Preview: Inside the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Beta

With heavy emphasis on privacy and network security issues, the next Windows Service Pack is shaping up to be a must-have.

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Microsoft will release Service Pack 2 for Windows XP (both Home and Professional) in the first half of 2004. Our look at the beta version, released to testers in December, revealed a number of interesting security enhancements in Web browsing, e-mail, and networking. The beta is, of course, a work in progress—the final version may differ in features and appearance.

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Internet Explorer will get its own built-in pop-up blocker. Intranets wont be affected, but when youre surfing the Web, IE will block any pop-up or pop-under window that wasnt triggered by your click (figure 1). In the beta, an audible pop signals each blocking event. You can right-click on the pop-up icon in the status bar to configure pop-up blocking or to review blocked pop-ups (figure 2). IE will also add protection against "drive-by downloads"—downloads that occur without your knowledge or permission. If you want a particular download, you simply click a link that appears below the toolbar.