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Microsoft extends block to SP2 auto update

Corporate customers now have until early 2005 to tinker with things before ingesting XP's Service Pack 2.

Microsoft is doubling the number of months that corporate customers can block automatic delivery of Windows XP Service Pack 2.

The company on Tuesday altered its policy for preventing the automatic download of SP2 through Automatic Update or Windows Update, two services for automatically downloading important Windows updates to PCs via the Internet.

Corporate customers now have about eight months--or until the middle of April--to prepare for the security-related update, which may require testing for compatibility with other business applications before installation.

In early August, Microsoft released SP2, a significant update designed to give customers more tools to strengthen Windows against security vulnerabilities. In response to requests from corporate customers, Microsoft on Aug. 10 provided a way to let customers temporarily block the delivery of Service Pack 2 while still getting other "critical" Windows enhancements.

The delay, initially timed at 120 days from Aug. 16, was meant to give customers time to thoroughly test SP2 on corporate networks. Computers makers recommended a go-slow approach, with IBM sending out a memo telling its employees not to install the update because of potential incompatibilities. Many corporate IT executives also plan to use caution in adding SP2 to their machines.

On Tuesday, Microsoft extended the temporary blocking period to 240 days, or about eight months, from Aug. 16. At the end of this period, the Automatic Update mechanism will download SP2 to all Windows XP machines, the company said.

The blocking is done from an entry in the Windows registry, Microsoft said. If the Automatic Update mechanism finds the presence of the registry "key," it will not download Service Pack 2. At the end of the 240-day period, the automatic update services "will ignore the presence of this registry entry and download Windows XP SP2," according to Microsoft's policy.

Microsoft recommends that corporate customers use a program to automatically distribute software, such as Microsoft's Software Update Services or Systems Management Server, on their networks.

Delivery of SP2 to consumers using Windows XP via Windows Update or Automatic Update already began in August.