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Microsoft Releases Major Windows Server 2003 Update

The first service pack for the server software includes numerous security fixes, as well as application updates to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express -- all meant to "reduce customer pain

Microsoft released the full first service pack for Windows Server 2003 late Wednesday, emphasizing the server software update's security features and touting improvements in overall performance and reliability of as much as 50 percent, depending on overall workload. The update's main objective, says the company, is to "reduce customer pain centered on server security."

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 is available for immediate download and was released to manufacturing on Wednesday, according to a company statement; the release is also available via the automatic Windows Update feature. Microsoft is offering differentiated versions for updating multiple servers and for Itanium-based servers; the company recommends using Windows Update to handle installation on single servers.

Also, the 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional Edition were released to manufacturing, and end users can expect to see those first through Microsoft OEMs in late April, at around the same time that Microsoft unveils details of the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 at the WinHEC conference, the company said.

The SP1 release is primarily based around long-awaited security improvements that let system administrators lock down ports more easily, identify potential malicious users, and cut inbound connections while applying patches, among other capabilities. Also included as part of the software is the Windows Firewall version that first shipped with the SP2 update to Windows XP.

"With Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, our development team took the time to treat the root cause of many security issues, not just the symptoms. This service pack is very significant and should help address certain classes of exploits," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division at Microsoft, in a statement.

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