Windows SP2 rolls out

Microsoft Corp. officials finally released their long-awaited security update for Windows XP, one of the most extensive free updates they have ever made to their Windows operating system, and will make it available through online downloads and snail mail CDs beginning this week.

Critics have hammered Microsoft in recent years over the porosity of Windows to hackers and viruses. Company officials have made shoring up the security of the company's products a top priority for the software maker.

Completing Windows XP Service Pack 2 was considered so important that it reportedly held up development of the next generation version of Windows, dubbed Longhorn, and other projects.

The release "is a significant step in delivering on our goal to help customers make their PCs better isolated and more resilient in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks," said Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, co-founder and chief software architect.

With Service Pack 2, Microsoft is trying to go on the offensive in dealing with security issues by taking a more proactive stance. It includes stronger security default settings with new features and more sophisticated user tools, makes it easier to configure and manage security resources, and has added support for key drivers and newer wireless technologies such as WiFi and Bluetooth, company officials said.

The update also includes features that were a direct result of Microsoft's close collaboration with leading security vendors and processor and PC manufacturers:

  • The new Windows Security Center monitors the status of software firewalls, antivirus software and updates available from automatic update services such as those from Symantec Corp.
  • Service Pack 2 now works more closely with various types of PC processors such as those from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to reduce buffer overruns, the most common method used to launch denial-of-service attacks on networks.
  • The upgrade should start appearing as standard beginning in September and October on PCs shipped by manufacturers such as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

Service Pack 2, which was only shipped to manufacturers at the end of last week, will be available through manual downloads or through mailed CDs, but Microsoft officials are recommending that customers turn on the automatic updating feature in Windows to get it that way (see

Company officials expect as many as 100 million users will get the upgrade through the automatic feature over the next couple of months. Manual downloads will be available by the end of this month.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


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