XP Service Pack Betas Escape Redmond

Internal beta builds of Microsoft's forthcoming Service Pack 1 for Windows XP are finding their way onto the Internet thanks to some unscrupulous employees. Although public betas almost always leak to the Web, in the past Microsoft has been mostly successful at keeping private builds it issues to internal Redmond workers secure. But since SP1 build 1050 shipped to beta testers, unreleased builds 1060, 1063 and 1065 have cropped up on underground Windows sites.

These private builds usually contain few updates from public releases and are generally less stable, but that hasn't stopped hordes of enthusiasts wanting to run the latest XP code. Weighing in at over 100 MB the service pack isn't light on bandwidth, either.

Microsoft faced a similar problem two years ago when internal alpha builds of Windows XP, then code-named Whistler, leaked onto the Internet from Redmond labs. The breach prompted the company to change its policy of how Microsoft-only builds are distributed. Such leaks not only allow competitors to sneak a peek at what Microsoft has up its sleeve, but also give the general public a wrong impression of the final product, because internal releases are by nature incomplete and bug-laden.

When asked about leaks, Microsoft declined to comment regarding any action it would take against Web sites distributing the pirated beta code. A company spokesperson also refused to discuss the source of the internal builds - whether they were swiped from a test lab or passed along by an employee.

Interestingly, it's not clear if Microsoft even minds these latest slips. Because the service pack will install on millions of unique Windows installations, much time must be spent ensuring the upgrade will go smoothly for all XP users. To offset this massive task, Microsoft expanded the SP1 beta test to include over 10,000 people. Having additional testers, legitimate or not, may actually contribute to a better end product.

Windows XP SP1 is slated for a final release late summer and will include security fixes, compatibility updates and new drivers. "In addition to these traditional elements, Microsoft is fulfilling its commitment to implement the changes required by the consent decree signed with the Department of Justice and nine settling states," a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews in early June.

Like traditional Microsoft service packs, SP1 will be made available for download in two forms: a full network installation and an express installer that downloads only necessary updates.

Craig Newell contributed to this report.

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