Microsoft has released Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 (SP2). It is the first Windows platform to ship internationally with 128-bit encryption and includes myriad bug fixes, directory services fixes, application compatibility updates and security patches. According to Microsoft, the update addresses more than 500 known issues in Windows 2000 and its associated Service Pack 1 (SP1). SP2 is a "recommended" but not "required" update to Windows 2000, though security experts almost always recommend installing the latest service packs to best protect computer networks against known vulnerabilities. As with Windows 2000 SP1, SP2 includes no new features, although it does supercede all previous fixes and updates. That means SP1, released last summer, doesn't also have to be applied. SP2 upgrades the encryption on all installations of Windows 2000 to the 128-bit encryption level. The new encryption strengthens all encryption-based services in Windows 2000, including Kerberos, Encrypting File System, RAS, RPC, SSL/TLS, CryptoAPI, Terminal Services RDP and IPSec/VPN. Previous versions of Windows 2000 only had 56-bit encryption. Windows 2000 is the first 128-bit Microsoft operating system to be shipped internationally since the US government relaxed restrictions last year, and it will be available to all but US embargoed countries. Early reports from posts to Web site BetaNews indicate that while SP2 might make machines run slightly faster, it may also compromise the hibernation mode on some laptops. Many users wait for the first or even second service pack of a Windows operating system before rolling it out enterprise-wide. But analysts say SP2 will probably not be a crucial decision factor for organizations weighing whether to implement Windows 2000 now or wait for the upcoming Windows XP. "What I've been telling the IT managers who ask me is that the adoption of XP would depend upon whether or not you were far along enough in the planning process to accommodate it," said Fred Broussard, an analyst at market-research firm International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. "If you're early in the game in the planning process, you might just want to wait," he said. Windows XP, the next desktop version of Microsoft's operating system software, is scheduled to ship in late October.