Microsoft Plays SP6 Hot Potato

Less than a week after the surprising release of Service Pack (SP) 6a for Windows NT, Microsoft Corp. ( created additional confusion when it confirmed that the service pack file originally identified as SP6a on its download site was actually the original SP6 release.

Because of problems surrounding the release of SP6 in late October, Microsoft early last week yanked the original SP6 download and replaced it with an updated file, identified on its Web site as SP6a.

Russ Cooper, president of RC Consulting and moderator of the Windows NT Bugtraq Mailing List, confirmed the SP6 high-jinks in a letter dispatched to his NT Bugtraq listserve subscribers on Monday, November 30.

“Last week I told you that SP6a was available,” Cooper wrote. “Now I'm told by Microsoft that SP6a has not yet been released, despite what the web pages say. This has also been confirmed independently.”

According to Cooper, the actual SP6a has now been distributed to Microsoft download sites across the Web. Cooper was at a loss to explain the confusion on Microsoft’s part.

“I'm honestly as confused as the rest of you,” he wrote.

As if to add to the confusion, Microsoft released on Tuesday a single hotfix – Q246009i.EXE -- which updates existing SP6 installations to SP6a.

Because of the potential for confusion – many IT managers have already installed what they thought was SP6a, oftentimes after backing out of an original SP6 installation – Microsoft acknowledged that administrators who want to determine whether or not a machine is updated with SP6 or SP6a can find out by checking a particular registry.

Microsoft confirms that this registry key is populated either when SP6a or the Q246009.EXE hotfix are installed. A Web site providing an SP6 FAQ is available at

At least one IT professional expresses concern over Microsoft’s track record in the area of service pack releases.

“This definitely isn’t going to give us any further confidence about Windows NT service packs,” acknowledges Edward Ko, a network support specialist with the Pennsylvania State University’s ( office of business services. “First you had the bomb with SP2, and Microsoft’s overall track record with service pack releases just hasn’t been impressive, so we’re still sticking with SP4, and only because that’s Microsoft’s officially supported Y2K release.”

The Q246009 hotfix (to take an SP6 machine to SP6a) can be downloaded at Swoyer

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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