Here's an XP SP3 story that's true: Microsoft has shipped a Refresh build of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) to the public.

The Windows Serviceability team is pleased to make available Windows XP Service Pack 3, Release Candidate 2 Refresh (XP SP3 RC2 Refresh).

The purpose of RC2 Refresh is to validate improvements to the Windows Update experience with Service Pack 3. Therefore, this beta release will be available only on Windows Update, in English, German and Japanese. Beyond fixes for common Windows Update issues and the inclusion of support for HD Audio, there are no substantial differences between this beta release and XP SP3 RC2.

XP SP3 RC2 Refresh includes all previously released updates for the operating system, similar to earlier service packs. It also includes previously released updates to the latest versions of some system components, as well as functionality that make it easier for enterprises to co-manage both Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista PCs within same corporate environment.

While this update is available for anyone, remember that it is pre-release software, is time-limited, and is intended for IT professionals, developers, and other technically-inclined individuals that are comfortable using pre-release software.

The application to enable download of XP SP3 RC2 Refresh is the same application as was used to distribute XP SP3 RC2. This is an application that can be found at the Microsoft Download Center. Running this application on a machine with Windows XP Service Pack 2 will enable Windows Update to offer XP SP3 RC2 Refresh to that machine. Build to build upgrades are not supported for this beta release, so if you have installed XP SP3 RC1 or XP SP3 RC2, please uninstall it before running this application. We strongly recommend that only this application be used to obtain RC2 Refresh and that evaluation and feedback be based solely on releases provided directly by Microsoft.

As with RC1 and RC2, we encourage feedback on XP SP3 RC2 Refresh via this TechNet forum. Information regarding XP SP3 overall can be found on the Windows XP TechCenter. Windows XP SP3 is scheduled for release in the first half of 2008.

Thank you very much for your feedback to date! We look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Windows Serviceability

Note that the final release schedule for XP SP3 hasn't changed. :)

I'm downloading the update now and will install on my XP SP3 machine today.