Microsoft has issued a patch for a compatibility problem between the recent Windows XP Service Pack 2 and an advertising application run on many users' machines.
The service pack was causing system crashes due to a conflict with a hidden app from Total Velocity Software, called TV Media.
When SP2 was released in August, a large number of users contacted Microsoft's technical support complaining that the update was causing their computer to repeatedly restart. The problem was due to the hidden presence of TV Media, which is designed to be invisible to users except when it is displaying advertisements.
Affected computers shut down and restarted repeatedly, displaying the following message: "A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer…"
In an attempt to alleviate the problem, Microsoft published a technical support item about the issue and later distributed a tool for removing TV Media. However, the real problem was that many users weren't aware of TV Media's presence.
The new patch, published last week, will not allow users to install SP2 via the Windows Update website or Windows' automatic updating system if they have TV Media installed. Instead, it first offers them the patch, labelled Critical Update 885523. After this is installed, users are able to access SP2.
"Critical Update 885523 prevents this problem by addressing the compatibility issue," Microsoft said in an updated technical support briefing.
"This update is only offered through Windows Update and Automatic Update to users who have TV Media installed. This update is primarily intended for users of Windows Update and Automatic Updates who may not realise that they have TV Media installed on their computers."
The Critical Update is available for download at Microsoft's website. Microsoft also is still distributing the TV Media removal tool.