Microsoft’s Windows XP Service Pack 2 will enhance the operating system’s security and usability. When Release Candidate 1 (RC1) appeared in March, it provided fully realized implementations of many features that were just promises in the beta. Release Candidate 2, available as of Tuesday, further refines the new features. Its appearance encourages us to believe that SP2 may indeed ship to the public by the end of summer.
Anyone wanting an early look at the current release candidate can download it from microsoft.com/sp2preview. The full download is over 270MB, but those updating just a single machine can do so using a new version of Windows Update, for a mere 100MB download. Note that Microsoft does not support the preview and does not recommend its use on production systems.
SP2 users won’t have automatic updates turned on by default as earlier reported, but they will be forced to choose on or off. The straightforward Security Center provides access to status and configuration for the Windows Firewall, Windows Updates, and supported antivirus products. Windows Firewall is vastly easier to use than its predecessor, approaching (but not reaching) the functionality of third-party personal firewalls.