Microsoft warned users to stay away from an unauthorized "preview" of Windows XP Service Pack 3, just as the site which hosts the collection updated the package to version 3.
"Anyone who installs this thinking they are getting SP3 (even as a preview) is being grossly mislead and is posing a significant potentially non-recoverable risk to their PC and data," wrote Mike Brannigan, who identified himself on a Microsoft newsgroup as an employee of the Redmond, Wash.-based developer.
Microsoft has not released an SP3 update to Windows XP, although it recently confirmed it would do so sometime after Windows Vista launches late in 2006.
"Frankly this 'package' should be avoid [sic] and you should continue to use Windows Update and the download site to get the most up-to-date and correctly issued Microsoft fixes and patches," he added.
The preview -- dubbed Windows XP SP3 Preview Pack -- is a collection of hotfixes and other updates that Microsoft has released since the debut of SP2 more than a year ago. The pack, which was updated to version 3 on Monday, can be downloaded from the Hotfix.net Web site.
Brannigan dismissed the preview, saying that it also included a number of private hotfixes generated for users with very specific problems. "The hotfixes are not as rigorously tested at public released ones," he wrote. Installing all the 'privates' may make your machine LESS stable and will also put you out of support from Microsoft or an OEM as you are installing incorrectly issued private hotfixes."
For his part, Ethan Allen, the creator and administrator of Hotfix.net, defended the 'preview' in a posting on his site. "This is NOT an official SP3 package from Microsoft, but rather just a collection of hotfixes that will most likely be in SP3 releasing in 2006. Use at your own risk."