Service Packs Made Easy

Win2K SP1 improves the process of updating your OS

When Microsoft introduced Windows 2000, one of the company's goals was to simplify the process of updating and applying fixes to the OS. Some Windows NT 4.0 service packs caused more problems than they fixed. My experience installing and using Win2K Service Pack 1 (SP1) provides evidence that Microsoft has made good progress toward its goal.

SP1 provides about 300 bug fixes and performance enhancements. It comes on a CD-ROM, or you can download it from Microsoft's Web site. Installing the entire service pack requires as much as 87MB of disk space, so downloading SP1 from the Web is a realistic option only for people whose computers have a high-bandwidth Internet connection.

To install SP1, you'll need a significant amount of disk space on the disk partition on which you installed Win2K. I needed more than 75MB. If you want the ability to uninstall SP1, you'll need even more space—345MB on Win2K Professional and 445MB on Win2K Server or Win2K Advanced Server. For more information about Win2K SP1, see Paul Thurrott, "Win2K Service Pack 1," November 2000, and Paula Sharick, "A Look at Windows 2000 SP1,", InstantDoc ID 9704.

Installing SP1
The easiest way for individual users to install SP1 is to insert the SP1 CD-ROM. Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) pops up, displaying a Web page that contains information about SP1's features and a link to launch update.exe, which starts SP1's installation from the CD-ROM.

If you download SP1 from the Web, begin at downloads/recommended/sp1/x86lang.asp. Select the language you need (English is the default), and click Next. Then, you can choose either Express Installation or Network Installation. The fastest option is Express Installation, which will download only the service pack elements that are necessary to upgrade the Win2K components you've installed on your machine. Express Installation is typically a 14MB download. If you want the complete service pack code—or if you want to create a network sharepoint from which to install SP1 on other systems—you'll need to select the Network Installation option, which requires 87MB of disk space.

Before you begin installing SP1, study the service pack's README file (i.e., readmesp.htm). A link to the README file appears in the What is on this CD section of the page that appears when you insert the CD-ROM. Web users can find the file at downloads/recommended/sp1/readme.asp. After you read this file, return to the page you started from and click Install Service Pack 1. A File Download dialog box will appear. Select Run this program from its current location, and click OK. A Security Warning dialog box will appear, asking you to confirm whether you want to install and run Win2K SP1. Click Yes.

Finally, the Windows 2000 Service Pack Setup dialog box will appear. This dialog box includes the license agreement, which you must accept before installation can commence. The dialog box also includes a README button to bring up the README file (in case you haven't read it already) and a check box—which SP1 selects by default—to back up files that are necessary to uninstall SP1 later. Selecting this backup option is a good idea in case a problem develops after you've installed SP1. If you have sufficient disk space, leave this option selected, then click Install.

If your system has enough disk space available (mine didn't, so I had to cancel SP1 Setup and delete some files to create space), SP1's installation will proceed. The Setup dialog box that Figure 1, page 158, shows monitors installation progress. After installation is complete, Win2K prompts you to restart your system. To confirm that SP1 is installed, at a command prompt, type


If the service pack is installed, the resulting dialog box displays the text Microsoft Windows Version 5.0 (Build 2195: Service Pack 1).

Improving Update.exe
SP1 dramatically improves the service pack installation process. Update.exe, the program that installs SP1, works much better than installation programs for previous Windows service packs. For example, you don't need to reapply Win2K SP1 when you install new files. The reapplication requirement is a major problem for NT 4.0 users, who need to keep the service pack and OS CD-ROMs handy. When you add a new system file to an NT 4.0 system, you often need to apply the service pack and OS from the distribution CD-ROMs.

SP1 also includes support for 56-bit and 128-bit security. When the service pack is installed, it detects the security settings your system is using and provides the appropriate update. If you apply SP1 to a 56-bit system and later want to move to 128-bit security, a High Encryption Pack is available at

Administrators who need to apply SP1 across a corporate LAN can use Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) to roll out SP1 to clients. Another option, integrated installation, applies SP1 to Win2K before a rollout so that you can install Win2K, SP1, and any optional applications and data. This procedure provides a one-stop, over-the-network setup for new computers and users. Over-the-network and Remote Installation Services (RIS) setup methods support integrated installation. You can't uninstall SP1 after you use an integrated installation, so you need to test SP1 before you deploy it to a large number of systems. To find out how these installation features work, read "Windows 2000 Service Pack Installation and Deployment Guide" (spdeploy.doc), which you can find in the SP1 CD-ROM's \tools directory or online at planning/incremental/sp1guide.asp. The guide also documents command-line switches for the new version of update.exe.

In addition, the deployment guide describes a new hotfix.exe program that you can use to install patch files that the service pack doesn't include. Hotfix.exe checks the current service pack revision level and determines whether a patch is older than the service pack; if the patch is older, hotfix.exe won't apply it. Command-line switches and other tools let you list the applied patches. This list is crucial if you install multiple patches, then want to uninstall them; you must remove patches that affect a particular file in reverse order of installation. To uninstall patches, click the Control Panel Add/Remove Programs applet, select the patches, and click Remove, or use the -y switch in hotfix.exe.

What Does SP1 Provide?
Past service pack CD-ROMs included a list of bug fixes that the service pack addressed, but for Win2K SP1, Microsoft put that material on the Web. A page at downloads/recommended/sp1/default.asp#learn contains pointers to an SP1 FAQ page, online Microsoft articles, system requirements, and additional downloads (including an SP1 Checked Build version for administrators and developers who are trying to debug systems during SP1 testing). The Microsoft articles about SP1 address topics such as Microsoft DirectX performance improvements, memory-leak fixes, a new PC Card driver that supports interrupt sharing, and a fix for high CPU usage when notebook computers run on battery power.

SP1 also remedies Win2K's tendency to lose a network connection after a computer resumes working from hibernation, improves Network Load Balancing (NLB) performance, and repairs problems with internal router (IR) file transfers. The service pack fixes several JScript and Java Virtual Machine (JVM) bugs and solves numerous problems with international characters, fonts, and formats for dates, times, and currencies. SP1 improves security against cookie theft, resolves a clear-text password recognition problem, and prevents loss of cryptographic keys when system memory runs low.

No Component Upgrades
SP1 doesn't provide any new OS features or component upgrades. The IE version that is on your system when you start SP1 Setup remains when you finish. (However, if you've upgraded IE before you install SP1, you won't be able to uninstall the IE upgrade after you install SP1.) Similarly, SP1 doesn't include the improved Telnet version that has been shipping for months with the Services for UNIX (SFU) add-on kit.

I think separating upgrades from the service pack is a good idea. In the past, notably with NT 4.0 SP2, Microsoft used service packs to roll out major new features; as a result, stability deteriorated. A service pack's purpose is to fix problems, not add new features. If you want new features (e.g., the latest versions of IE, Telnet, and other applications) you'll need to install them separately from SP1.

Microsoft includes a new version of the Terminal Services Advanced Client (TSAC) in the SP1 CD-ROM's /valuadd directory. However, TSAC isn't part of the SP1 installation; if you want TSAC, you'll need to install it separately. I encourage Microsoft to provide more such options with future service packs (SFU's updated Telnet is a good candidate). But keeping options separate from service pack setup will minimize OS problems and improve stability.

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