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Microsoft begins beta testing Vista service pack

Early version of first significant Vista update released to testers. Also, near-final "release candidate" version of Windows Server 2008 to be available within 24 hours.

Microsoft on Monday said it has released a beta version of the first service pack of Windows Vista to about 12,000 testers.

Microsoft had said back in August that it expected to start private testing of the service pack within a few weeks. The update is largely a collection of bug fixes and performance and compatibility improvements, but includes some minor new features such as support for the ability to encrypt multiple hard drive partitions using Vista's BitLocker feature.

In another expected move, Microsoft said that it has completed its first near-final "release candidate" version of Windows Server 2008. The "RC0" version is slated to be available for download from Microsoft's Web site within the next 24 hours.

Originally slated to be released this year, Microsoft has delayed the release of Windows Server 2008 until next year.