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W2K SP1 is Here

Windows 2000’s unofficial underwriter arrived today in the form of Service Pack 1, a key component that many IT professionals have been awaiting before committing to upgrade to the new operating system.

The service pack appeared to lack fixes for any as-yet-unpublicized showstopper bugs, content to be large and fashionably late, like the operating system it bolsters. Issues arose with SP1 breaking two personal firewall products, but no enterprise-class applications were immediately affected by the service pack. Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) classifies SP1 as a recommended update.

Arriving slightly less than six months after the Feb. 17 release of Windows 2000, SP1 is an 83 MB download, also available on CD, that fixes some 261 documented problems. SP1 was rumored for a June release.

“We’ve categorized the fixes in four key areas: base operating system reliability, application and hardware compatibility, setup, and security fixes,” said Mark Perry, Microsoft's director of marketing for Windows 2000 Server.

The reliability category builds on Microsoft’s work with Windows 2000 generally to present a much more stable operating environment than Windows NT provided. In SP1, Microsoft addressed at least 15 performance problems, including slow DirectX performance and slow displays of Windows NT 4.0-based domain users and groups on Windows 2000-based computers. The service pack also plugs about a half dozen memory leaks through the DNS Service, WINS Export List, Lsass.exe, IIS 5.0, and other sources.

There are 24 security fixes in the service pack. “There’s one specifically that we’ve heard from customers, and that has to do with the encryption pack,” Perry said. As it originally shipped, the High Encryption Pack does not protect Windows 2000 private keys.

Another complaint from end users fixed in SP1 has been a faulty error message that appears when uninstalling then reinstalling signed drivers from third parties, Perry said. Although the operating system installs the correct driver, an error message would tell the user that the driver was unsigned.

While some observers recommend Windows 2000, once known as Windows NT 5.0, should be approached with the caution one would apply to any 1.0 release of a Microsoft product, the Active Directory portion of Windows 2000 actually is a 1.0 release. SP1 makes 28 fixes to Directory Services, including problems getting DNS Dynamic Updates to work, crashes and replication failures with the Global Catalog, and problems with user settings.

Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC (www.idc.com) specializing in server operating environments, says SP1 is one of three key events users have been watching for on Windows 2000.

“The real significance of SP1 is that it’s one of the milestones that users are waiting for before they start deploying Windows 2000 in critical applications,” Gillen said. The other major factors IDC found in recent user surveys are that Windows 2000 run for a few months without any major problems and that the OS receive positive reviews in the trade press.

“As much as anything else, it’s a reassurance for people to know that the problems that have been found have been fixed,” Gillen said.

Microsoft’s Perry contends the adoption rate that has seen 3 million copies of Windows 2000, primarily Windows 2000 Professional, sell since February is strong and won’t necessarily get a big boost from Windows 2000.

“Of course there are organizations that are a little more conservative. We haven’t seen as much of that with Windows 2000 as with previous releases. I do believe that it may improve the adoption rate some, but I think more so it will really increase the confidence level of our existing customers.”

SP1 applies to Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server. The higher end Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is not out yet, and it will have a separate process for distributing fixes to customers. Terminal Server, meanwhile, was rolled into Windows 2000 Server, and therefore no longer enjoys its own distinct service pack. Four of the fixes in the SP1 documentation specifically address Terminal Services issues.

The first Windows 2000 service pack is immediately available for all language versions of Windows 2000.Isaac Slepner and Scott Bekker.

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More Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 news:

Should IT Trust SP1? Microsoft’s QA Process on the W2K Patch

Even before Microsoft Corp. announced Service Pack 1 for Windows 2000, pre-launch users discovered two broken personal firewall applications that slipped through the quality assurance process. A Microsoft official says the quality assurance program for this service pack on Windows 2000 exceeded the programs on Windows NT and other Microsoft application service releases and service packs. (More)

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Fixes vs. Features:

Microsoft Still Determining How to Handle OS Updates in Short Run

Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 follows in the fixes-only tradition started with Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 5. Microsoft officials are still wrestling with the issue of how to wedge new features into the operating system. (More)

About the Author

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

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