Users have more time to prepare for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). Microsoft has doubled the time a special registry key will prevent PCs from automatically downloading and installing the update.
The company last month made available a tool that allows users to set a Windows registry key that instructs the system to skip downloading and installing SP2 for 120 days, but still download other critical updates.
Microsoft has now doubled that period to 240 days.
The blocking mechanism will now prevent Automatic Updates and Windows Update from delivering SP2 to Windows computers until 12 April 2005.
"Beginning on Tuesday 12 April 2005 Automatic Updates and Windows Update will deliver SP2 regardless of the presence of the blocking mechanism," Microsoft said. The company has scheduled a monthly security update on 12 April.
The extension is Microsoft's latest move to help users deal with SP2. The software maker earlier postponed automatic distribution of the service pack to PCs running Windows XP Professional Edition so users had more time to install the blocking mechanism.
Microsoft has also published several documents detailing the changes SP2 makes to Windows XP and potential application compatibility problems.
SP2 is more than the usual roll-up of bug fixes and updates; it makes significant changes to Windows in the name of increased security. As a result, SP2 can render existing applications inoperable. Because of those changes, many businesses want to hold off on installing the update and are taking time for testing. Automatic Updates initially did not give users that flexibility.
Although Microsoft advises consumers to enable the Automatic Updates feature in Windows, the company recommends businesses use patch management tools such as its Systems Management Server and Software Update Services or third-party products.
The initial schedule called for Microsoft to begin pushing out the already delayed SP2 via Automatic Updates to all editions of Windows XP on 16 August.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service