Microsoft over the weekend announced that it had posted what it called "slipstream builds" of Windows XP Service Pack 3 for download by subscribers of its IT professional and developer services.
The company has yet to offer SP3 to the general Windows-using public, however.
The builds integrate SP3 with the existing bits of Windows XP into a single .iso, or disk image, file that can be used to install the upgraded operating system on multiple machines without having to connect each to Windows Update or a WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) server. Slipstream builds are typically used to reimage a PC after its hard drive has been reformatted.
"Microsoft is pleased to make available integrated retail and volume license installs of Windows XP SP3, to MSDN and TechNet Plus subscribers," Chris Keroack, the company's XP SP3 release manager, said in a message posted to the TechNet support newsgroup late Friday.
Only image files for the Chinese-Simplified, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese-Brazil and Spanish versions of XP SP3 have been added to the two services' download sections, Keroack said.
Paying subscribers of the TechNet Plus and MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) services have been able to download Windows XP SP3 for about two weeks, after Microsoft reversed course and said it would make the upgrade available. On April 21, the company announced that it had finished the service pack but would not release it to subscribers.
Last week, Microsoft postponed offering XP SP3 to the general Windows-using public, saying that it first needed to issue a fix for a bug in the retail point-of-sale software it sells.
Some users are getting impatient. "Seven days have passed since the discovery of the 'bug' that stopped us from having the SP3 to download," said a user identified only as "N3M3SIS" in a message posted to a Microsoft support newsgroup. "Is Microsoft going to take much longer to place the filters up and running? Or do we have to call the pool guy to do it?"
Microsoft has said that it will not offer XP SP3 via Windows Update until it has deployed filters on the update service that are able to detect PCs running its Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) software for small and midsize businesses.
On Friday in the US, Keroack confirmed that the patch will be delivered as a hotfix for RMS users only, and not as a general update to the just-finished XP SP3.
Although Microsoft has not officially released Windows XP SP3 to the public, stand-alone installers currently available on the company's servers are tagged as Build 5512, the version Keroack also reconfirmed on Friday as the final code.