Microsoft is expected to shortly make available release candidate 2 of 64-bit Windows XP. Other release candidates of 64-bit Microsoft operating systems will also become available, such as Windows Server 2003 x64 RC2, but these are only available to participants of the technical beta program. The Windows XP Professional x64 Edition RC2 code will also be available to users in the framework of Microsoft's Customer Preview Program.

According to a statement release by Microsoft on Tuesday, users "can expect considerable performance improvements across a variety of workloads" when moving from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit. The company said that it will begin accepting hardware device submissions for both Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions for the "Designed for Windows" logo program in the coming weeks. Both operating systems are scheduled to be available "in the first half of 2005".

Windows XP Professional x64 RC2 will be a 450 MByte download, and is compatible with AMD's Athlon 64 and Opteron processors as well as Intel's Xeon and Pentium 4 processors with EM64T extension. At the time of our reporting, Itanium-based systems are not supported.