Best Practice Ezine #34 XP SP2
What do you make of service packs in general and XP in particular?
My old mate Mad Mick’s view is that service packs are like wine vintages, some years are a good, whilst others are atrocious. Mick even goes on to say that the odd numbered service packs are always sweet and smooth, whilst the even numbers are bitter. Again, I have to take issue with Mick and say that for XP, SP2 is a good vintage.
When to apply SP2?
One network administrator that I know, name of Eddie, never applies the latest service pack. Eddie’s philosophy is this, always stay one version behind just in case something dramatic happens with the latest version. Now I don’t agree with Eddie, but I do respect his abilities as a network guru. Perhaps a compromise would be to always test a new service pack before you deploy it on the boss’s machine.
Update: It is now at least 2 years since Microsoft released XP’s SP2. Therefore, surely it is time to apply this service pack? Particularly, as in April 2007, there is still no sign of SP3.
Requirements for SP2
Service packs vary in their requirements, most including SP2, can be applied directly to any XP machine. My point is that there is no need to install XP SP1 first. Do you believe that XP works on a home machine? The answer is yes, no problem, no special version of XP’s service pack.
Another question, does for XP work on Windows Server 2003. Answer: you must be joking, there has to be a limit! (However, there is an SP1 for Exchange 2003)
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Once, at a conference, I heard a claim from a Microsoft spokesman that they would never again use service packs as a vehicle to try new features. Personally, I can see nothing wrong with adding new bits, providing they work properly. Indeed there are new features with XP like a proper firewall to replace the ICF (Internet Connection Firewall).
One important change with the XP firewall is that is now ON by default. Other points are that the firewall applies to all network cards and it will even work with IPv6 (when ever that takes off). Needless to say, Microsoft no longer claims to use service packs just to fix existing problems. Indeed, new technology to give better support for Wireless networks is another case in point.
Slipstreaming with dllcache
Service pack slipstreaming. I first saw this characteristic in Windows 2000, the idea is that once you applied a service pack, you no longer needed to reapply the service pack every time you configure ‘Add or remove programs’ and installed another feature. What happens is that all the new service pack files are stored in the dllcache folder, so that Install looks for its files there before calling for the original CD. Mad Mick slims down the dllcache removing files he says he will never deploy.
Once you have installed
Check out the new Security Center in the Control Panel.
Old Security Update $NTUninstall.. files
What about all those old security update $NTUninstall files that are cluttering up your C:\windows\ folder? My advice is delete them and claw back some free disk space. The official advice is keep the files in case you wish to roll back the service pack.
Let us consider the extreme circumstance, where you have not enough free space to install the service pack, you could consider backing up then deleting these $ files to make space for SP2. Whilst ‘Gungho’ Guy would delete these files BEFORE applying SP2, the official line would be don’t do it. My argument is that worst case scenario, you would just reapply all those security updates, it’s not as though you are losing data.
On one job, it helped me to reset the Temp Environmental Variable from the C:\temp to D:\temp just to get a service pack applied. You find the Temp and Tmp variables in the System Icon, Advanced Tab.
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See more information about Microsoft Windows service packs