Microsoft

Tick, tick, tick...

Do you feel like you're defusing a bomb every time you install a Windows NT service pack? Ed Bott managed to avoid any fireworks when he installed Win2K SP1, but he's still wary—and some TechRepublic members are, too. Here's what they had to say.


In the original Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson has a memorable scene in which he struggles over a ticking time bomb, trying to defuse it. As sweat pours down his forehead, he delivers one of the all-time great movie clichés: "Cut the blue wire... No, the red!" I remember that scene every time I install a Windows NT 4.0 service pack. I don't know about you, but I hold my breath and chant to the backup gods as I run Setup, praying that nothing blows up when I restart.

You'd think that after the first few service packs, Microsoft would get it right, that each subsequent release would be smaller and less likely to cause problems. But that wasn't the case with the notorious Service Pack 6 for NT4, which contained a whopper of a networking bug and had to be yanked for Service Pack 6a within weeks of its release.

Given Microsoft's spotty track record with Windows upgrades and service packs, I approached Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 with the same feeling of dread. Fortunately, SP1 was A-OK on my entire network, with only a minor hiccup or two to deal with. When I asked you to share your SP1 experiences last month, I found that your experiences mirrored mine.

TechRepublic member Tedbovis gave the most glowing review: "I am currently part of a large Win2000 project, and we found that we really could NOT progress without installing SP1. There wasn't anything in particular that was documented and causing us problems, but there are so many DLLs that are updated, and we needed to get our developers working on the newer versions without delay. We have had no BSODs [Blue Screens of Death] and no problems with the installs across probably 50 server installs (various custom builds) and no problems on any workstations (also custom builds)—that's probably 100-200 machines without a problem!"

Charles_palfi had a similar review, albeit on a smaller scale: "Since Microsoft has eliminated the 'fluff' from the Service Packs for Windows 2000, I feel it is worthwhile for everyone. We are currently in the process of slowly integrating Windows 2000 into our NT LAN. There have been absolutely no problems after the install of SP1, with both laptop and desktop machines. It has also helped with some issues regarding Office 97 performance."

At FedEx.com, however, TechRepublic member raterry was absolutely, positively unimpressed with SP1: "On new installs, this worked OK for us. On machines upgraded from NT-to-W2K-to-W2K SP1 (two HP-KAYAK XM's dual proc 450s and a DELL PowerEdge 1300 dual proc 733s), we got the BSOD, with a kernel error that was not recoverable with emergency repair. All that was left was to whack it and start from scratch. Then it worked fine. Prior to upgrade, the system passed all the hardware compatibility tests."

The consensus from other TechRepublic members? Read the release notes to see if there's a fix for a problem you're experiencing or a known problem with an app you use. One positive review, from OriDjinn, praised SP1 for fixing two serious bugs in the original release. "It was a nightmare trying to work with the original release of Windows 2000 without the Service Pack, and I just have to say that I am much more relieved now that I have it." Overall, though, don't expect SP1 to fix small problems and annoyances. I read several complaints of bugs and compatibility problems that weren't stomped out by the service pack.

Most said the improvements were barely noticeable, but matuarnold pointed out one major improvement: "I've upgraded two separate LANs, and the BEST thing, bar none, about SP1 is the Terminal Services Advanced Client. Download Tswebsetup.exe from Microsoft's site. Run the install, open up ISM, select default Web site/properties, home directory path, browse, and select TSweb. Restart the Web site. No more handing out client disks. IE5 becomes your Terminal Service Client. It's incredible."

SP1 may have worked for me, but given the number of distressing failure reports I read, I'm not ready to give Microsoft an unqualified thumbs-up just yet. When Service Pack 2 appears, I'll treat it with the respect that any potentially explosive device deserves!

As always, a big round of thanks and a healthy heaping of TechPoints to everyone whose answers made it into this week's column.

Here's Ed's new Challenge
I'm about to upgrade a couple of client machines, but I'm stuck on the storage line item. Should I insist on UDMA-66 or UDMA-100 drives and controllers? Will they work flawlessly with Windows 2000, or will I have driver and installation headaches? Can I expect a noticeable performance improvement? If you’ve got hands-on experience with this hardware, click here to tackle this week's Microsoft Challenge.

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