PATCH PANEL

A lightweight service pack speaks well for Win 2000's stability and usefulness

By John McCormick

For the wise systems administrators who wait for the first service pack or upgrade before adopting a new operating system, I have good news and better news about Microsoft Windows 2000.

The Win 2000 Service Pack 1 shipped in July, so you can now take the new OS seriously. The better news is that Service Pack 1 is a large collection of relatively minor upgrades and fixes. In fact, you might not need it at all. This indicates either that Microsoft is kidding itself, or, more likely, that after all the hype, Win 2000 is a stable, well-written and relatively bug-free environment.

Although I expect some significant bugs to show up in the future because they always do, I think it's the latter. Windows is now a stable platform, suitable for office use; it really wasn't before.


Windows is now a stable platform, suitable for office use; it really wasn't before.


The 63M Service Pack 1 download applies to 32-bit versions of Win 2000 Pro, Server and Advanced Server, but to no other version of Windows, and it is not a required upgrade. The fixes are included in the recently released Win 2000 Datacenter Server.

To determine whether you need Service Pack 1, see an extensive list of the bugs it fixes at support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q259/5/24.asp. This is the first place you should look.

The most important fix is the one for Win 2000 setup and installation problems. Other fixes are lingering year 2000 alterations; reliability upgrades, including data loss and corruption problems, access violations and memory loss bugs; a summary of hot fixes for known security problems; and many updates and new hardware drivers.

For the download, go to www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/recommended/sp1/default.asp.

Deciding to make this upgrade depends on more than whether it contains the fixes you need. It also depends on how much you trust Microsoft.

If you are one of the unlucky many who blindly followed Microsoft down the service pack path before, you don't need reminding, but some readers may not realize just how iffy many past Microsoft upgrades have been. A few highlights, or lowlights as the case may be:

Service Pack 2 for NT 4.0 introduced 140-plus known bugs.

Service Pack 6 for the same OS made it essentially incompatible with Lotus Notes and added more bugs.

Just last March, Service Release 1 for Microsoft Office 2000 continued a series that started with the bad Service Release 1 upgrade for Office 97.

Although Win 2000 appears stable and reliable, a savvy sysadmin will treat any Microsoft service pack with as much caution as any major OS upgrade. If you run Win 2000 now and are content with it, stay with it. But unless you have a really compelling reason to upgrade, hold off on Service Pack 1 until some brave soul takes the chance and sees if any bugs turn up.

Besides buying the CD-ROM or downloading the upgrade, there is a third option'upgrading directly from the Microsoft Web site.

This is a welcome capability, but only if you don't mind Microsoft poking around on your hard drive.

And if you are responsible for an officeful of installations, you will love the new Slipstream installation option.

Slipstream lets you integrate Service Pack 1 with a new Win 2000 installation, and all subsequent installations will include the Service Pack 1 code changes.

Slipstream supports only new Win 2000 installs, so if you've completed your office upgrade it won't work. But if you're just starting the upgrade, it can save time and work.

If you have the System Management Server, Service Pack 1 can use it to automate upgrades.

Win 2000 is the best first release of any Microsoft OS to date.

John McCormick, a computer consultant and free-lance writer, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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