Ex-Microsoft Security Expert Codes XP SP3 Fix

Microsoft earlier this week said the problem, which stems from a glitch with an Intel power management driver and primarily affects Hewlett Packard desktop PCs with AMD processors, is the result of OEMs using the same image for both Intel and AMD-based PCs.

When the Intel PPM driver loads on an AMD PC on reboot after installing XP SP3, the machine generates a blue screen and then reboots over and over until the user either forces a shutdown or throws the PC out the window.

Jesper Johansson, the former senior security strategist at Microsoft and current Microsoft MVP who last week discovered the cause of the glitch, is now offering a free tool that detects the problem and mitigates it before installing the service pack.

The tool identifies AMD machines and checks to see if they're configured to load the Intel PPM driver, and includes the ability to scan all computers on a network, although this can be a slow process due to the large number of alerts it generates, according to Johansson.

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"If you really need a silent version, I can probably be persuaded to write one for you," Johansson wrote in a blog post updated earlier this week.

Microsoft is developing a hotfix for this issue and will make it available to users after it has been "rigorously tested" and meets the software giant's quality bar for release, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to ChannelWeb. Microsoft is also advising users affected by the issue to not attempt to alter registry settings without technical assistance.

In an interesting twist, HP earlier this week published a support document which claims that XP SP3 copies the Intel driver to PCs that didn't have it prior to the service pack deployment.

In his blog, Johansson notes that on HP desktop images, the Intel PPM registry key exists under HKML\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet, and directs the driver to start. On HP laptop images, the registry key doesn't exist, which is why the issue affects HP desktops and not laptops, according to Johansson.

"It is not the presence of the driver on disk that is the problem. It is the instruction to load it that HP put into the registry that causes the problem," Johansson wrote.

Microsoft is also offering free installation and troubleshooting support for SP3 through its support website, and customers in North America can obtain free telephone support by calling (866) 234-6020.