Microsoft Opens XP SP3 Test Build To Public

microsoftMicrosoft on Tuesday continued its plodding march toward the long awaited release of Windows XP service pack 3 by opening the latest test build to the public.

XP SP3 Release Candidate 2 is now available from the Microsoft Download Center to users running PCs with XP SP2 installed, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to ChannelWeb. Microsoft earlier this month released XP SP RC2 to a group of 15,000 private beta testers.

“This release catches the build up on previously released hotfixes and responds to the critical feedback from the previous betas,” said the spokesperson.

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Echoing the vendor’s well established party line, the spokesperson said Microsoft plans to release XP SP3 to manufacturing in the first half of 2008, although the exact timing “will always be based on customer feedback as a first priority.”

XP SP3 was originally slated for release in 2006, but Microsoft has delayed it on numerous occasions since launching XP SP2 in August 2004.

Key features of XP SP3 include: support for Microsoft’s Network Access Protection (NAP); ‘keyless activation’, a time saver that allows IT administrators to install SP3 without entering product keys for each copy; and detection of so-called ‘black hole’ network routers that can interfere with network performance.