Microsoft Corp. has announced the release to manufacturing of Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies. According to the company, this free service pack delivers the latest security updates and innovations from Microsoft, establishes strong default security settings, and adds new proactive protection features that will help better safeguard computers from hackers, viruses and other security risks.
"Service Pack 2 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, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft. "It is the result of sustained investments in innovation and extensive industry collaboration. It also reflects a broad recognition that as the security environment changes, the industry needs to work together to respond."
During the worldwide rollout of Service Pack 2, Microsoft will localize the software in 25 languages over the next two months and distribute it to computer manufacturers, enterprise customers and consumers through downloads, retail installation, free CDs and on new PCs. The easiest way for current Windows XP users to ensure they receive Service Pack 2 when it releases in their language is to simply turn on the Automatic Updates feature in Windows XP. Customers with Automatic Updates enabled will receive the latest security updates for Windows XP, along with updated installation software that will optimize the download experience of Service Pack 2 and all future updates to Windows XP. The timing for customers to receive the Service Pack 2 download through Automatic Updates depends on a number of factors, including the customer's Internet usage, location, language and the level of Internet demand for Service Pack 2. Automatic Updates uses spare Internet capacity to progressively download updates without interfering with daily PC use. Microsoft expects to distribute Service Pack 2 to approximately 100 million PCs through Automatic Updates over the next two months. Automatic Updates is easy to turn on in Windows XP, and details are available at .
Customers without reliable Internet connections who wish to obtain Service Pack 2 on CD can order a free disc from the Microsoft Web site as Service Pack 2 is rolled out worldwide. Microsoft also is working with computer manufacturers to ensure they can make Windows XP-based PCs preloaded with Service Pack 2 available as soon as possible.
Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies was designed by Microsoft explicitly to provide proactive protection for Windows XP. The updates and enhancements in Service Pack 2 focus on three main areas:
Stronger security settings. Service Pack 2 establishes stronger default security settings and includes updates with new features and tools designed to help customers better defend their systems and information from hackers, viruses and other security threats. This means safer browsing and communications for consumers plus an improved security infrastructure for businesses.
Increased manageability and control. Service Pack 2 makes it easier to configure and manage security resources with new functionality, more accessible and intuitive security tools, and the new Windows Security Center.
Improved and more-secure experiences. Service Pack 2 includes updates for key drivers, updated support for new technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (see previous article), and security updates for other key features, all of which provide a safer end-user experience and thus enable more productive and enjoyable computing.
Microsoft has hosted more than 1 million downloads of test versions of Service Pack 2 through its technical preview, technical beta and MSDN programs, making it one of the largest test programs in the company's history. In addition, Microsoft has tested thousands of applications and Windows XP-based devices for compatibility with Service Pack 2 and highly recommends the enhancements Service Pack 2 provides for all types of users.
Developing Service Pack 2 required close collaboration between Microsoft and other companies, including software vendors, chip makers and PC manufacturers. Examples of the industry collaboration on Service Pack 2 include the following:
Windows Security Center. Windows Security Center monitors the status of software Internet firewalls, Automatic Updates services and anti-virus software. It allows customers to see at a glance whether these essential security capabilities are turned on and up to date, or if additional actions need to be taken to better secure their PCs. Microsoft worked closely with ISVs to build the Windows Security Center customer experience.
Data execution prevention. Service Pack 2 works with processor technologies to reduce the risk of the most common means of virus penetration into computer systems -- exploiting "buffer overrun" vulnerabilities. Microsoft worked closely with processor manufacturers, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and Intel Corporation to extend its Data Execution Prevention technology through new processor functionality.
Preloaded PCs. Microsoft is working with computer manufacturers such as Dell, HP and IBM Corp. to ensure the manufacturers are able to ship machines preloaded with Windows XP Service Pack 2 beginning in September and October.