It's the second delay for Microsoft's Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. However the company's placing security at the heart of its new strategy and so wants the alteration to be absolutely right. At the time of writing of course this delay ranges from a fortnight to six weeks and many of the functions it plans to make standard are already taken care of by several free programs and/or the user's router.

If the Windows Messenger Service is to be turned off by default, a personal bugbear for many when it used to assume you wanted to chat, hopefully it can be uninstalled and forgotten about in favour of the superior MSN Messenger 6.X. Elsewhere Pop-up ads blocked, the revamped firewall will be enabled by default and hopefully tackle outgoing traffic in conjunction with some spyware blocking as a separate feature.
Outlook Express, Internet Explorer and Windows Messenger will carry warnings about attachments and the true origins of downloaded files logged. Web graphics in e-mail no longer loaded by default (already done on Hotmail's site as an option). Users are to be regularly reminded about Windows updates- we hope in a more explicit way and with less interruptions to the downloads than the silly tray icon that appears and disappears, seemingly at will.

56K users will be glad to know that Windows Update downloads can be segmented to prevent four-to-six-hour stints downloading updates, but we hope that doesn't stop Microsoft seeing sense and making the update available for magazines to covermount, even when restricted to its own magazine.

For every one of those features there's a myriad of software out there to do these jobs and in some cases, OS tweaks. Service Pack 2 is for all those users who can't be bothered to track down all those programs and keep them updated. We also have no confirmation whether IE's lastest hole will be filled as a late addition to the pack.

However long it takes to arrive, Service Pack 2 is as close to Windows XP Second Edition as you'll get and it's OEM versions which in time, will have the service packs integrated ahead of retail stock. On the internet these non-retail boxes are cheaper, having fallen to £60. It's not a question of liking XP or not, it's just rolling along to its third birthday. We'll have to wait for the pack to see which applications may no longer work as a result.