Service Pack 3 release details revealed.

With Windows Vista taking quite a bit of heat from customers and pundits around the web, many people have looked to its elder brother -- Windows XP -- for solace. The nearly seven-year-old operating system still soldiers on for many and is seen as a relatively "lightweight" and better-performing alternative to Windows Vista.

However, with Windows XP showing more than a few gray whiskers in its beard, it's important to at least keep the operating system somewhat relevant in today's world. Service Pack 3 (SP3) promises to give Windows XP a nice caffeine boost to allow it to stay fresh for at least a few more years.

As DailyTech previously reported, SP3 contains nearly 1,100 hotfixes and patches. In addition, SP3 provides new features to the operating system including a new activation process, Network Access Protection Module, Black Hole Router Detection, and Microsoft's Kernel Mode Cryptographics Module.

Microsoft began pushing out betas of SP3 in August 2007 and released a Release Candidate (RC) version to the public in early December. The last public release came earlier this year with a SP3 RC2.

Today, however, Neowin was able to get the release schedule for the Release to Manufacturer (RTM) version of Windows XP SP3. According to Neowin, OEMs, Volume License customers, Windows Connect users and MSDN/TechNet subscribers will have access to SP3 on April 21. The public will have to wait until April 29 to access SP3 via Windows Update and Microsoft's Download Center.

Microsoft will not push SP3 via Automatic Updates until June 10 which should give IT managers enough time to work with the service pack should things go awry.

The news of the SP3 release schedule comes just weeks after Microsoft gave Windows XP a 2+ year extension on life. Microsoft initially set the end-of-sale date for Windows XP for January 31, 2008 but later revised the date to June 30, 2008.

Mounting pressure due to the increasing sales of low-cost computers forced Microsoft to further push the end-of-sale date to June 30, 2010 or one year after the release of the next version of Windows; whichever is later.

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