Microsoft has released Windows 2000 Service Pack 2. It’s a cumulative package including all SP1 fixes, post-SP1 rollup patches, and several SP2-specific patches related to application compatibility, security, OS reliability, and setup of Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server. In this article, we’ll tell you how to obtain SP2, discuss some of its major fixes and benefits, and look at some of the installation options.

Obtaining the Service Pack
From the Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 Web site, you can download SP2, perform a Web-based interactive installation, or order a Service Pack 2 CD. An SP2 CD will also be provided automatically to Microsoft TechNet subscribers.

If you need to download French, German, Japanese, Spanish, or other language versions, you can simply change the Language selection box when downloading. Also, a Checked Build of SP2 is available for Windows 2000 administrators who want to see specific debugging information during testing and deployment.

Major fixes in SP2
You’ll find detailed lists of fixes included with SP2 in these four Microsoft knowledge base articles:

If you have not previously applied SP1, you may want to review SP1-associated fixes as well in these articles

Let’s break down some of the larger issues addressed in Service Pack 2 into the four areas that Microsoft uses:

  1. Application compatibility: Issues with 16-bit and Winsock applications are resolved.
  2. Security issues: All known security issues since the release of Win2K are resolved.
  3. OS reliability: Several memory leak issues are corrected with SP2, as well as other issues with management tools such as inaccurate reporting from the performance monitor and resources not being released. Also, numerous debugging, remote administration, redirection, Internet Information Services, Active Directory Services, and group policy issues are rectified.
  4.  Windows 2000 setup: Installation issues are corrected, including inability to obtain a DHCP address with an RIS boot disk, sysprep hangs, UPS issues, unattended installation issues, and misleading error messages.

SP2 offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Easier administration and deployment.
  • No more reinstalls after making configuration changes or installing new applications. (See Q274215 for more information.)
  • Resolution of all known security issues.
  • Standardized 128-bit encryption for all Win2K encryption services.
  • Updated support tools. (See Q292003 for details.)
  • Updated Sysprep.exe, which further eases the deployment process. (See Q296750 for details on the changes.) Click here for documentation of the updated tool.
  • Svcpack.log stored in the systemroot, which provides a list of all files updated by SP2—a long overdue feature for which we are very grateful.

Who needs to install SP2?
Nearly everyone with Windows 2000 systems should perform this update. It contains many fixes, including those contained within SP1, and some corrections to issues caused by SP1. However, Microsoft also recommends performing standard testing in a nonproduction environment so that you can test SP2 with your installed application base. In addition, it’s best to review the following documents prior to installation:

Install options
Always perform a full backup of your workstation or server before performing any service pack installation. In the case of this service pack, this can’t be emphasized enough, especially if you’re running Internet Explorer 6 or 56-bit encryption.

Some undocumented issues have arisen with IE6. Also, as mentioned above, SP2 forces all Win2K services to use 128-bit encryption. This can’t be rolled back to 56-bit encryption once you apply SP2, even if you uninstall SP2.

Here are some installation tips:

  • Select the installation option for the automatic backup of files and supporting uninstall information. It will consume extra disk space on the local drive, but it’s worth it. See Q268256 for disk space requirements.
  • Make certain you don’t have a previous failed install still active on your system—update.exe detects these and will pick up where the last failed install left off.
  • Note that SP1 does not always disappear from the application list when SP2 is installed.
  • Performance can be improved by disabling antivirus software during installation. In particular, Norton Antivirus will sometimes inaccurately diagnose the service pack as a virus.

Removal of SP2
You can uninstall SP2 using the Add/Remove Programs applet in Control Panel or from the command line by changing to the systemroot\$NtServicePackUninstall$\spuninst directory, then running Spuninst.exe. Read the “Uninstalling the Service Pack” section of Windows 2000 SP2 Installation and Deployment Guide for important information regarding how to safely remove the Service Pack.

Known issues
For a list of known issues as of the release of SP2 (including problems with Internet Security and Acceleration Server and BlackIce Defender), see Q289907. Also, a list of post-SP2 hotfixes are already available. Some are for very specific issues and should be installed only on systems with symptoms described in the Microsoft Q articles. If you experience a problem you can’t find covered in TechNet, you should contact Microsoft.

Overall, Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 has proven stable, with few issues even during its beta phase. It should be considered a safe update for most systems, and the enhancements it provides should ease your job as a Win2K administrator. My next article will take a more detailed look at the installation options for SP2 and the methods you can use for deploying it across your organization.

What is your approach to Windows Service Packs?

When are you planning to deploy Win2K SP2? We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.