Windows XP SP2 Reaches RC2

Microsoft has finalized the second release candidate of Windows XP Service Pack 2, signifying the long-awaited upgrade is nearly complete. Numbered build 2149, RC2 is currently available to testers and will soon be offered for public download.

Although a final release of SP2 could be months away, RC2 is a significant milestone that Microsoft hopes will correct numerous bugs and software incompatibilities discovered after the preview release of RC1 in March.

Redmondites gathered at a Microsoft cafe to celebrate the christening of build 2149, while company spokespeople heralded the still-beta release to press outlets.

The primary focus of Windows XP Service Pack 2 is security. Microsoft has included a new version of Internet Explorer, improved memory protection, e-mail safeguards for Outlook Express, the Windows Firewall, new security settings for Windows Media Player 9, redesigned networking components, and a new Windows "Security Center" to coordinate and manage security features.

"To date, hundreds of thousands of developers and customers have been testing beta and release candidate versions of Windows XP SP2," a company spokesperson told BetaNews. "Microsoft strongly encourages developers and corporate IT customers to continue their testing by downloading Windows XP SP2 RC2. Windows XP SP2 is entering its final testing stages on its way toward a final release this summer."

Microsoft representatives have refused to pin down exactly when Windows XP SP2 -- plagued by delays since testing began -- will reach customer systems, but an August release is likely. Release Candidate 2 may be trialed in the interim by joining the technical preview program.

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