Knowledge Base article on error recovery here, but nothing about pre-emptively identifying the problem. Perhaps the fix will work pre-emptively.

As far as filtering it goes, this update is a little different than what normally comes up.

In fact, it shows you SP3 on a completely different screen, and doesn't give you the option to hide it.

If you decline, and choose the "other critical updates" option, it goes through the whole process of identifying critical updates a second time.

All in all, you have time for two cups of coffee. There may be a way to hack the system so that it never installs — but I'm not aware of it.

Windows Update Blues, Part 2

Q: I have been trying for a long time to update .NET framework. I ALWAYS get the following reply:

"Some updates were not installed. Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework, Version 1.0 Service Pack 3 (KB887998)"

I cannot get any answers as to why, or how to get this to work. Do you have any answers for me? I think this is why IE crashes 10+ times a day.

A: I outlined the general procedure for fixing a single failed update in my column on April 16. It's archived at www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351271,00.html. Use KB887998 instead of the one in the example. That's the first thing you should try.

If that fails to correct the problem, then you'll need to completely uninstall and reinstall the .NET stuff. Go to the "Add and Remove Programs" applet in the Control Panel and remove anything that says ".NET" on it.

If that doesn't work (this has happened to me already!) then download a copy of Aaron Stebner's removal tool from http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2005/04/08/406671.aspx as a last resort, making sure to read the disclaimer.

This will remove all traces of the .NET framework from your system. It'll also cause problems with any installed program which makes use of it, so you'll now have re-install .NET piece by piece.

Go to the Windows Update Web site, choose the "Custom" option and go enjoy a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage while it checks to see which updates you need.

The .NET stuff will be in the "Software, Optional" section. Download and install version 1.0. Keep going back to Windows Update until it quits offering you high-priority updates to .NET version 1.0.

Now download and install .NET 2.0 (if you need it), continually returning to Windows Update until it stops offering you high-priority updates.

Now do it for .NET 3.0 (if you need it). You will know you need the higher versions if when you go to run a program it crashes. That's because it doesn't have the right .NET loaded. QuickBooks Pro 2008, for example, needs .NET 2.0.

It will take 2-4 hours to download all this with a DSL connection, depending on how many versions you need.

For How Long Will Windows XP Pro Remain Available?

Q: I have a small (10 computer) XP Pro shop and don't want to add any Vista machines just yet. I want to use XP Pro on any new machines I buy. I have seen conflicting reports about the "death" of XP Pro. What are the facts?

A: It might be time for you to consider a Volume Licensing Agreement with Microsoft. This will allow you to upgrade your existing systems from XP to Vista — when the time is right. And as you need more workstations, you can increase the number of licenses you own on a machine-by-machine basis.

Just make sure you get Vista licenses with downgrade rights to XP. Those downgrade rights last for as long as the license agreement does — 2 years, if memory serves. The minimum initial quantity of licensed machines is 5, so you're OK there.

The caveat here is to make sure you have full licenses for new machines. An upgrade license requires an underlying Microsoft operating system on the machine.

If Microsoft is still doing it the way it used to, you might even have the added bonus of being able to upgrade — using the same Volume License — to Windows 7, the successor to Vista, when it becomes available sometime in 2010. You'll have to check the fine print.

There is a downside to this strategy: Later this summer, when XP becomes unavailable on anything except the ultra-low end machines, the hardware manufacturers are going to stop writing XP drivers for the new motherboards.

The longer you wait until you fully migrate to Vista, the more you're going to have to settle for older hardware.

Have You Heard the One About the Trojan Horse?

Q: My computer's Internet Explorer 6 is going crazy. Every time I try to get online, this pop-up from "trusted antivirus protection," or something like that, comes up and pops up dialogue boxes about downloading this anti-spyware and says it is going to scan my computer for problems.

This in turn makes my DSL crawl like a dial-up connection. My question is: How do I get that pop-up to quit coming on my computer, and what do I need to do to get this problem fixed?

A: You have what is commonly called a Trojan horse. The software is offering you something that looks valuable (Free Virus Removal!) but is, in reality, the virus or spyware itself.

My advice would be to get a professional to come to your home and get rid of the malware. Try to find somebody who will actually attempt to get rid of the offending software before he tries to talk you into erasing your hard drive and reloading the operating system.

In the future, you need to settle on one — and only one — antivirus solution, and one or two anti-spyware solutions. Learn what notifications look like from those programs and avoid, at all cost, messages from any other source, no matter how tempting they look.

And before I forget it, don't forget the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from the bad stuff: Install a router between your computer and your broadband modem.

Guy R. Briggs is a member of the Nerds On Site international IT service team and is based in Los Angeles.

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