Windows XP Service Pack 3 Candidate Released

Microsoft has begun rolling out to testers a near-final Release Candidate build of Windows XP Service Pack 3. Testers said they began pulling down the bits from Microsoft’s private download site on November 18.

A Microsoft spokesman said recently "Late last week, Windows XP SP3 was made available to about 15,000 beta testers. A broader beta will be available at a later date. We are targeting 1H 2008 for the release of XP SP3 RTM, though our timing will always be based on customer feedback as a first priority.”

The combined SP3 package is about 340MBytes in size and can currently only be downloaded from Microsoft's connect website by registered beta testers. It updates all the 32-Bit versions of XP from Home to Professional. Apart from the English language version there is also a German and a Japanese version. In addition, the website offers a script which adds a string to the Registry and allows any version of XP to receive the respective RC1 update suitable for this XP via Windows Update (download size for XP Professional: about 91 MBytes). However, an initial trial installation this way proved unsuccessful.

SP3 should contain all the patches and updates released earlier, including those which were part of previous versions. According to Microsoft there is a total of more than 1000. In addition, it provides several add-ons which have been available separately, for example Background Intelligent Transfer Service (Bits) 2.5, Windows Installer 3.1, Management-Console (MMC) 3.0 and Core XML Services 6.0. New features include the integration of Network Access Protection (NAP), a feature which is already familiar from Vista and in a Server 2008 environment, for example, only allows access to the local network if the respective PC is running Windows at the current patch level.

Unlike Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, the SP3 package combined with an XP CD enables users to create an installation package which allows installing both XP and SP3 in one go (Slipstream installation). As in Vista, the installation key no longer appears to be an installation prerequisite in this case.

Microsoft previously said it plans to release the final version of XP SP3 in the first half of 2008 which is rumored to have windows vista features aswell.