Microsoft today made publicly available a beta version (release candidate) of Windows XP Service Pack 3.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) includes all previously released updates for the operating system. This update also includes a small number of new functionalities, including compatibility with the Network Access Protection functionality of Windows Server 2008. In addition, SP3 includes improvements to black hole router detection (detecting routers that are silently discarding packets), turning it on by default. SP3 also changes the Windows Product Activation procedure. As in Windows Server 2003 SP2 and Windows Vista, users can now complete operating system installation without providing a product key during a full, integrated installation of Windows XP SP3. The operating system will prompt the user for a product key later as part of Genuine Advantage. As with previous service packs, no product key is requested or required when installing Windows XP SP3 using the update package available through Microsoft Update.
Note htat this pre-release software is provided for testing purposes only, and Microsoft recommends that users to have a backup of their data prior to installing any pre-release software.
The SP3 file can be installed in Windows XP; Windows XP Home Edition ; Windows XP Home Edition N; Windows XP Media Center Edition; Windows XP Professional Edition ; Windows XP Professional N; Windows XP Service Pack 1; Windows XP Service Pack 2; Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Windows XP SP1 or SP2.
Microsoft also said that Windows XP SP3 does not bring significant portions of Windows Vista functionality to Windows XP.
Microsoft also released another release candidate version of XP SP3 in November.
The 336.1 MB beta file is up on Microsoft's Web site
today and ready in final form in the first half of next year.