Dealing with Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 problems

Sometimes service packs create more problems than they fix. If you're having problems with Service Pack 2 on your Windows 2000 server, John Sheesley shows you what to do to make it work.

As I pointed out in the Daily Feature “Updating your Windows 2000 server with Service Pack 2,” no software ships 100 percent bug-free. Unfortunately, the same thing applies to bug fixes. As a matter of fact, sometimes patches and service packs cause more problems than they fix. In this Daily Feature, I’ll discuss some of the problems with Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows 2000 and show you how to back out atroublesome service pack.

Nobody’s perfect
In a perfect world, software patches would work perfectly. Unfortunately, Microsoft couldn’t hope to duplicate the millions of hardware and software combinations in existence when they created SP2. Therefore, it’s almost inevitable that fixing one problem may cause other problems.

Microsoft doesn’t provide a formal list of unresolved issues problems with SP2. However, a quick look at UseNet using Google’s Groups Search (formerly revealed lots of messages left by people who’ve had problems with Service Pack 2. An advanced search on Google’s site using the keywords problems, Windows 2000, and SP2 returned over 3,200 results. Now that doesn’t mean that all 3,200 were exact problems with SP2, but it seems to show that many people are having problems after installing SP2. Some of the key problems listed include:
  • Spontaneous reboots on servers running Citrix MetaFrame 1.8.
  • Dr. Watson errors with the ScktSrvr service on Delphi 5 Enterprise Server.
  • Unhandled Exceptions in Session Manager System Process when running Norton AntiVirus 2001.
  • PPTP errors randomly occurring when doing server-to-server VPN.
  • Explorer and spooler errors causing servers not to boot.

As you can see, most of the problems come when you start using your Windows 2000 server to do more than file and print. So if you’re having problems, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The main issue you’ll face is how to undo the damage that SP2 caused.

How do I get rid of this thing?
First things first—when installing SP2, if you deselected the check box from the Backup Files field before starting the SP2 installation, you’re out of luck. The only way you can get rid of SP2 is to either restore from a pre-SP2 backup or completely reinstall Windows 2000 from scratch. If you selected the Backup Files field, you’re in luck. You can safely back out SP2.

When you select the Backup Files check box, SP2’s installation program creates a backup directory named $NtServicepackUninstall$ in your Systemroot folder (normally C:\WINNT). This is where SP2 copies all of the files that it is going to replace. If you delete this directory from your server, even though you’ve selected the Backup Files check box at installation, you won’t be able to uninstall the service pack.

Check your server to see if this directory still exists. It’s a hidden file, so you will have to configure Explorer to reveal hidden files. If it exists, you can breathe easy. If not, you’re out of luck. You can try to copy a $NtServicepackUninstall$ directory from another server, but because each server has a different configuration with the services and devices installed, the files copied to this directory will vary from server to server, as well. Files you need to properly restore your server probably don’t exist.

To back out SP2, you have two choices: You can back out SP2 using Add/Remove Programs or by using SP2’s own uninstallation program. To use Add/Remove Programs, just click Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs. Look through the list until you see Windows 2000 Service Pack 2. Select it and then click Change/Remove.

To use SP2’s uninstallation program, open a command prompt and change directories to the %systemroot%\$NtServicePackUninstall$\spuninst\ directory. Run the uninstallation program by typing spuninst and pressing [Enter].

Both uninstallation programs run the same way. They delete the current SP2 files and then copy the older files from the $NtServicepackUninstall$ back where they belong. After it’s done, simply restart your server.

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