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Microsoft on Wednesday made Windows XP Service Pack 2 available via Windows Update and free CD. It also began distributing the update to its flagship operating system to Windows XP Professional customers via Automatic Updates.
The CD Request Page had been live for several weeks; however, the option to make the request was not turned on until now. The installation, which requires 1.6 Gbytes of available hard disk space, was previously only available in a 75-Mbyte download (for individual PCs; the full "Network Install" version is 266 Mbytes). This could be time-consuming for most XP users--and nearly impossible for those consumers still using dial-up connections to access the Internet.
According to the site, the CD, which is available free of charge, will take four to six weeks to reach those users who request it. As of Aug. 25, it was available in English and German; versions in 25 different languages will be available within two months.
Microsoft also has released a kit to help IT professionals spot compatibility problems between Service Pack 2 and other applications, and how to roll out fixes.
The kit, which includes several Visual Basic scripts and a Word document in excess of 100 pages, "describes the security technologies implemented by [SP2] and provides guidance for mitigating application compatibility issues that were identified by extensive testing of Microsoft and third party applications." The Word-formatted guide targets IT staff and administrators working in support, application testing, security, and network administration, said Microsoft.
"The guide does not assume a particular size or complexity of network, and covers peer-to-peer, domain and Active Directory environments. The security information is relevant even for networks that do not have Internet access," the kit says.
The guide also offers up deployment road maps that businesses can use to roll out Service Pack 2.
Tucked into the guide are some straightforward warnings to IT pros about the possible scope of compatibility issues with Service Pack 2.
"The need to secure the operating environment has become paramount," the guide says. "The security features in Windows XP Service Pack 2 can make Windows XP a more secure environment. However, applications that were not designed to meet these higher security requirements may experience some compatibility issues."
And although some developers would disagree-- and have--Microsoft's line is that it's the applications, not the operating system, that need to be tweaked. While Service Pack 2 can be configured to make incompatible applications run--essentially by dumping or downgrading some of its security provisions--such changes should be made "only to the extent necessary to ensure correct operation of the application" with the warning that "this procedure is not recommended but may be necessary in the short term."
The guide isn't the first noise Microsoft's had to make about Service Pack 2 and application compatibility. Earlier this month, it published a list of nearly 50 programs, including several of its own, such as Small Business Server 2003 and Visual Studio .Net, that don't work well with Service Pack 2. Some third-party vendors have also begun notifying users of compatibility issues.
The do-it-yourself "Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2" can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site.