No software ships completely free of problems. Even though Windows 2000 is more stable than Windows NT 4.0 ever was, there are still little bugs waiting to bite you. Because of the inherent instability of new software, many network administrators like to wait for a few Service Packs to ship before deploying a new network operating system.

For those admins, the wait is over. Microsoft recently released Service Pack 3 for Windows 2000. In this Daily Feature, I’ll look at some of the server-centric issues that Service Pack 3 addresses. I’ll also show you how to obtain and install Service Pack 3.

Why do I need Service Pack 3?
Although Windows 2000 is good, few would argue that there isn’t room for improvement. Service Packs 1 and 2 addressed some of the problems with Windows 2000, but they didn’t fix all of them. Service Pack 3 squashes approximately 1,500 more bugs in all versions of Windows 2000.

Although some of Service Pack 3’s fixes address problems on client machines running Windows 2000 Professional, many of the patches also address problems with Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server. Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server share a common code base, so you receive all those fixes whether you need them or not. However, the service pack’s installation program will check which version of Windows 2000 you’re running and only install the files that need to be updated.

Service Pack 3 includes all the fixes in Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2. Some of the server-centric fixes included in Service Pack 3 address problems such as:

  • Servers operating near capacity may produce a Stop 0x0000000A Blue Screen.
  • Terminal Services can hang when a user with multiple keyboard layouts logs off.
  • Services for Macintosh may generate a Blue Screen of Death.
  • Access violation in SERVICES.EXE may occur with Gateway Services for NetWare.
  • Active Directory Users And Computers MMC sometimes shows that a user account is locked when it’s not.
  • Memory leak in DFS.SYS with DFS Root Servers.
  • Memory leak when you search for Group Policy Object links.
  • Memory leak in the NNTP Service.
  • Unchecked Buffer vulnerability in the SNMP Service.

Service Pack 3 also adds support for ATA 100 (Mode 5). Fixes carried over from Service Packs 1 and 2 address problems such as:

  • If your server had a small SCSI disk, it may have appeared to have zero cylinders in Windows 2000 before Service Pack 3.
  • You previously couldn’t convert FAT32 to NTFS on IDE drives larger than 20 GB.
  • Ntbackup.exe truncating Active Directory logs during a system-state backup.
  • An issue prevented error messages when backing up the offline information store on Exchange 2000.
  • Allowing Ntbackup to connect to a new Exchange 2000 remote store client.
  • RPC error messages returned for Active Directory replication when servers were not in time synchronization.
  • DNS was unable to clear the cache on a DNS server.

For a complete listing of all of the patches and fixes included, go to Microsoft’s List of Bugs Fixed in Windows 2000 Service Pack 3. This page doesn’t list all of the bug fixes by itself—it includes a list of links to bug fixes in all the Windows 2000 Service Packs.

Obtain and install Service Pack 3
You can obtain Service Pack 3 on CD-ROM or by downloading it. You can order a CD-ROM copy directly from Microsoft for $14.95 plus shipping and handling. Both French- and English-language versions are available. You’ll also get a copy of the Service Pack on CD-ROM if you have a subscription to Microsoft’s TechNet.

If you can’t wait for the CD-ROM version, you can download the service pack from the Internet. Again, you have several choices. First, if your server’s connected to the Internet, you can obtain Service Pack 3 by clicking Start | Windows Update on your Windows server. It will then contact the Microsoft Windows Update Web site where you can directly download and apply the Service Pack in one fell swoop.

If your server isn’t connected to the Internet, you can download the service pack in executable form to any workstation on your network. Just open a browser window on your workstation and go to Microsoft’s Service Pack 3 Web site. Select the language you want and click Go. Notice that you can download languages that don’t ship on the CD-ROM, including German.

After you click Go, you can download the file you want. The Web site allows you to choose either the Express Installation or the Network Installation. You’ll want to download the Network Installation for two reasons. First, it gives you more flexibility when applying Service Pack 3 on other servers and Windows 2000 Professional workstations on your network. Second, the Express Installation will try to contact the Internet when you run it, so it won’t help you if your server doesn’t have a direct Internet connection.

Make sure you have plenty of time or a very fast Internet connection when you download the Network Installation of Service Pack 3. The file, W2KSP3.exe, is 130,978,672 bytes long and will take more than seven hours on a regular 56K dial-up line.

After you download the file, you can install it on your server. It’s a good idea to make a complete system backup before you apply the service pack. You should also make sure no users are logged in to the system before you apply the service pack. Wait until after business hours, or ask everyone to log out before you start.

Run W2KSP3.exe and follow the instructions on the screen. The amount of time the upgrade will take varies depending on the speed of your server and amount of networking services you’re running on your server.

Make sure you let W2KSP3.exe back up existing files on your server before it applies the patches. If you don’t, you won’t be able to back the service pack out if you have problems with it. You’ll have to restore from your backup tapes or reinstall Windows 2000 from scratch.

After the service pack applies, you’ll need to restart your server. Also, keep a copy of W2KSP3.exe because you’ll have to reapply the service pack if you add any network services, such as Exchange 2000 or ISA Server 2000.