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Windows 2000 fixes released

Microsoft announces the official release of the fourth service pack for Windows 2000, providing security fixes and support for USB 2.0.

Microsoft on Thursday officially released an update to its Windows 2000 operating system.

With Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, the software maker added various security and compatibility fixes and provided support for USB (universal serial bus) 2.0 and for wireless Internet connections.

On Wednesday, tech forum site Neowin posted what it claims are links to the fourth service pack for Windows 2000 from Microsoft. The site said that the download it linked to was the final release for Service Pack 4, but Microsoft declined to confirm that, saying only that Service Pack 4 was "due relatively soon."

Microsoft confirmed Thursday that it has changed the terms of its Windows 2000 licensing agreement to give people the option of turning off certain automated Internet updates that are built into the software.

A beta, or test, version of Service Pack 4 has been available to testers since October 2002, about two months after the final version of Service Pack 3 was made public. Service Pack 4 contains all the bug fixes that were included in previous service packs. So if people have not installed any of the older service packs, Service Pack 4 will bring their operating systems up to date.

When Windows 2000 was first launched, Chairman Bill Gates said Microsoft had "come up with breakthrough ways to assure its reliability" and hailed the operating system as the most important product launch since Windows 95. At around the same time, however, the operating system was ridiculed by one of Microsoft's key developers for containing 63,000 known defects and bugs. The first service pack was released less than six months later. The latest service pack apparently has about 675 bug fixes.

The new software can be used to update a number of flavors of Windows 2000, including Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, and Windows 2000 with the Server Appliance Kit. The update is downloadable from Microsoft's Web site and is also available on CD.

ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia reported from London. CNET's Ina Fried reported from San Francisco.