Microsoft has made its Service Pack 3 Release Candidate 2 (opens in new tab) for Windows XP available for public download after three weeks in the hands of invite-only beta testers.
Windows users who want to install SP3 RC2 must first download and run a small registry hack from Microsoft that allows the PC to see the SP3 RC2 update on Windows Update.
The SP3 RC2 patch will be the last major update for XP before Microsoft pulls it from the shelves in June. Of course, Microsoft will still be obligated to service legacy XP customers after that date, but it’s expected this will be done in patches rather than full-on service packs.
Latest Vista update placed on hold
At the same time as rolling out SP3 RC2 for XP, Microsoft has also announced that the public roll-out for SP1 for Vista has been placed on hold due to ongoing problems with the KB937287 servicing stack update. Some beta testers have complained that this essential component of the upgrade is affecting their PC's ability to boot up properly.
Microsoft itself has admitted that, as it stands, the present incarnation of SP1 can cause some programs to stop working after install, including some security programs.
According to a Microsoft spokesman the problem does not affect all systems and can be reversed using a system restore.
Vista - an ongoing beta test?
As Martin Cooper, deputy editor of PC Plus magazine explains, Microsoft is right to wait till everything is right before unleashing Vista SP1 on the general public:
“Previously Microsoft has faced huge amounts of criticism for launching and selling products which weren’t ready, were full of bugs and simply don’t work. Within this context you can applaud, albeit quietly, what Microsoft has done – it is taking its time to get the update right.”
However, the fact that there are seemingly so many problems with Vista doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either:
“Of course the very fact that the service pack is needed and contains fixes to over 300 known issues tells a very different story about Vista. Despite spending seven years creating it, Microsoft still hasn’t got it right. At least it is trying with SP1,” added Cooper.