December Books Online: Refreshed? Or not...

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the December 2005 SQL Server 2005 Books Online (BOL) refresh, emphatically recommending that you upgrade ASAP and check out the large amount of new information it contains. I also commented on the great job the SQL Server User Education team (which brings us BOL) did in including new tags to ensure that it's easy and practical to quickly find information that's been modified or is brand new. But then a weird thing happened: I started getting emails from readers saying, "Sounds great, but where the heck is the info?" Multiple readers confirmed that they had downloaded the latest and greatest version, but that the new version seemed to be exactly the same as the old version. Weird.

I checked a new machine that I had just built and saw the problem. Digging a bit more, I saw that the digital signature timestamp on the "new" version had the same value as the RTM version of BOL. Hmmm. The mystery deepened.

Now to be honest, it would be a bit embarrassing for a SQL Server expert and columnist (me) to not even be able to figure out how to upgrade BOL, so I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to ask too many people at Microsoft. I eventually convinced myself that I was in fact smart enough to install BOL and that it simply wasn't working. Here's what seems to have happened. The December version of BOL had the same file name as the original RTM version of BOL, which led to a problem in which some of the ISPs responsible for managing Microsoft downloads were caching the wrong file. This mistake created an "eenie-meenie-miney-moe" situation in which most folks were getting the correct version but a small percentage of people were getting the incorrect version.

Checking the title bar of the BOL menu is the easiest way to confirm whether you have the new version or the old; the new version clearly says "December 2005" in parentheses. If your title bar doesn't say December, you have the original version.

Another way to determine which version you have is to simply look for some of the missing content. For example, the December BOL has "New and Updated Books Online Topics" as the first topic under the "What's New in SQL Server" heading. Don't have that topic? Well then, you don't have the latest version.

The MSDN online version of BOL is the updated version. Microsoft has fixed the download anomaly, so you can reliably download the correct version from If you think you downloaded the December refresh, you might want to check to make sure that you have the "real" new version. It's possible that you downloaded the new version and installed it properly, but ended up with the original RTM verbage.

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