Microsoft releases Windows 2000 Service Pack Beta

UPDATE: I've received word that the version of SP1 on MSDN is the full CD version; that's why it's so large. The publicly downloadable version should be about 63 MB in size when it's released next month. --Paul

Thanks to Chris Walker for the tip: Microsoft Corporation has quietly posted a beta version of Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) to its MSDN Subscriber Downloads Web site, which is available only to Universal and Professional MSDN members. The service pack, which weighs in at a hefty 190 MB, is far bigger than previously anticipated: During the Windows 2000 beta, Microsoft said that Windows 2000 service packs would be small collections of bug fixes and would contain no new features.

According to the release notes, Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 is a collection of current fixes and updates to Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server. The fixes and updates focus on the following key areas:

  • Operating system reliability, including fixes for data loss and corruption problems, access violations, and memory loss issues.

  • Windows 2000 Setup, including fixes for conditions that cause Setup to fail or not restart.

  • Operating system functionality, including updates to existing operating system features and functions that have demonstrated customer impact.

  • Application and hardware compatibility, including updates for compatible products that have demonstrated customer impact.

  • Year 2000 or politically sensitive content, including the latest updates for Year 2000 support.

  • Security, including the latest updates for known Windows 2000 security issues.
Additionally, Windows 2000 SP1 incorporates a new update.exe installation program that supports the following new features:
  • Windows Files Protection (WFP) support -- When you install the service pack, the update.exe program installs a new catalog file that contains the updated information for all the protected system files that have changed since Windows 2000 was released. The program updates the location of the installation media to point to the Service Pack media for these files. Then, when the service pack updates the protected files, if the old version of those files resides in the .dll cache, WFP replaces the cache with the new versions of the files.

  • Support for updating the driver cabinet (.CAB) file -- Windows 2000 includes a new driver .CAB file, which contains all the files installed by Plug and Play (PnP)-class installers. Setup and other components in the system use this file to install the drivers for new devices (such as a PCMCIA or USB device) without requiring access to the Windows 2000 CD or the network. The update.exe program installs an additional driver .CAB that contains only updated versions of drivers that exist in the original Windows 2000 driver .CAB file. The update.exe program also installs a new driver index file that points to the service pack driver .CAB file for all of the updated drivers and to the original Windows 2000 driver .CAB file for all of the remaining drivers.

  • Automatic service update -- The update.exe program enables the system to interface directly with service pack updates, preventing the problem in previous Service Packs, where no method was available to dynamically update the system. When the system state changed in NT 4.0 (for example, if you added a service or removed a protocol), the service pack did not reflect those changes. Therefore, in order to keep the system updated, you needed to re-apply the service pack after every system state change. Now, the operating system is aware of the Service Pack installation, the current state of the system, and the updated files. So when Setup installs a new service, it obtains the correct set of files from both the Windows 2000 and the service pack installation media and you no longer need to re-apply the service pack after every system state change.

  • Slipstream installation support -- The update.exe program supports a new installation method called the slipstream installation that integrates ("slipstreams") the service pack into the Windows 2000 installation. So you no longer need to perform separate installations of the operating system and the service pack.

  • Logging -- The update.exe program creates a log that lists every change that occurred during the installation: It tracks file changes, Registry changes, encryption file and other security changes, backup file locations, and any failures that occurred during the installation.

  • Improved uninstall support -- The Service Pack uninstall feature, which adds a Windows 2000 SP1 entry in Add/Remove Programs, completely restores the system to its previous state. In Windows NT 4.0, the installation and uninstallation of service packs sometimes resulted in an unstable operating system.

  • Compressed data backup -- After the Update.exe program completes the file installation and Registry updates and all of the Service Pack backup data is present, the program compresses the backup data into a .cab file to reduce disk space consumption. This way a backup of the pre-SP1 state won't take up too much disk space.

  • Consolidated 40-bit and 128-bit encryption -- By utilizing the encrypted installer, a single service pack can contain both 40﷓bit and 128﷓bit encryption files. When you install the service pack, Setup determines the encryption level—either 40-bit or 128-bit encryption—of your current operating system and automatically installs the service pack with the same encryption level. If no encryption files exist on the computer, Setup installs the 40-bit encryption files. NT 4.0 service packs had to ship in both formats separately.

  • Network fault tolerance -- If you lose your network connection during the service pack installation, when you resume the installation, Setup can always locate the update.exe program. In NT 4.0, service pack installations failed when the system could not locate the update.exe program.
Windows 2000 SP1 is a massive release that's going to require some examination, though I was able to discover a few new items in the short time it's been available (such as a new "Terminal Services Advanced Client" that features a Web-embeddable ActiveX version). I'll begin preparing a technology showcase of this release and its slipstreaming feature over the weekend. Stay tuned to the SuperSite for Windows for more information on this much-anticipated release
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