XP service pack 3 is available as of December 10 at Microsoft’s support site. It is the first service pack in a couple of years and incorporates all the monthly updates by pushing them out into one package. If you have automatic updates enabled, then there’s no big rush for you to download this. If you don’t go through the weary ritual of installing the monthly updates, then you will want to download this update ASAP. SP3 brings together all the latest bug fixes and a couple of new features. Unfortunately, it does not update IE 7. I get so tired of that message “Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close” that it would have made my day if Microsoft could have provide some bug fixes for Internet Explorer.

The new features relate to:

  • black hole router detection – in which analysis is made on the network stack to determine if routers are silently discarding packets; and,
  • added support for Network Access Protection, which appears to be an administrative fix for system admin’s

The full overview of the release is available in a white paper pdf file on Microsoft’s site by clicking the link above. In Microsoft’s overview, they state that this release “does not significantly change customers’ experience with the operating system”. I really like XP but again, it’s too bad they couldn’t have done something about IE 7.