After a brief last-minute delay on Wednesday, August 4, Microsoft at last released the final version of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) to manufacturing late Friday morning (Pacific Time), August 6.
Unlike some other major releases from Microsoft, this one was tough to find for the first few days after it was finished. Late in the day Monday, August 9, Microsoft posted a download link for IT pros and developers that delivers the 266MB "network install" version of the large service pack release. The much smaller-in-size end-user release of SP2, which will be distributed via the Windows XP's built-in Automatic Updates feature or Microsoft's Windows Update site, was not widely rolled out at press time.
How Microsoft Is Rolling Out SP2
One of the more complicated aspects of XP Service Pack 2 is that it will be available in a variety of forms, and it doesn't have a single release day. If you get the new code through either Windows Update or XP's built-in Automatic Updates feature, you won't get it on the same day everybody else gets it. Why? Because Microsoft is staggering installation over a period of weeks and even months. According to Microsoft product manager Greg Sullivan, the software giant expects to deliver tens of thousands of installations the first day, millions installations per day after it ramps up, and eventually to have delivered 100 million installations of SP2 via Windows Update and Automatic Updates.
According to a Microsoft press release, "The timing for customers to receive the Service Pack 2 download through Automatic Updates depends on a number of factors, including the customer's Internet usage, location, language, and the [overall] level of Internet demand for Service Pack 2." Microsoft's chief concern in staggering the release appears to be its own server load. The company is expecting huge demand for this release -- it is not a small release.
The best way to get Service Pack 2 for many people may be to request that Microsoft send it to you via mail on CD. The Request Page for the Windows XP SP2 CD is live, but at press time, Microsoft had not yet turned on the option to make the request. The page was little more than a placeholder.