Microsoft releases XP Service Pack 2 to manufacturing

Microsoft announced on Friday the release to manufacturing of the security-focused Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2).

The company said the easiest way for users to get SP2 is to turn on the Automatic Update feature in Windows XP. Microsoft will start pushing out SP2 "in the coming days," according to a company spokesman. Corporate users, however, typically do extensive testing before distributing service packs to users.

At about 265MB, SP2 is no small download. But Microsoft, in a prepared statement, said it expects the average file size to be much smaller because of the "smart download" technology that installs only what the user needs. That means users who already have SP1 and have regularly updated their computers with patches shouldn't need to worry about the full 265MB.

The average download for Windows XP Professional is expected to be about 100MB, according to Microsoft. The average download for customers with Windows XP Home Edition is estimated at 80MB. Customers who need SP1 can expect the download to be 20MB larger, Microsoft said.

The timing for receiving the download will depend on a user's Internet usage, location, language and the level of Internet demand for SP2, according to Microsoft. The company said it expects to distribute SP2 to about 100 million PCs through Automatic Update, wherein SP2 will be downloaded gradually in the background whenever a user is online. The company also will distribute it through new PCs, free CDs and retail installation.

Users who prefer CDs can order them from Microsoft free of charge. The company also plans to make available a small number of free CDs through retailers Best Buy, CompUSA and Micro Center.

New PCs preloaded with SP2 are expected to arrive in the retail channel during September and October. Microsoft said it is distributing SP2 to corporate users either through direct communications or its traditional channels. IT managers can find the updates at the Download Center on Microsoft's Web site, MSDN, TechNet and volume licensing CDs.