Microsoft Unleashes Windows XP SP3 Release Candidate

release candidate

Originally slated for release in 2006, XP SP3 has been pushed back on numerous occasions, and this marks the first time it has been available for public download.

Earlier this month, Microsoft launched the first release candiate for Windows Vista SP1. Microsoft plans to launch Windows XP SP3 sometime in the first half of next year, with Vista SP1 due in in the first quarter.

XP SP3 includes all of the fixes Microsoft has released since launching XP in 2001, as well as some minor new features that are part of Windows Vista. These include: support for Microsoft's Network Access Protection security technology; 'keyless activation', which lets IT administrators install SP3 without entering product keys for each copy; and detection of so-called 'black hole' network routers that can slow network performance.

J.R. Guthrie, president of Advantage Computers, a system builder in Tucson, Ariz., estimates that XP SP3 speeds up XP's performance by 15 percent. He adds that XP SP3 will greatly extend the lifetime of market demand for XP, probably even beyond the current Jan. 31, 2009, deadline Microsoft has set for system builders to sell machines equipped with Vista.

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Service packs are always helpful to the channel because they take a lot of the hotfixes and put them through more stringent regression testing, says Michael Cocanower, president of solution provider ITSynergy, Phoenix.

Allan Walters, senior vice president at Saratoga Technologies, Johnson City, Tenn., said XP SP3 will greatly reduce administrative overhead. "When you do a brand new load with XP service pack 2, there are nearly 90 additional updates you have to download, so the fact that XP SP3 rolls everything into a single installer package is a major time saver," he said.