Microsoft ships XP SP3: here's what to expect

What's New in XP3?

It's official. Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 is now being shipped to PC manufacturers and volume licensing customers. Existing XP Pro and Home users will have to wait until April 29 to be able to download the service pack directly from Microsoft Download Center or will have to configure their Windows Update to download SP3, according to Microsoft which posted the news at its software developers site TechNet.

According to Microsoft, if XP users don't pro-actively request SP3 they can expect to receive XP SP3 alongside other XP updates early this summer when it is pushed to PC users via Windows Update.

What's new in XP3?

As for features, SP3 seems to offer no cure for cancer or anything like that. Independent software tests from Devil Mountain Software of XP SP3 did find that the beta version of service patch did speed some applications — namely Microsoft Office.

Other improvements include those to XP's Network Access Protection settings for "enforcing compliance with system health requirements" (sexy, yes?). Also improved with Service Pack 3 is the menu text in the security options control panel to better describe various options.

XP update to add Vista-like feature

Microsoft watchers however might want to take note at one feature that could be perceived as annoying. As PC World's Robert Strohmeyer noted, Service Pack 3 updates XP's Windows Product Activation. SP3 makes the "XP installation process more Vista-like. This means you'll no longer be forced to input your Windows product activation key during installation (although you'll still have to do so within 30 days or your OS will stop working).

"However, it also means Windows XP will be tracking your hardware configuration in much the same way that Vista does, which could lead to your computer being disabled in the event that you change out fundamental components such as your motherboard or processor."

Really, if you're not an IT manager there isn't much to get too excited about.

XP's Last Hurrah?

Even as Microsoft continues to push the end of June as the end date for XP's live span at retail, the company's release of SP3 seems to signal acknowledgement that a whole lot of people just aren't ready to make that Vista switch quite yet. CEO Steve Ballmer has even spoken on this, saying last week "that 'we will listen' to customers who want the OS's life extended." There were, of course, no promises made.

CREDIT - (PC World contributor Nino Marchetti took at look at Microsoft's release of XP Service Pack 3.)

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Tom Spring

PC World (US online)
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