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Microsoft releases Windows XP SP3

If you’ve been dying to get your hands on Microsoft’s NAP (Network Access Protection) technology, but just somehow haven’t gotten around to deploying Vista yet, today is your lucky day. Microsoft released Service Pack 3 for Windows XP today and one of the major components of the massive update is NAP, the company’s network access control system. However, you do need to be running Windows Server 2008 in order to use the NAP capability. Along with NAP, SP3 also includes every update, security-related and otherwise–that Microsoft has released since it pushed out SP2 in 2004.

There are a handful of other security updates included in SP3, and Microsoft has a good description of all of the new features in Windows XP SP3. Here are some highlights:

  • IPSec Simple Policy Update for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. This is a tool to help simplify the creation of IPSec filters.
  • Digital Identity Management Service. This allows users on any PC that’s a member of a domain to access all of their digital certificates and encryption keys for applications and services on that domain.
  • Support for the WPA2 wireless security standard.
  • Black hole router detection turned on by default.

The other major news with Windows XP SP3 is the fact that it does not include Internet Explorer 7. Some users have complained about IE 7 being pushed to their PCs as a critical update and Microsoft even went so far as to release a special toolkit to block the delivery of the browser last year. For users who don’t update their machines regularly, SP3 is a good opportunity to get back on the right track all at once.

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Integrating/slipstreaming requires a SP2 installation of Windows XP. Will not work on a RTM or SP1 of Win XP (this goes against a Microsoft "policy"). SP2 is recommended to install SP3 on a PC that has XP already. If you install SP3 on XP that has IE7 or IE8 beta, you can't remove them after. Therefore, if you want the remouval functionality, uninstall IE7/IE8 beta, install SP3 and then install IE7/IE8 beta.