If you want to install XP I suggest XP vanilla. Later you can add SP1 to defeat 128GB hard drive barrier. SP2 is recommended since most software and hardware require it to install or drivers to function. SP3 is basically a security update which is outdated now. SP4 exists but I haven't tested.
So why not just install XP with SP2 to begin with?
Well if you want to be able to have a clean XP you would want the original vanilla. Later they had actual SP1 and SP2 and probably SP3 retail CDs but once you have the Service Pack installed you can't remove it easily. If you install with XP vanilla and you install SP1, SP1a, SP2, or SP3 you can actually revert back and uninstall back to XP vanilla. That's the only advantage of Vanilla XP and probably it is smaller in installation size. However from a modern usability standpoint SP2 is recommended since a lot of software and drivers need it in order to function properly. Some video card drivers won't work without SP2 installed. SP3 is basically a security update and a bunch of update patches rolled into one for the most part and some software companies did enforce SP3 as a prerequisite but you can still trick the software into thinking you got SP3 installed with a registry hack. Some programs won't install unless it sees SP1 and doesn't acknowledge SP2 or SP3 so you have trick it to think you got SP1 installed. Anyhow this is getting more technical but XP SP2 is recommended SP3 is optional unless your software won't install without it. If you use nLite to slipstream the Service Pack you can't remove it later.
This reminds me of the old blog post "[url=ttps://translate.google.com/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fweb-beta.archive.org%2Fweb%2F20110217025940%2Fhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.blog.de%3A80%2Ftb%2Fa%2Fr%2Fsoftware%2Fbeste-windows-zeiten-windows-xp-sp2%2F6572489%2F&edit-text=&act=url]The best Windows ever - Windows XP SP2[/url]" (archived and auto-translated).
So is it true that SP2 was the best one ? I liked SP2, but SP1 felt a bit more speedy by the times we had a Pentium III machine..
Or maybe it is SP3 now ? I heard it got some improvements for the lower end PCs again (maybe caused by the Netbook/Nettop wave of the late 2000s ?).
Actually I'm not sure which is the best if you are referring to benchmarking a game on each Vanilla, SP1, SP1a, SP2, SP3, or SP4.
I would assume Vanilla might be the fastest assuming the game doesn't require any service packs installed to function.
There was a debate whether Windows 2000 was faster than XP back in the day so if there was a game that ran on 2000 and XP that would be an interesting since 2000 had it's own SP1, SP2, SP3, and SP4.
So in theory you could do a 11 version comparison benchmark of results. There might be one game I can think of to do such a test and I think it also has Windows 98 support as well so maybe if you include 98FE and 98SE that would make it 13 total OS version tests for one game. At the moment I'm not quite there yet to consider even doing such a test. 😀