The beta version of Service Pack 3 [SP3] for XP is out now. The official release date for XP SP3 is rumoured to be made available via Windows Update on April 29 2008. This final service pack update for XP will offer security updates rather than anything else. There will be no cosmetic changes although a slight increase in the operating speed of up to 10% has been reported.
You can download SP3 now if you wish. Visit Microsoft?s homepage and follow the links to XP Service Pack 3. I don?t recommend this way of getting Service Pack 3. I?d suggest waiting for the service pack update to be made available via Windows Update on 29th April 2008 [tbc]. This update will have been tested more vigorously than the beta version.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 won?t include any major new features. However it will include four new features that will improve the operating system?s reliability and security.
Network Access Protection compatibility. This feature allows Windows XP machines to interact with the NAP feature in Windows Server 2008. This functionality is built into the RTM version of Windows Vista as well.
Product Key-less install option. As with Windows Vista, new XP with SP3 installs can proceed without entering a product key during Setup.
Kernel Mode Cryptographics Module. A new kernel module that "encapsulates several different cryptographic algorithms," according to Microsoft.
Black hole router detection algorithm. XP gains the ability to ignore network routers that incorrectly drop certain kinds of network packets. This, too, is a feature of Windows Vista.
It has been four years since Windows XP Service Pack 2 was released, so this final service pack update is overdue. Windows XP, in general will not be supported past the middle part of 2009, so there is hope that the Service Pack 1 release for Vista works out well and irons most of the issues with Vista.
To install XP SP3 you must be running XP with service pack 1 at least and ideally XP service pack 2. There are a reported total of 1,073 fixes in XP SP3.
A lot of users have become used to Windows XP as service pack two did correct most of the issues within XP, and the thought of upgrading to Vista in its current incarnation and reported problems and issues has put a fair amount of people off from upgrading to Vista, me included.
When Windows 98 was no longer supported I was still using Windows 98 as Windows XP was in the similar position to how Vista is now. So I presume being patient and waiting for Microsoft to ?fix? Vista will be case of d?j? vu and Vista will be in a much more stable position when Microsoft finally stops supporting Windows XP.
If you are using Windows XP then installing/updating to Service Pack 3 is highly advised as this will be the last service pack update for XP from Microsoft.