Testers Invited for Windows XP SP2 Beta

Microsoft is gearing up to release a beta version of Windows XP Service Pack 2. An e-mail sent out Thursday invited testers to install and evaluate the pre-release code when it becomes available within the next several weeks.

The second Windows XP service pack is the first major upgrade to Microsoft's flagship operating system. The package is slated to include a variety of bug fixes, as well as new security features, improved patch distribution and updated Internet technologies.

"As one of our valued customers, we'd like to invite you to participate in the Windows XP SP2 Beta Program. Your participation is completely voluntary," the e-mail reads.

"Service Pack 2 Beta Program participants will preview Service Pack 2 software and have the opportunity to provide Microsoft with invaluable feedback as we continue work on this important release."

SP2 will incorporate all fixes and enhancements made to the operating system since its release in October 2001. A new version of Windows Update is said to make it easier for customers to keep their systems up to date.

Security takes center stage in the upgrade. According to Microsoft, an improved personal firewall, new memory protections to ward of worms and buffer overruns, support for new security-minded hardware technology, and new editions of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express are all planned for inclusion in SP2.

A public release of Windows XP SP2 is expected to ship by the third quarter of 2004.

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