Despite Microsoft’s obvious focus on selling Windows Vista to its customers, it hasn’t yet forgotten about all those people out there that still use Windows XP (personally, I use Windows XP MCE 2005). The company has confirmed it has finally ‘released to manufacturing’ the third service pack to Windows XP – 7 years after the operating system’s original release.Service Pack 3 contains little in the form of new features, and is more of a massive update and patch roll-up than anything else. According to PCMag, the only new features are Network Access Protection (for Server 2008 compatibility), ‘black hole‘ router detection, a more detailed Security Options control panel, FIPS 140-1 Level 1 compliant cryptography at the kernel level, and a new product activation scheme that allows you to install the operating system without first entering a product key. A more detailed breakdown of SP3’s contents can be found on the Microsoft website.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 is pushed to customers in three steps:
- 21st April: Released to manufacturing, OEM and enterprise customers.
- 29th April: via Windows Update and as a stand-alone download for us normal people.
- June 2008: Automatic Update distribution for home users.
I have been running the latest beta of SP3 for a few months now on my Windows XP installation (32bit) and I noticed little during my day-to-day use. No apparent performance hits or gains, no added instability, nothing. This is probably a good sign, as this is most likely the final service pack for Windows XP.