Are service packs really passe?

Are service packs really passe?

Summary: Are there any real reasons -- other than psychological ones -- to wait for a first service pack (SP) of Windows Vista before deploying? Some say there are, in spite of Microsoft's advice to the contrary.


Are there any real reasons -- other than psychological ones -- to wait for a first service pack (SP) of Windows Vista before deploying?

Microsoft's position, since the company released Vista to manufacturing last year, has been that users didn't need delay their deployments until the delivery of SP1 because the team would push out new updates and fixes continually via Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and other patching mechanisms. Just this week, in fact, Microsoft delivered via Windows Update two mega hotfix packs (performance and compatibility) for Windows Vista that include many of the fixes that will be part of Vista Service Pack (SP) 1, which now is due in Q1 2008.

But some say service packs still do matter. Over on the Windows Connected blog, Josh Phillips has a list of why some users still prefer to wait for a service pack before deploying.

First on Phillips' list: Service packs are more thoroughly and rigorously tested than individual udpates. There's also the convenience factor. For enterprise users, a single update like a service pack is much easier to manage in a controlled way than are lots of incremental updates.

If you're waiting for SP1 to deploy Vista, what are your reasons? Is it more than just habit?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I am planning on totally bypassing Vista.

    But if I were to deploy Vista I would wait at least 18 to 24 months after its gold release before deploying it on a production network.

    Vista is alot like Windows 2000 where some fundamental things have changed enough to affect driver and application compatibility/stability, this is reason enough to stick with a stable platform and let everyone else do the beta testing for you.
    • You have a point

      At this point XP is a mature enough platform that if you have a problem you can simply Google the error code and you've got a good 90% chance of not only finding somebody else with the problem, but also finding a fix or workaround.

      Speaking from a business perspective, Vista's just not there. If you don't need to be on the cutting edge (and I can think of absolutely no one but developers that do), then an there's no point in upgrading to Vista until everybody else has flogged it. Upgrade just to say you have? Puh-leeze.
      • cutting edge

        "If you don't need to be on the cutting edge (and I can think of absolutely no one but developers that do)"

        Gamers also like to ride the cutting edge - and Vista has DirectX 10 while XP doesn't.
        • Gaming on Vista

          Performs worse than gaming on XP on the same machine. How is that cutting edge?
        • re:cutting edge

          [i][b]Gamers also like to ride the cutting edge - and Vista has DirectX 10 while XP doesn't.[/b][/i]

          1. I qualified my comment with the phrase, "Speaking from a business perspective..." Gaming doesn't quite fit that category.

          2. I also said, "If you don't [i]need[/i] to be on the cutting edge..." Games [i]obviously[/i] fall out of the "need" category, too... unless you're a developer, as I've already said.

          3. Wikipedia has a list of games that support DirectX 10. ( There are 20 on the list. Yeah, that'll keep me awake at night. Oh, and none of them require it. Whew. Crisis averted.

          4. Readers of ZDNet already know that playing multimedia (including games) on Vista horks your network performance. ( Get that? Use Vista, get fragged. Good choice, gamer.

          Once again... upgrade just to say you have? Puh-leeze.
        • and DirectX 10...

 a major bust. DirectX 10 may be the biggest disappointment gamers have ever seen, close on the heels of Vista.
  • Subset

    I think the post you linked pretty much nails it. The subset of fixes he mentioned should be emphasized: I've seen SP documentation list upwards of 1000 fixes. Only the "greatest hits" out of that list will ever see their way to Windows Update.

    I wouldn't mind seeing MS adopt Apple's model: Every month or two release a new "point update" for the OS which rolls up fixes, security updates, AND frequently-requested updates to functionality. MS made it clear yesterday that barely any features at all will be enhanced in the SP. The end result is that feature-wise, MS OS's are frozen in amber for several years at a time, barring the odd one-off update to WMP, IE, or whatever.
  • Still relevant

    Last week I might have opined that service packs were helpful when deploying updates with their prerequisites in order to minimise the number of reboots required. However, I just did a reinstall of Windows XP using my 2-year-old install CD and was astounded that nearly 100 individual updates required only 2 reboots!

    As you say, Mary Jo, perhaps the decider is in fact psychological. "Service Pack" carries a connotation of big changes. Windows XP SP2 included many changes of core security functionality and thus many users and organisations opted to wait to install until software applications acclimatised with patches of their own. It's generally easier to keep track of one service pack rather than remembering the convoluted knowledge base KB##### identifier of a single patch you'd prefer to wait on.
    • Update rollups anyone?

      I don't see why Microsoft cant create a delta update every 6 months that includes every update and security fix since the last SP.

      It would probably reduce their bandwidth and it would certainly reduce the workload on admins that don't know how to slipstream,
  • Service packs have become a PR tool. X-(

    #comment from The_Decider
    MS knows that historically, people wait until SP1 to migrate to whatever new software that MS is infecting the world with.
    They also knew that Vista would get lukewarm reception by businesses, at best.
    So what did they do? If you guys remember, they pulled out a fair amount of buggy Vista code and told the world it will be part of SP1. This made sense to them, because all they needed was some bug fixes to roll it out. Granted SP1 was supposed to be out about now, but MS is nothing but incompetent.
    So what this means, and I think most rational people know this, is that SP1 is really Vista v1.0. Actually it really isn't that since many features were removed because MS couldn't get those features working. Incidentally, many of those features have been available for years elsewhere, and in some cases decades.
    So how does MS recover from this train wreck? Simple. They turn SP1 into a psychological and marketing fix, instead of a technical fix.
    Will it work? Maybe somewhat, historically MS users and admins have swallowed massive amounts of BS from Microsoft. But many, many people are catching on and sick of the bugs, security nightmares, high prices, and loss of control that comes with a new MS OS. So it might help pick up a few new upgrades, but not as many as they think.
    Money is tight these days and how can a company defend spending $800+ for a Vista and Office license, and hardware upgrades for a secretary that doesn't use even 25% of the Office "features"? That is insane. What is there in Vista or Office 2007 that a CEO would need it? Or some random paper pusher? If they bought software from a company that couldn't be bothered with the fairly simple task of cross platform compatibility why not just keep running XP? What does that extra money spent on Vista and Office 2007 buy them?
    MS is a lot like our president. Still shoveling the same crap, oblivious to the fact most people aren't even listening anymore, and few of the listeners are buying it.
  • Nothing has changed!

    Approximately one year from the release of Vista Microsoft will release SP1. Same timining as XP, W2k, etc... The update is a rollup of patches and some new drivers. Also the same deal. What is different is all the mindless blogs about "is this an indictment of Vista?" or "SP1 Trade offs" "are service packs passe?". This is just Microsoft doing business the way they always have.
  • SP1 isn't a rule set in stone for us, but...

    A few months ago I had a laptop upgrade. Being in IT, but not front-end Windows desktop support, so that it's not critical that I have the same versions at the bulk of our employees, we decided I can be the Vista guinea pig.

    Overall I do like it. I'm even using BitLocker. However, various applications, including Windows Explorer, do crash at least a few times a week on me. They did so more often before I went to 1.5G of memory from 1G. Also, I'm definately seeing the poor network copy file performance problem that has been mentioned in various articles. These two issues are far too serious for us to risk a Vista rollout until they're addressed.

    I just installed the two service packs that may address these items today. IF after a month I agree they've gone away, THEN we MAY start a tenative rollout of Vista to targeted groups. I say "may" because of course we know that just taking my experience is hardly a good sample size, so we'll want to see what we judge as reliable reports from various forums, such as this one, end up having to say about the latest fixes.

    We certainly don't have a rule about SP1; if Microsoft shows success at fixing the issues we're most worried about pre-SP1, then away we start. If they're still not fixed even at SP1, it'll still be a no-go.
    • the train has left the station ...

      Vista is a train wreck that we all in 'IT' are witnessing in real time. ]:)
  • I read SP1 (32-bit) was a one GIGABYTE download?!


    I hope nobody uses 56k anymore...
    • Only for all-language, all-hardware DVD

      From what I've heard (not authoritative, but it makes sense to me), to update a single computer via Windows Update, it's more like 50 MB, depending on how many of the updates you've already got, drivers, etc. etc.

      XP SP2 was 266 MB to download the entire CD that would update any *ENGLISH* system, vs maybe 75 MB to update a specific computer. (That 75 MB is an educated guess; it was about 50 MB for SP1a, but I can't locate the number for SP2).

      I don't know, but that 1 GB figure might also include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

      Basically, their logical goal is to make it a single DVD, and a single download, rather than a bunch of different DVDs, which would mean you'd need a bunch of overlapping downloads totaling much more.

      People DO use 56K (sadly), but they're not the people who will be downloading the 1 GB complete version.
  • wait even after sp1?

    while i am using vista as is and am fine with it, i wonder if sp1 right out of the gate is a good choice for the waiters.

    sp1 will have a new kernel and will use windows server 2008 files. i'm gonna guess this is going to cause unknown incompatabilities and problems with programs, drivers, etc. if i were a waiter, i would worry about that and might wait for a few more updates/word on how sp1 is working.

    that said, if it is true sp1 is faster and solves disk thrashing problems, i am very much looking forward to it.
  • XP service packs set a precedent

    I may be wrong about this, but even though I was installing the regular updates, XP SP1&2 contained fresh info. And I dont think anyone expects Vista SP1 will be just an accumulation of previous updates. If thats what MS is saying, then it doesnt make sense to me.
    I'm keeping XP anyway, at least until next year.
  • MS means sloppy programming by excellence

    MS is the synonym of sloppy programming style and incapacity to purge the errors. Windows Vista can boast of several GUI programming errors already present in 3.1.

    My sincere congratulations.
  • Not only a Service Pack is needed but a Second Edition of XP is also.

    There are many reasons why a SP is needed for all level of buyers and users. Time factor is one of them and stability of the OS is also one major factor also. It is also needed for Slipstreaming the bootable CD of the OS to keep the install of the OS into a reasonable time procedure for new PC or just to do a fresh install when it is required on a not so new PC.

    This is call responsibility of the OS maker to support his product when it is find deficient in some way.

    We have Government Laws that force the Cars Makers to Recall there products if there are some parts that are not what they should be, even if the manufacturers are giving some warranty coverage on there cars.

    This is call service and support that is include in the buying price. It is not a habit or other kind of behaviors?. It is honesty and liability and fair exchange base on a real buck paid for something.

    In the case of Windows XP my opinion is that M$ should go for a Second Edition of XP because M$ is still selling that OS in the same time that he his selling Vista. And for that he should support XP a longer period than he decide. This will be considering has a good and responsible company that we could all respect and count on in my thinking.