Microsoft employee blasts 'fake' service pack

A Microsoft employee is warning users against installing an unofficial Windows XP SP3 service pack that is on the Web.

A Microsoft employee has warned against downloading an unauthorized version of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) that has surfaced on a popular Web site that provides software patches.

On a Microsoft user newsgroup posting last week, Mike Brannigan, an enterprise strategy and senior consultant at Microsoft, told users that downloading an unofficial version of Windows XP SP3 provided on The Hotfix.net would likely harm their computer and put them "out of support from Microsoft or an OEM (original equipment manufacturer)" because it is not an official Microsoft package.

"You would be well advised to stay clear of this fake SP3 package," Brannigan wrote in the post, which appeared on Google Groups at http://groups.google.com/group/microsoft.public.windowsxp.general/msg/b3e9f19f5d306677?dmode=source. "It is not suitable for testing as it is NOT SP3. ...Anyone who installs this thinking they are getting SP3 (even as a preview) is being grossly mislead and is posing a significant potentially non-recoverable risk to their PC and data."

However, Ethan Allen, the creator and administrator of The Hotfix, asserts that though the version of Windows XP SP3 provided on his site is not necessarily the official version, it is a reasonable preview of what will appear when the official service pack is released.

Microsoft has said that Windows XP SP3 will be available after the release of Windows Vista, which is expected toward the end of 2006.

"Our pack is indeed a preview to what the official service pack will be, as these hotfixes will be in Service Pack 3 as proven by Microsoft's own knowledge base," according to a post by Allen on TheHotfix.net. "Each of these hotfixes can be obtained for free from Microsoft by calling their support lines."

Allen also wrote that while there is a possibility the SP3 on his site will make a user's machine less stable, it is not the fault of The Hotfix, because the software came from Microsoft, not the site itself.

Allen put together the preview of SP3 from software updates he received from an internal Microsoft source. In an interview Wednesday, Allen said that Microsoft has not contacted him directly about the hotfixes he has posted, but his Microsoft source told him the company was conducting an internal investigation to find out who was leaking the hotfixes to his site.

Though published reports claimed several weeks ago that there would be a third service pack for Windows XP, Microsoft shrugged off its existence until last Thursday, when the company abruptly acknowledged that SP3 would be available after Windows Vista ships next year.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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