XP update blocks pop-ups by default

Service Pack 2 for Windows XP will block pop-ups in Internet Explorer, Microsoft announced yesterday.

Service Pack 2 for Windows XP will block pop-ups in Internet Explorer, Microsoft announced yesterday.

The beta version of the Windows XP update released last December last year always included a pop-up blocker, but the feature was turned off by default. Starting with the latest test version of Service Pack 2 (SP2), called Release Candidate 1 (RC1), pop-up blocking will be activated by default.

Microsoft made RC1 of Windows XP SP2 available to beta-testers on Wednesday and will make it more broadly available through a technical preview programme tomorrow. The company will take in feedback and is planning a Release Candidate 2 version before final release of the service pack during the first half of the year, said Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for Windows at Microsoft.

Windows XP SP2 is more than the usual roll-up of bug fixes and updates. It is also being used to make significant changes to the software that are designed to improve security. Changes to Windows XP made by SP2 fall into four main areas: network protection, memory protection, e-mail security and browsing security.

RC1 of Windows XP SP2 will be available publicly through a technical preview programme. However, RC1 is still a test version and it is meant for IT professionals so they can do compatibility and regression testing and give Microsoft feedback.

Pop-up blocking is switched on because customers requested it. Users will be able to decide which sites they want to see pop-ups from by adding those to a safe sites list. Pop-ups from intranet sites and applications using Internet Explorer's local intranet zone will not be blocked, so as not to interfere with corporate applications.

Other features new in RC1 of Windows XP SP2 include the Windows Security Center, a central place for Windows XP users to check important security settings, and access to a new version of the Windows Update service for security patches and other updates.

The new Windows Update Service, version 5, offers an interface designed to make it easier for users to decide which updates they want to download and install automatically. The service also supports technology to make downloads smaller by only offering only relevant bits of code that need updating,.

The Windows XP SP2 RC1 technical preview programme is expected to be online on Friday at http://www.microsoft.com/sp2preview/.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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