Windows XP SP2 Grace Period Expires

The April 12, 2005 deadline passed Tuesday and Microsoft has followed through with its pledge to revoke the grace period that provided enterprise customers the option to postpone the adoption of Windows XP Service Pack 2. The update, which fortifies Windows with a variety of new security enhancements, will now be pushed to customers and has become a requirement to receive future upgrades.

In response to a chorus of widespread customer feedback insisting that SP2 could prove disruptive to mission critical applications, Microsoft made several support tools available that temporarily blocked the delivery of SP2 via Automatic Updates and forestalled Windows Update installations.

After the SP2's release, several large enterprises, including IBM, issued mandates to IT personnel instructing them not to install the service pack without further testing.

The grace period was given so that customers like IBM could validate and test installations prior to deploying SP2 in production environments, Microsoft said at the time. To further assist its customers in the transition to SP2, Microsoft publicly disclosed a list of known incompatibilities at its support Web site.

Customers still may block SP2 installation by turning off Automatic Update completely, but in doing so will lose the ability to apply future Windows upgrades, including a batch of critical security updates that were released today.

A recent study by AssetMetrix released major findings that businesses were slow to adopt SP2, reporting that less than a quarter of businesses surveyed have implemented the update. The study surveyed 251 North American companies with approximately 131,000 computers.

"I know of a number of businesses that still aren't ready for Service Pack 2. I attribute delays largely to compatibility concerns and general inertia. For many larger businesses, the 'if it ain't broke don't mess with it' rule applies," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox told BetaNews.

Many of these risk-adverse operations see the potential problems installing a major service pack -- one more like an OS upgrade -- as outweighing the perceived benefits. That said, Microsoft had to draw a line somewhere. If the company didn't make a deadline, based on enterprise behavior with other Windows versions, many customers would take years to update," Wilcox added.

Some of SP2's new functional attributes include an updated version of Internet Explorer with a built-in pop-up blocker; memory and CPU-based protection against buffer overruns; e-mail safeguards in Outlook Express; a stateful inspection firewall; refined permissions in RPC and DCOM; Windows Security Center; and new security settings for Windows Media Player 9.

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