Update: Microsoft releases XP Service Pack 2 to manufacturing

The easiest way to get it is to turn on the Automatic Update feature in Windows XP

Microsoft Corp. today announced the release to manufacturing of the security-focused Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2).

The company said the easiest way for users to get SP2 is to turn on the Automatic Update feature in Windows XP. Microsoft will start pushing out SP2 within days, according to Matt Pilla, a senior product manager in the Windows division. Corporate users, however, typically do extensive testing before distributing service packs to users.

At about 265MB, the full SP2 package is no small download. But Microsoft, in a prepared statement, said it expects the average file size to be much smaller because of the "smart download" technology that installs only what the user needs. That means users who already have SP1 and have regularly updated their computers with patches shouldn't need to worry about the full 265MB.

The average download for Windows XP Professional is expected to be about 100MB, according to Microsoft. The average download for customers with Windows XP Home Edition is estimated at 80MB. Customers who need SP1 can expect the download to be 20MB larger, Microsoft said.

IT managers, however, may opt for the full 265 MB network installation package that contains the bits for all of the different versions of Windows as well as tools to help them preconfigure the package they want to distribute to company PCs, according to Barry Goffe, group manager of Windows client product management. Using the tools, IT pros will be able to pre-set configuration options such as adding a set of exceptions to the Windows Firewall or Internet Explorer Pop-up Blocker, he said.

"We discourage end users from going up and downloading the full network install. It's more than they need," said Goffe.

For users getting SP2 via Automatic Update or by manually navigating to Windows Update, the timing for receiving the download will depend on their Internet usage, location, language and the level of Internet demand for SP2, according to Microsoft. The company said it expects to distribute SP2 to about 100 million PCs through Automatic Update, wherein SP2 will be downloaded gradually in the background whenever a user is online.

An icon will appear in the system tray when the download of the SP2 bits begins, according to Microsoft. To find out how much of the download has been completed, users can move their cursors over the icon.

Goffe acknowledged that it could take days, weeks or even months for a user to get SP2 downloaded. He said Microsoft has a "throttle" that will allow it to control downloads so it doesn't take down the Internet. "We need to be responsible in how we use the bandwidth on the Internet," he said.

"When we turn on Automatic Updates, the probability is one in a million or one in two million that you'll get it right then and there," Goffe said. "The number of people that will get it is a number that will be determined by the amount of bandwidth that we identify on the Internet and the number of support calls and the general reaction of people. If things are looking good, we will turn the throttle up. If there are a lot of issues, we will turn the throttle down."

Microsoft also will distribute SP2 through new PCs, free CDs and retail installation.

Users who prefer CDs can order them from Microsoft free of charge. The company also plans to make available a small number of free CDs through retailers Best Buy, CompUSA and Micro Center.

New PCs preloaded with SP2 are expected to arrive in the retail channel during September and October. Microsoft said it is distributing SP2 to corporate users either through direct communications or its traditional channels. IT managers can find the updates at the Download Center on Microsoft's Web site, MSDN, TechNet and volume licensing CDs.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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