Microsoft to distribute XP SP2 on one million CDs

One million copies of Windows XP SP2 will be distributed on CD by Microsoft to make it easier for those without broadband to install the 80MB update

Microsoft will encourage dial-up users to update their Windows XP systems with Service Pack 2 by distributing the update on one million CDs in the UK.

SP2 for Windows XP is a major upgrade for Microsoft's desktop operating system. It has been designed to vastly improve the overall security of XP and make it easier for users to control their security settings.

However, SP2 is expected to be at least 80MB in size and could be as large as 120MB, said Paul Randle, Windows client product manager at Microsoft UK.

According to Randle, Microsoft's primary distribution channel will be over the Internet, but the company will be targeting dial-up users by offering to send a copy of SP2 in the post on a CD, free of charge. Additionally, the company has cut deals with numerous computer magazines to distribute the update on their cover CDs.

"If you don't want to download the CD, there will be an order button on the Microsoft Web site where you can get a copy of the CD completely free -- including postage and packing," Randle said.

Additionally, Randle confirmed that SP2 will only become available once Microsoft has finished work on a new version of its Windows Update tool. Windows Update 5.0 will include a "Checkpoint Restart" feature, which allows users to resume a download if their Internet connection is interrupted mid-download.

"You will be able to download SP2 in the background. It will take 40 percent of your bandwidth, so you will still have a Web browsing experience but it will be slowed down. If you have been downloading and you break your connection, it remembers where you got in the download process and pick up where it left off," Randle said.

Richard Starnes, president of security industry group ISSA UK, welcomed the security update, but is concerned that SP2 will become the target of phishers who will spam unsuspecting users with links to doctored versions of the update.

"This opens up numerous possibilities for ID theft and phishing attacks. How is Microsoft going to ensure that Trojanised copies of SP2 are not going to be put out?" asked Starnes.

Additionally, Starnes points out that users that have followed Microsoft's advice and turned on the auto-update feature on Windows will at some point find their computers have started downloading SP2 without their knowledge.

"A great deal of consumers have followed Microsoft's advice and set the auto-update feature. I'm not going to give any dire predictions, but I will be very interested to see what happens," Starnes said.