Microsoft has started pushing out Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) to PCs running Windows XP Professional Edition. It has made it available on Windows Update and started taking orders for SP2 CDs.
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The company has also released SP2 in German. Another 25 language versions will be produced in the next two months. It has already finished the Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese versions.
Microsoft advises customers to use the Automatic Updates feature in Windows to get SP2. However, at between 80Mbytes and 100Mbytes, this is a hefty download for users on slow connections.
CD-Roms containing the upgrade are available free of charge and the company will also pay for shipping and handling anywhere in the world, a spokesman said.
SP2 is a major update to Windows XP. The service pack makes many changes to the operating system to better protect computers against hackers, viruses and other security risks.
For example, SP2 includes an improved Windows Firewall, which is turned on by default, and offers memory execution protection to prevent against buffer overrun attacks.
With the focus on security, several researchers have taken Microsoft to task and tested SP2.
Microsoft has not confirmed any security holes in SP2, but is investigating a report last week by Danish security firm Secunia of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer that could potentially allow an attacker to run code on a user's computer. Experts expect the first security threat to SP2 to surface within weeks.
While Microsoft has labeled SP2 a "critical" update and urges all users to install it as soon as possible, many business users have decided to hold off on updating their PCs. Because of the changes SP2 makes, existing applications could become inoperable.
According to a recent survey of 117 corporate IT managers commissioned by service management software supplier SupportSoft, 63% of IT managers expect SP2 to be the most difficult Windows upgrade ever undertaken and 66% believe they will incur more end-user support calls after installing SP2.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service