The problem generally occurs when a so-called "branded" version of IE7 is installed for the first time on a computer that's running XP SP3, said Microsoft program manager Jane Maliouta, in a blog post.
"The reason is that the IE7 package you are trying to install uses old IE7 files," said Maliouta.
The trouble? Some ISPs are still distributing versions of IE7 that don't contain updates designed to make the browser compatible with Windows XP SP3. Specifically, XP3 runs a version of an essential dynamic-link library file called XMLLite.dll that's not compatible with versions of IE7 released prior to October.
In a "call to action" on her blog post, Maliouta urged ISPs to ensure that their IE7 distributions are up to date. "If you produce custom IE7 packages, then you need to ensure that those packages will install successfully on Windows XP SP3," she wrote.
Maliouta said that ISPs that need to update their distributions can download the IE7 Administration Kit from Microsoft's TechNet site to make the necessary revisions.
It's the latest problem for Windows XP SP3, which Microsoft released to broad distribution earlier this month.
Within hours of its release, the service pack drew hundreds of complaints from users who claimed it wrought havoc on their PCs.
The problems with XP SP3, according to posters on Microsoft's Windows XP message board, range from spontaneous reboots to outright system crashes.
Dozens of other posters reported similar problems. Additionally, HP warned that XP SP3 could send computers that use Advanced Micro Devices processors into an endless cycle of reboots.
It's not uncommon for major operating system updates to cause problems. Typically, the glitches are due to conflicts with software, such as drivers, system files or applications, already resident on the user's PC. Microsoft has yet to indicate whether it will issue an update to address some of the problems, though it has done so with previous updates.
The service pack should offer a number of enhancements over the previous distribution of Windows XP. It includes all updates issued since Windows XP Service Pack 2 was released in 2004, and some new elements designed to boost performance and manageability.