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Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Review

In July, Microsoft will release Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1), its first comprehensive collection of bug fixes for the 32-bit versions of Professional, Server, and Advanced Server editions of this OS. Datacenter Server, which became widely available at the same time as SP1, ships with the SP1 fixes out of the box. Given the attention given to SP1, and the number of customers waiting for the first service pack, it's likely that the release of this update will initiate a new round of Windows 2000 corporate adoptions. Not that the product is performing badly: Microsoft had shipped over 3 million copies of Windows 2000 before SP1 was released.

Obtaining SP1
SP1 is available from the Microsoft Web and FTP sites, or via an SP1 CD-ROM that includes a number of additional tools, supplemental documentation, and support files. If you obtain the CD, it's worth looking through the additional information, which includes a deployment guide, release notes, and more.

Installing SP1
You can install SP1 from the Internet, a network share, or the SP1 CD-ROM. Installation of the CD-ROM version is, of course the simplest, though it's also the least interesting since you're basically relegated to an interactive installation, which is useful only for individual users. The network share installation is similar to the CD-ROM installation except that it facilitates easier distribution in a networked environment. Both the CD-ROM and network installs require you to run the update.exe executable that's found in the \i386\update\ folder of the installation point. See table one for a listing of possible command line switches.

The SP1 update.exe program includes a number of features that were most-often requested by customers. Update.exe supports Windows File Protection (WFP), a feature in Win2K that prevents applications from overwriting key system files during installation. WFP works by referencing a catalog file that contains information about the protected files; if any of the files is the not the correct version, WFP replaces it with a backup copy that's stored in a hidden folder on the hard drive. When SP1 is installed, the WFP catalog file ( is updated with all of the information for the files that were changed in SP1. This updated catalog file also contains pointers to the SP1-level system files so that subsequent application installs will trigger the correct file replacements if necessary.

SP1 update.exe also supports the new Windows 2000 driver cabinet ( file, which contains a wide array of PnP drivers. Windows Setup uses this file, which is placed in the C:\WINNT\Driver Cache\i386 folder during initial installation, to install frequently needed drivers without requiring the Win2K CD-ROM to be present (this is less of a problem on systems that were installed via a network share, of course). SP1 doesn't update the file, however. Instead, it installs an additional cabinet file called that is referenced before the original file. If a driver can't be found in, is searched next. If either location comes up empty, the original install location (CD-ROM or network share) will be accessed.

SP1 is also encryption level aware. Rather than ship different versions of the service pack for each level of encryption, SP1 ships in a single version that contains the correct files for both 40 and 128-bit encryption. Update.exe will detect the level of encryption used by the system and install the correct version of SP1.

For Windows 2000, Microsoft is also introducing a Web-based service pack installation for the first time, which is similar to the company's other Web-based install routines for IE, Office 2000 SR-1, and Windows Update. The Web install will detect which files you need to have updated and only download those that are out-of-date. For most Windows 2000 users, however, this is going to result in a download that exceeds 60 MB, so it's of most interest to broadband users. The Web install option requires you to use Internet Explorer.

Slipstreaming SP1
Perhaps the most welcome feature in SP1 is its ability to slipstream into an existing Windows 2000 installation share. This means that you can integrate the SP1 files into a Windows 2000 install share and have subsequent installations of the OS automatically include the SP1 code, without the need for a separate installation of SP1. This method of installation is currently only support on clean installs of Win2k, however: so you can't use this modified install share to upgrade existing Win2K machines.

Slipstreaming supports any type of Windows 2000 install, so its possible to later manually install the OS from the modified installation share or perform an unattended installation if desired. Since SP1 simply updates files and doesn't add any new features, applying the patch to an install share doesn't change any of the default installation features or options.

You can also apply hot fixes to a Windows 2000 install share if desired. Hot fixes are packaged as auto-extracting files that include a file called hotfix.exe that runs the install. Hotfix.exe is smart enough to know not to install if the files on the system are newer than those in the hot fix. Like update.exe, hotfix.exe takes a number of command line parameters. See table 2 for details.

Hot fixes can be installed with SP1 onto a pre-existing Windows 2000 machine or slipstreamed with SP1 into a Win2K network install share. See the SP1 deployment guide, included with SP1, for details.

Using SMS to install SP1
For organization that have standardized on System Management Server (SMS), SP1 can be installed using SMS as well. SMS can advertise the availability of SP1 to SMS clients on a network and install SP1 on SMS clients using a standard SMS package. Clients that recognize the SP1 package can install the product automatically and restart the system, so that the user sees a logon prompt when they return.

Uninstalling SP1
Unless you specify a command line option that doesn't backup the original system files during the installation of SP1, you can later uninstall SP1 if desired and return your system to its previous state. The SP1 installation creates a folder named $ntservicepackuninstall$ in the Windows folder (typically C:\winnt) that contains compressed backup versions of the original files. To uninstall SP1, simply navigate to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel and choose Windows 2000 SP1. You can also uninstall the service pack from a command line: From the command prompt window, navigate to C:\winnt\\$ntservicepackuninstall$\spuninst\ (or similar) and type spuninst.exe.

If you've experienced bizarre results with Windows NT 4.0 services pack, rejoice: the Win2K SP1 uninstall routine will return your system to its previous state and not leave it in an inconsistent, unknown state.

What you get with Windows 2000 SP1
Though reports of 63,000 bugs in Windows 2000 was greatly exaggerated and misrepresented in the press, it's true that Microsoft was able to fix a number of issues in SP1. SP1 focuses on the following key areas:

  • Reliability - SP1 includes fixes for data loss and corruption problems, access violations, and memory loss issues.
  • Setup - SP1 includes fixes for problems that cause Win2K Setup to fail or not restart, a common customer complaint.
  • OS functionality - Updates to existing features and functions that have been requested by customers. This seems to skirt along the edge of the "no new features" mantra that Microsoft has promised in service packs. For example, all of the Internet Explorer components (except for IE itself, oddly) are updated to IE 5.5 levels. This includes Outlook Express and the Internet Connection Wizard.
  • Application and hardware compatibility - Updates and new drivers for products that have been requested by customers. Since the release of Windows 2000, the company has issued a number of compatibility hot fixes, many for consumer-oriented products, that have been incorporated into SP1.
  • Year 2000 (Y2K) - SP1 includes the latest Y2K updates.
  • Security - SP1 includes the latest updates for known security issues; which are often addressed as they happen in hot fixes.

Tools on the SP1 CD-ROM
In addition to the bug fixes in the 63 MB SP1 installation,, the SP1 CD-ROM contains a number of other useful updates, fixes, and products as well as supplemental documentation and support files. Notable examples include the Microsoft Terminal Services Advanced Client (TSAC), the Active Directory Connector,

TSAC is an update to the Terminal Services (TS) feature that shipped in Win2K Server. TSAC consists of a Terminal Services ActiveX client control, a Terminal Services administrative console, and a Microsoft Installer (MSI) installation package for the full Terminal Services client that ships in Win2K. The TS ActiveX control allows users to access Terminal Services using any ActiveX-enabled Web browser (read: Internet Explorer), making it easier to provide this functionality over the Web. TSAC also includes some sample Web pages to demonstrate typical use for this product and documentation. TSAC, which supports Windows 9x and NT 4 systems a well, is also available as a separate download from the Microsoft Web site.

As part of the TSAC installation, Terminal Services Connections provides an MMC-based console for administering multiple remote sessions. TS Connections monitors and controls both classic TS and TSAC connections. For easier installation of Terminal Services on Windows 2000, the SP1 CD includes The TSAC MSI-based setup package, a TS deployment tool for any version of Windows 2000, including Windows 2000 Professional. Because of its Windows Installer technology, the TSAC MSI can be placed into an install share and advertised with the IntelliMirror features in Win2K.The next version of Windows 2000--code-named "Whistler"--will include these new TS "remote desktop" features out of the box, even in the Professional Edition. The new MSI package includes an updated version of the Terminal Services Client (mstsc.exe) that shipped in Win2K that adds support for the ActiveX client control and some new command-line parameters.

The Active Directory Connector provides a way for network administrators to synchronize Exchange Server 5.5 mailboxes, custom receipts, and distribution lists with users, contacts, and groups in the Windows 2000 Active Directory. Replication is optionally bi-directional. This tool is basically a stopgap measure for those enterprises that haven't yet installed the AD-enabled Exchange Server 2000 product.

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