XP SP2 distribution accelerated, VPN problem fixed

Microsoft will accelerate the rollout of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) over the next month and has released the first official update for SP2 to fix a problem some users had with VPNs (virtual private networks).

As of Friday, Microsoft had distributed SP2 to roughly 20 million users through the Automatic Updates feature in Windows and the Windows Update Web site, a Microsoft spokesman said Wednesday. Most of these users are home and small business users, he said.

The software maker is accelerating distribution of SP2 to reach its goal of updating 100 million PCs through Automatic Updates by Oct. 18, two months after SP2 was first made available through the automatic update service.

"Microsoft is aggressively monitoring and managing the download of SP2 and will be increasing the number of downloads over time," the Microsoft spokesman said.

Microsoft has been gradually pushing out SP2 to users via Automatic Updates since Aug. 18 and is still adding localized versions of the security-focused update. SP2 is currently available in about 16 languages, according to the Microsoft spokesman. Microsoft has said it will offer the update in 25 language versions.

Shortly after Microsoft released SP2, a problem was detected that affected users of VPNs. Microsoft last month made available a temporary fix and earlier this week released a permanent fix in the form of an update, the first patch for the mammoth SP2.

The update, detailed in article 884020 in Microsoft's Knowledge Base, fixes a problem with applications attempting to connect to loop-back IP (Internet Protocol) addresses other than 127.0.0.1. SP2 blocks all those addresses and users see an error message.

Microsoft made a network installation package of SP2 available to enterprise customers on Aug. 9 and started automatic delivery to PCs running Windows XP Home Edition on Aug. 18. Automatic delivery of the service pack to Windows XP Pro machines was postponed until Aug. 25 to allow business users more time to block the update.

Microsoft has labeled SP2 a "critical" update and urges all Windows XP users to install it as soon as possible. As of March this year, Microsoft had sold about 210 million Windows XP licenses, not counting volume license sales to businesses. There are about 600 million Windows PCs in use worldwide, Microsoft estimated in July.

More information on the SP2 VPN issue is available at:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=884020

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