Microsoft still struggling with Windows XP downloads

Microsoft Corp. continued to face problems Monday with its Windows XP preview program, as some users were able to download a beta version of the new operating system for free, instead of having to pay US$9.95. Last week, a glitch blocked numerous registered users who had paid for the software from downloading the software.

Microsoft teamed months ago with hosting specialist Conxion Corp. to serve up a beta version of Windows XP to users living in the U.S. and Canada. So far, around 53,000 people have signed up for the program and received their downloads successfully, but it now appears that some users possibly outside of North America are clambering for their own look at the software, according to a Conxion spokeswoman.

"The legitimate download process is absolutely fine, but there appears to be some exploiters out there who are trying to find their way into the beta program," the spokeswoman said. "Hackers are hackers, and Microsoft seems to be one of their favorite targets."

Users apparently discovered a hole in the download system that would allow them to receive the software for free. At least one user then posted information on how to exploit the hole on a message board. Conxion discovered the problem this morning after receiving messages about the message-board posting. The original hacks into the system may have started when European users tried to find a way to access the software meant only for North American residents, the spokeswoman said.

Conxion claimed that users managing to download the software for free would not be able to use it. Every user still needs a password and key to activate the download.

During the first week of the preview program, a number of users complained they did not receive the password and security key information they had paid for. Conxion said there were some glitches at the start of the downloading process but that the errors were fixed.

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