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Once upon a time I went to my wife’s parent’s house for the holidays. While I was there they asked me to have a look at the computer because it was running “weird”. When I looked at it, I discovered that it had no virus protection software, no firewall enabled, and was way behind on updates.

The first thing I did was enable the windows firewall and install avast! antivirus, which I think is pretty good for being free. Avast found and removed lots of spyware. But when I went to get the computer up-to-date, I discovered that XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) would not install. It would get part way through the install and then pop up an “Access is Denied” message, and roll back everything it had done. I tried updating using the built-in updater, the Windows Update site, and the stand alone executable. All failed at the same place.

After googling a bit, I discovered what had probably happened: in order to protect itself, spyware had changed the permissions to the Windows registry. A side effect of that change was that even a user with administrative rights couldn’t install XP SP3.

I found this Microsoft support article that explains how to fix the problem by resetting the permissions on the registry so that XP SP3 can install. I followed the instructions in the Advanced Troubleshooting section to reset the registry and it worked like a charm. After rebooting I was able to install XP SP3 without a hitch, and now the computer is fully updated, and no longer “weird” according to my in-laws. And they lived happily ever after. ZZZZZ

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