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Final Stage of XP SP2 Online Rollout Begins

Microsoft took the final major online step in distributing Windows XP Service Pack 2 on Wednesday by posting the service pack to Windows Update and starting the distribution to Windows XP Professional customers via Automatic Update.

Windows XP SP2 is a major security overhaul of Microsoft's flagship client operating system. In addition to the usual bug and security fixes, the service pack features a new Windows Firewall, a Windows Security Center dashboard, pop-up blocking, spyware protections and improvements to the security of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

Although the automatic updating is beginning for Windows XP Professional, not all systems will get the service pack today. Microsoft executives say the timing will vary based on location, network traffic and other factors.

Microsoft's efforts to roll out SP2 this month have been complicated by IT complaints that Microsoft hadn't given them enough time to block their client systems from automatically installing the service pack, which is known to break at least 50 commercial applications.

SP2 was released to manufacturing Aug. 6. The network installation version has been available since Aug. 9, and systems that had been running pre-release versions of SP2 got the RTM version soon after that. But Microsoft pushed back the Automatic Update rollout for the Home Edition to Aug. 18 and the Automatic Update rollout for the Professional Edition until Wednesday.

Microsoft has also undertaken a last minute push to give IT administrators some tools to prevent unwanted, automatic rollouts of XP SP2 through Automatic Update. A tool released the week of Aug. 9 allows administrators to prevent systems from downloading the patch. More recently, Microsoft posted an unsupported script for doing the same thing.

The tool is available here:
www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/sp2aumng.mspx

The script can be found here:
www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/solutions/blockxpsp2.mspx

A Microsoft spokesperson said that customers will be able to order SP2 on CD for free as of Wednesday. New machines preloaded with SP2 are still expected to ship in September or October.

The rollout is also beginning to go international. Previously, SP2 was only available over Automatic Update for English users. On Wednesday, Microsoft added German editions. The company has also released to manufacturing Japanese, Korean and Chinese versions. Within two months of the Aug. 6 RTM, Microsoft is working to localize SP2 into 25 languages.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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