On June 12, this month's Patch Tuesday, Microsoft will be delivering more than its usual bundle of security fixes and patches for Windows, Office and other products. The company also will be starting to push Windows Server 2003 Service Pack (SP) 2 to customers via its Automatic Updates patching mechanism.
Microsoft announced availability of Windows Server 2003 SP2 in mid-March, and made the update available for download at that time. A number of security experts and Most Valuable Professionals criticized Microsoft's decision to release SP2 on March 13, which was a Patch Tuesday. Admins usually have their hands full implementing the usual bunch of security fixes; they don't need to be thinking about a whole new service pack at the same time, Microsoft's critics said. The proximity of the SP2 release date and the earlier-than-usual start of Daylight Saving Time also angered some admins.
Microsoft has chosen another Patch Tuesday for the Automaic Updates rollout of SP2. Microsoft's justification: Because SP2 includes a considerable number of security-specific fixes, Microsoft also decided to push the update out to customers via Automatic Updates, the Redmondians said. Microsoft also used Automatic Updates to deliver Windows Server 2003 SP1 in 2005.
Despite its name, Automatic Updates won't actually update users' systems to SP2 "automatically." Users will still need to click on the "updates are ready to install" notification, accept the end user license agreement and go through the Welcome Screen to get the SP2 update, according to Microsoft.
Admins who haven't yet tested and decided to make the move to SP2 can decide to prevent the new service pack from downloading automatically by using a SP blocker tool provided by Microsoft. Microsoft made the blocker tool available as of March 13, the same day it delivered the SP2 bits. Customers who already implemented a blocker tool to temporarily halt their systems from moving automatically to Windows Server 2003 SP1 do not have to install this blocker; the existing one will work with SP2, as well, according to Microsoft.
The patches and fixes in SP2 are cumulative and will work on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1 machines. It also will update Windows Storage Server R2; Windows Unified Data Storage Server; Windows Compute Cluster Server; Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2; and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition systems.