Service Pack 4 for NT fixes a swarm of bugs


Service Pack 4 for Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 is a cornucopia of patches and fixes, plus
enhancements from the Windows NT Resource Kit and Windows NT Enterprise Edition.

NT users can download the 76M pack for free or buy it on CD-ROM. As with installing any
Microsoft service pack, proceed with caution. Many sites running NT had systems failures
from Service Pack 2, so don’t neglect the obvious first step: Back up your systems.

Other software vendors’ bug fixes usually give you the option of not installing
everything because applying fixes to nonexistent problems can cause new ones. With a
Microsoft service pack, it’s all or nothing because subsequent company products
require that it be present for them to work.

If things go wrong, and they will for some users, take advantage of the ability to roll
back Service Pack 4’s installation. The GCN Lab has done this successfully on many
machines. Before committing to wide deployment of Service Pack 4, test it on all your
systems configurations.

First and foremost, the service pack bundles year 2000 fixes for Microsoft Data Access
Components 2, Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Site Server Express 3.0. There also are font
updates for the new European Union currency, the Euro.

The pack’s meat-and-potatoes fixes fall into six categories: security, management,
availability, networking, application support and multimedia.

Some say NT 4.0 security is weak. To make security policy-setting easier for
administrators, the service pack has the Microsoft Security Configuration Manager.

The service pack also has enhancements for security protocols, updates for secure
communication between computers and NT domain controllers, and better security for the
Event Log.

Windows Management Instrumentation builds a central store of information about a
system’s hardware and software, forming the basis for Microsoft’s Web-based
Enterprise Management initiative. As a superset of the open-standard Desktop Management
Interface and Common Information Model, Windows Management Instrumentation attempts to
leverage open management in the Windows environment.

In theory, Service Pack 4 ought to be a boon to administrators who want to limit the
size of user profiles.

In practice, significant problems can arise because users cannot log off until they
reduce their profiles, even if they have no idea how to do it.

Also in the management category, Microsoft has added three new monitored events to the
Event Log: clean shutdown, dirty shutdown and system version event.

Uptime has been a big concern. Service Pack 4’s availability tools, mostly from
the Windows NT Resource Kit, include Kernel Debugger Extensions, memory pool analysis
tools, and other diagnostic and troubleshooting items.

Also in the service pack is a new version of Windows Telephony Services, the Microsoft
Routing and Remote Access Service, performance enhancements for the Point-to-Point
Tunneling Protocol, improvements for Distributed Component Object Model-Hypertext Transfer
Protocol tunneling, the Windows Internet Naming Service and Dynamic Host Configuration
Protocol services.

The service pack changes how NT handles Domain Name System port calls to improve
performance with proxy servers and firewalls. And the pack supports the Internet Group
Management Protocol 2 to assist with packet multicasting through a router.

There are new application development tools for COM and for Microsoft Visual Basic and
Visual Studio. A separate download for Service Pack 4 brings in Microsoft NetShow Services
and the Microsoft Windows Media Player, also available on CD-ROM.

This service pack will benefit many NT users. But it would have been better if
Microsoft let users pick and choose among fixes.


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