Microsoft has the reputation of fading out the old products on the release of a new one, in order to create a demand for the new product. Sometimes, after getting used to something, it hurts to see it go, as it happened with their operating systems. The general consensus is that XP is far better than Vista, but the fading out of XP has begun.
But the same cannot be said about their service packs. Windows XP Service Pack 3 has been recently released to manufacturers on April 21, 2008 and to the web on May 6, 2008, after a long delay. It the latest and last entry of XP service packs, and is a much awaited product that comes with all the updates for the operating system, that have been released earlier, as well as some new functionalities. Since the release of the XP, Microsoft has brought out several fixes for the operating system and according to Microsoft, a total of 1174 fixes are packaged in Windows XP Service Pack 3.
This service pack supports many operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Professional N, Windows XP Starter Edition, any version of Windows XP Media Center Edition and any version of Tablet PC Edition, but cannot be used with x64 version of Windows XP.
The new functionalities that Microsoft talks about are nothing major and are features that improve the security and reliability of the system.
Microsoft has added the network access protection compatibility which it had promised long back. This feature permits Windows XP machines to interact with the Windows Server 2008 NAP feature. Another feature that adds value to the operating system is that it is not necessary to enter a product key during setup. This feature already exists in Windows Vista. There is also a new kernel module, which according to Microsoft “encapsulates several different cryptographic algorithms.” The black hole router detection algorithm has also been backported from Windows Vista.
While these are the features that have been included, the taskbar based address bar option has been removed.
Service Pack 3 can be installed on any system with Internet Explorer 6 or 7 and Windows Media Player 9 and above. Microsoft says that users will have to install at least SP1 on XP before installing the new Windows XP Service Pack 3. They also recommend installing SP2 too, but then this is not a must.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 was supposed to be released to the web in April but was delayed due to a bug discovery related to software for businesses.
Since these service packs are not automatically updated, they can be downloaded from the Windows Update website or even the Microsoft Download Center. Microsoft suggests using the Windows Update which should also offer SP3, if only one system is being updated, as the download is smaller from there.
According to reports, Microsoft has been underplaying Windows XP SP3 and praised Windows Vista, telling users that “Vista provides the most advanced security and management capabilities of any Windows operating system. Windows XP SP3 does not bring significant portions of Windows Vista functionality to Windows XP.”
Despite all efforts from Microsoft to show Vista as superior, even going to the extent of belittling their own SP3, users are smarter and are taking to SP3 as they did to XP. Whether this is just loyalty to another XP product or SP3 really proves to be better remains to be seen.