I stupidly went at it again. This time I installed all the idiotic updates and security patches to bring the SP2 machine that wouldn't update to SP3 to SP2 up-to-date. In other words I took the RED PILL. (Cue the slow-motion, ripply video effects a la Matrix, or was it the BLUE Pill, who knows!)
Everything was cool, it worked fine as far as I could test it this morning. I was gonna trash it any way. Its a testbox with a volume license CD install on it. So what the hell. I went ahead and installed SP3 with Windows Update on-line on top of all that crap. Went off to a couple of meetings,came back, Lo and behold I have a working SP3 box. Way too freaking weird!
What made the difference? AND why should putting all those SP2+ updates make any difference to a Service Pack install? I seem to remember that Service Packs for the OS have been traditionally designed to be a complete install unto themselves, with NO prior dependencies outside of a VIRGIN OS install. I have no clear idea but I do have a guess I'll share.
I''ll bet you a box of donuts that the combination of the WGA crap and a late update to Windows Installer is what kills SP3 as a complete install.
SP2 didn't require WGA to work right. But she ain't virgin anymore, she's got WGA crap on her.
I base that idea on the fact that WGA has been shoved down onto my box every freaking Patch Tuesday for the last 6 to 7 months. And in that time Windows Installer has been updated at least twice. I'm going to have to test that idea out but I think I'm on to something and the reason the Gorilla has been relatively quiet about it is that very few people download the entire SP3 ISO. But the IT/IS people do! Because they want to control when and how all the hundreds or thousands of desktops under their care get updated.
My guess is that we haven't heard the end of it yet. The Big Boys HP and DELL and the big end-users are talking very intently with MS right now since they are likely to get the most customer support hits. Of the three failures I've experienced, 2 were on DELLs and one was on an HP!