After being missing for a week, the service packs are back and ready to upgrade your OS (if you use Windows, that is)

While XP may be nearing its end of life, it still enjoys a large user base and remains a strong seller.  Thus many customers were thrilled when XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) came out, offering a wide variety of improvements. 

Unfortunately it had a compatibility issue with Microsoft Dynamic RMS -- a program for small to medium businesses -- which caused Microsoft to decide to pull the pack, leaving users in the dark.  A similar problem was found in Vista SP1, and while Microsoft did not pull Vista SP1, it halted its automatic distribution.

Well happy days are ahead, as both Vista SP1 and XP SP3 are back in action.  The packs went live on Tuesday.  The XP SP3 is available here.  Microsoft solved the MSD RMS issue with a hotfix, which can be had here.  Microsoft suggests you install this hotfix before installing XP SP3 to avoid issues.

The third service pack weighs in at 316 MB, for those interested.  Over 1,100 hotfixes/patches are included in the pack.  Also included are new features, among which are the handy Network Access Protection and Black Hole Router Detection.

Most will agree that while the delay of XP SP3 might be slightly embarrassing for Microsoft, the company did a remarkably good job of fixing the problem quickly and getting the packs back online.  The whole process only took a week, lying to rest customer fears caused by Microsoft failing to disclose when the packs would be available again.

Windows Update is also back to automatically distributing the pack once again.  Users who disabled the feature can re-enable it to get the pack automatically without any effort.

Microsoft recently announced that it will likely plan to stick to its June 30th end of life date for XP.  However, many manufacturers will continue to support it after the date.  The new XP SP3 provides one more compelling reason for users to enjoy this mature operating system, which has been fine tuned over the course of three major service packs. 

Some users have expressed that they plan on using XP until Windows 7 comes out in 2010.  While this approach certainly isn't for everyone, those users and the many IT users who deploy XP will be pleased that the service pack is once again available.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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