There seems to be some confusion about who will be able to install the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) so I thought I would get it from the horse’s mouth. Microsoft hasn’t done itself any favours by backtracking on public statements, but here for what it’s worth is their official position as of today:
We expect that nearly all Windows XP users, running genuine or pirated Windows, will have access to the security technologies in SP2. The same customers that were blocked from installing SP1 – those that have used a small set of legacy pirated product keys – will be blocked from installing SP2.
The same customers that were blocked from installing SP1 – those that have used a small set of legacy pirated product keys – will be blocked from installing SP2. Although SP2 checks for the legacy pirated product keys that SP1 checked for, we are not expanding the list with this release, and most of the pirated keys it checks for are no longer being used. We want to make sure that the broadest number of people has access to SP2. The nature of malicious attacks on computer users is constantly changing and we will continue to evaluate how we deal with security updates for pirated versions of Windows to best protect our genuine Windows customers.
So now you know. I asked for a bit more detail on these pirate product keys, and while I don’t have a list, Microsoft has this to say:
There is a set of legacy pirated product keys that was blocked for installation of XP SP1. These keys have been blocked from service packs and Windows Update for many years and we believe are no longer being used by pirates. Users with the legacy pirated product keys who attempt to access Windows Update to get SP2 continue to be notified that they cannot access Windows Update and [are] provided similar information via the “How to Tell”.
Finally, when can we expect SP2?
Microsoft Windows XP SP2 has been rolled-out-to-manufacturing (RTM) and will be localized into 25 different languages over the next two months and distributed to system manufacturers, enterprise customers and consumers through downloads, retail distribution, free CDs, and on new PCs. The easiest way for most customers to ensure they receive SP2 when it releases in their language is through enabling the Automatic Updates (AU) feature in Windows XP today. Customers who enable AU now will receive the latest security updates for Windows XP along with updated installation software that will optimize the download experience of SP2 and all other updates to Windows XP. We expect to roll out SP2 through AU to approximately 100 million over the next two months.
OK, so now you really do know.