Microsoft is preparing to release a free update for its Windows XP operating system that promises better protection against hackers, viruses and worms. However, the release of the code, called Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies, has been hit by delays, having originally been due to ship last Wednesday.
The software update will now be available at some point over the coming month, Microsoft officials said. Existing XP users will be able to download the code from the Microsoft website at that time.
The software update was developed at a cost of more than US$300m, according to reports. Traditionally, service packs are issued to fix bugs or vulnerabilities found in original software releases. With the XP SP 2, Microsoft has paid particular attention to security. Many recent virus or worm attacks have targeted flaws in Microsoft’s software and many of the improvements are intended to address these issues. The company has called this latest update “one of the most important service packs ever released”.
The software contains a built-in Windows Firewall, turned on by default, that helps defend a PC against viruses and intruders who try to access a PC over the internet. Another feature blocks pop-up windows in the Internet Explorer browser.
The Outlook Express email application will include a new Attachment Manager that isolates attachments as you open them. This prevents the opening of unsafe attachments which can infect a system with a virus or worm. Other protection functions include improved wireless support that simplifies the process of locating and connecting to wireless networks.
Service Pack 2 for Windows XP Home Edition will be about 70MB and the update for Windows XP Professional will be around 92MB.
By Gordon Smith