If you've been waiting with bated breath for Windows XP SP3 RC2, you can start breathing normally now. It changes so little in XP that you won't even notice it's there. But hidden and underneath the hood, as I'll explain, there are a few worthy changes. I'll cover all the high points here. But to get a comprehensive look at all the changes, the best place to go is to Greg Keizer's excellent, all-encompassing FAQ.
The install of SP3 RC2 itself is straightforward. Head to the Microsoft download page, and you'll download a small, executable file that when run, changes your Registry so that you can download XP SP3 from Windows Update. After that, use Windows Update, and you'll download and install XP SP2 RC2, a 65.6 MB download. After the download, it may take longer than you expect to install --- it took me about 30 minutes or so on a 1.83 GHz Duo Core laptop with 1 GB of RAM. Reboot after the install, and you're in business.
Apart from that, there are a number of under-the-hood changes, having to do with networking and security. Perhaps the most important of those is Network Access Protection, which is available on Vista and on Windows Server 2008, but until now not on XP. NAP gives network administrators a way to determine a computer's access to network resources, based on the PC's identity, and whether the PC complies with security policies set by the administrator. With NAP, network adminstrators can set this kind of access at a finely granular level. In addition, NAP gives the administrator tools to bring the PC into compliance with the security policies, and then give the PC access to the network. For more details about NAP, check out this Microsoft FAQ.
Microsoft, Windows XP, SP3, XP SP3, RC2, Release Candidate, Review