SEATTLE (Reuters) - A major update to Windows XP (news - web sites), offering security enhancements and better stability, will be available for download and on CD-ROMs from August, two months after its originally scheduled date, Microsoft Corp. said on Monday.
The world's largest software maker had originally aimed to release the update, called Service Pack 2, in June.
Mike Nash, Microsoft vice president for security, said that his group needed more time to ensure that the update was stable and would work with other programs when installed on personal computers running Windows XP, the latest version of the operating system found on more than 90 percent of the world's PCs.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has made it a top priority to improve the security and reliability of its software, after Chairman Bill Gates (news - web sites) launched its "Trustworthy Computing" initiative in a companywide memo in early 2002.
"We will be proactive in having enterprise move to Windows XP and Service Pack 2," Nash said, adding that new computers sold from this fall would start to feature Windows with Service Pack 2 already installed.
Major worms, such as Blaster and MyDoom, have exploited flaws in Windows, causing computers to crash and putting them at risk of data loss, highlighting the challenge that Microsoft has in making its flagship product more secure.
The update will be available to customers for free over the Internet and can also be installed with CD-ROMs. Service Pack 2 for Windows XP Home Edition will be about 70 megabytes and the update for Windows XP Professional will be about 92 megabytes, Nash said.
A long-awaited update kit for Microsoft's Windows XP software faces further delays and may take until October to get fully worked into the supply of new computers, a spokesman said yesterday.
Microsoft plans to make the XP "service pack 2" available by download or on free update discs by the end of this month. It was originally scheduled to ship by June 30.
It will also provide computer makers with a new version of XP that incorporates the updates, but it may take up to six or eight weeks longer to appear on new PCs, said Greg Sullivan, lead product manager with Microsoft's Windows Client division.
That means the kit is late for the back-to-school selling season, "but the thing we're focused on is getting this release to the quality it can be and then getting it into the hands of customers," Sullivan said.
The update kit installs all security improvements made since XP was released in 2001. It also changes the software's settings to make it less vulnerable to attack, and installs a "dashboard" control to help users manage security settings. It will also install the latest version of Microsoft's media player and improved controls for accessing wireless Internet connections.
One factor in the delay is testing to see how the kit affects other software. The kit may interfere with some applications, and Microsoft has acknowledged it will cause problems with its own business customer-relationship management product.
Microsoft Corp. released a long-awaited security update for its Windows XP program on Friday, a response to the growing number of security shortcomings in the market-dominant computer operating system.
The free upgrade won't be available to everyone right away, however. Microsoft said the timing will depend on several factors, including customers' Internet usage, location and language as well as the overall demand for the package, dubbed Service Pack 2.
Customers who have computers set to receive updates automatically will begin getting Service Pack 2 within a few days, company spokesman Matt Pilla said Friday. About 100 million customers are expected to receive the automatic updates in the next two months.
Customers can turn on the automatic update function by going to the ``system'' control panel, found by going to the ``start'' menu.
For regular users, the most noticeable change will be a series of new prompts. Users will be asked to give permission for programs to interact with their computers, so there is less chance they will be hit by a virus or admit malicious software.
On average, Pilla said, it should take about 60 to 90 minutes for users with a broadband connection to download the upgrade, as people will likely be Web surfing and doing other things that take online priority. He said the download could take users with a dial-up connection a few days to get.