Microsoft Ships Windows 2000 SP3

Service Pack 3 includes many security and compatibility updates, along with support for automatic updates.

Microsoft Corp. released the long-awaited and much delayed Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 for general download on Thursday afternoon. The service pack is available at its Web site as well as on CD.

Many frustrated customers who had been trying to find the SP3 download earlier in the day expressed concern that its release was going to be delayed again, given that it was not yet available on the site.

Microsoft on Tuesday said SP3 would be available for general download on Thursday, but did not specify a time. "I really need this service pack as I have about 1,200 computers that I shipped out to our customers over two months ago," said one impatient customer. "We cut the image CD earlier this week, but then ran into a technical glitch and were told that this Windows 2000 SP3 will take care of the problem. I dont want to have to wait any longer."

This service pack has been more than a year in the making and follows the release of SP2 in May 2001. A service pack is essentially a collection of all the bug fixes and other security issues that have been released or been worked on since the product hit the shelves.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., began beta testing SP3 last November, but its release was pushed back primarily as a result of the comprehensive software and security review, known as Trustworthy Computing, which Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates put in place earlier this year.

Microsoft on Tuesday said SP3 was a "well-tested collection of updates that focuses on a variety of customer-reported concerns with the Windows 2000 family of operating systems. In many ways, SP3 is a traditional service pack in that it includes enhancements to improve upon Windows 2000s reliability, compatibility and security.

"In addition, Microsoft is fulfilling its commitment to implement the changes required by the consent decree signed with the Department of Justice and nine settling states. Microsoft is committed to providing customers with the most up-to-date and comprehensive software available and encourages customers to apply SP3. Microsoft is also committed to quality, listening to customers and responding to their issues," the company said in a statement released late Tuesday.

Service Pack 3 includes a slew of security and compatibility updates, along with support for automatic updates. With SP3, network administrators can set Windows 2000 to automatically download or schedule updates to the operating system.

Microsoft has included a new configuration pane in SP3 called Configure Programs as a result of its antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice and nine states. Users will now be given the option to override Microsoft defaults and select a custom Web browser, e-mail client, media player, instant messenger, and Java virtual machine. The pane will also feature an option to hide integrated Windows components such as Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player.

SP3 has become critical given that Microsoft has also delayed several times the release of the Windows .Net server family, the successor to the Windows 2000 server family. Microsoft released the first release candidate for the servers last week, and said the software would be ready by the year-end. But, until then, users have to stick with what they have. Improving the security of the Windows 2000 server family has thus been of great importance to Microsoft and of concern to users, sources said.

This weeks release of Windows 2000 SP3 follows the release in early June of the first beta of Service Pack 1 for the Windows XP operating system.

That service pack also includes all the security fixes, application compatibility updates and updated drivers released since the launch of the product last October, as well as elements that comply with the changes required by the consent decree between Microsoft, the Department of Justice and the nine settling states. It is expected to be generally available late this summer.