I’m not sure how long this is going to be available, but it looks as though Windows XP users can download the first Release Candidate of Service Pack 3 (SP3) straight from Microsoft. One member over at the WinMatrix forum posted the download link, which directly points to XP SP3 executable installer located on the Windows Update server.

The download is 336MB so make sure you have some time set aside for it to finish, but I have downloaded and verified that it is the real deal. Here are a few things you should know before downloading XP SP3:

  • SP3 is cumulative, so users can install SP3 on top of Windows XP SP1 or SP2.
  • SP3 is able to update any version of XP, including XP Media Center.
  • SP3 will not upgrade Internet Explorer to version 7. The Service Pack does include updates for both versions of Internet Explorer, but the main version of IE that you’re running will remain untouched.

The installation process took me about 15 minutes to complete, which I would say is good because I was expecting it to take much worse. Here is a screenshot gallery from my journey:

(Click to Enlarge)
XP SP3 - 1 XP SP3 - 2 XP SP3 - 3 XP SP3 - 4

Download Windows XP SP3 (RC1) from Microsoft