Businesses are bracing themselves for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) as Microsoft prepares for the "last big stage" of the security update roll out.
The software giant provided a blocking tool to give cautious business customers a chance to delay the delivery of SP2 until they tested the software against their own applications.
However, the tool delayed the download via Automatic Update for 120 days, which ends on 12 April. At this point PCs with Automatic Update switched on will download the software.
Paul Randle, Windows client product manager at Microsoft, told vnunet.com: "From 12 April the tool will not block SP2 from being downloaded onto machines with Automatic Update switched on."
"What we are recommending is that companies do not distribute SP2 that way across the network, but that they do a proper managed roll out. If you have each machine downloading from Automatic Update that's a lot of traffic on the network," explained Randle.
"We are confident that everybody is aware of this and is working towards getting it onto their systems. It's the last big stage for SP2 in the business world."
Microsoft released SP2 in August last year. The software includes major security advancements, including upgrades to Internet Explorer to help thwart malicious software attacks, block suspicious content and stop common spoofing attempts.
There are now more than 170 million copies of Windows XP SP2 distributed around the world, according to Microsoft, and research by web analytics firm WebSideStory calculates that almost half of all computer users browsing the web on weekends are patched with SP2.
Microsoft said that a survey of 800 enterprise customers found 77 per cent planing to deploy Windows XP SP2 in the next six months. For example financial giant Merrill Lynch plans to deploy SP2 across 50,000 desktops by the middle of the year.
Customers like the pop-up blocker and the new tool in Internet Explorer that stops it downloading everything by default, according to Randle.
And he insisted that Microsoft's focus on security will continue. "There is no silver bullet. It is an ongoing battle. SP2 is one of many things that Microsoft is doing to make security better," he said.
"Yes, we are coming to the end [with] SP2, but it does not mean that we are going to stand back and say we have 'done security'."
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