Several sites reported noticeable performance increases after installing XP SP3, but there's only one way to really find out; test the service pack yourself. A side by side comparison of two Dell Latitude D820 notebooks, one with SP2 and one with SP3 (beta), was very surprising. XP's Task Manager displayed pretty dramatic differences when comparing the commit charges, physical memory, and kernel memory.
XP Pro Service Pack 3 Task Manager Performance Tab
XP Pro Service Pack 2 Task Manager Performance Tab
Prior to taking these screen captures I opened a few applications and enabled every possible service on the notebook with SP3. With nearly double the amount of running services and an additional ten active processes, SP3 manages to outperform the SP2 notebook. Even while idling, SP2 can't contain itself and goes over 0% CPU Usage. Why? The obvious benefits had me contemplating on whether or not to go ahead and install the beta release.
Less handles, total commit charge, peak commit charge, and more available physical, and kernel memory; these numbers don't lie. Also notice the huge decrease in system cache consumption. With all this increased efficiency and the desperately needed security fixes, SP3 may actually become one of the best XP enhancements ever released. Oh wait, someone once told me, "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is."
Bundled with SP3 is Microsoft's lame attempt at "fixing" IE6 and the notorious Media Player 11. Media player is known for phoning home, frequently. If you're comfortable sending Microsoft and other companies anything they desire, feel free to continue using MP11. There's also the option of dropping any outgoing connection attempts, which is highly recommended. Always configure your firewall to drop all traffic, then allow connection attempts as you go. This will definitely prevent Media Player from disclosing your private information.
As for IE7, if you're still using Internet Explorer, download Firefox or Opera and discontinue using IE immediately. That is all.
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