A preview of the third service pack for Windows XP has appeared on the Net, despite a continued refusal from Microsoft to admit it exists.

An "unofficial" preview pack of SP3 is available at The Hotfix, a software download site and discussion forum that focuses on patches and software updates.

Ethan Allen, the creator and administrator of The Hotfix, said Wednesday he put together the preview pack from software updates he received from an internal Microsoft source that are expected to be released in SP3.

Some of those updates include Windows log-on improvements and features that fix current problems with connecting Windows XP computers to various networks, according to the SP3 forum on the site.

Allen, a Microsoft beta tester who previously worked for software giant, updates the list of technologies for Windows XP SP3 daily based on information found on Microsoft's website.

"Microsoft makes it freely available about what’s going to be in the next hot fixes, but they hide it," Allen said. He said he found information on updates that will be made available in Windows XP SP3 using keywords contained in articles on Microsoft's website. This is the same way he discovered the technologies that were released in Windows XP SP2. He posted those updates before that service pack was released in August 2004.

Allen's site also has published a transcript of a chat discussion in which Microsoft engineers fielded questions from beta testers about whether Internet Explorer 7 will be included in SP3. According to the transcript, Anurag Jain, a program manager in the Internet Explorer team, said the service pack will not include it but will "support" it. Instead, Internet Explorer 6 will be a part of Windows XP SP3.

Nonetheless, a Microsoft spokesman Wednesday insisted that Microsoft still has not decided whether or not to release SP3 for Windows XP.

"We have not confirmed plans for a Service Pack 3 for Windows XP yet," said Michael Burk, product manager for Windows Vista. "At this point, the Windows servicing team is reviewing the feedback on Windows XP SP2 and is still evaluating timing and alternatives for the next Windows XP servicing release."