Holding off on deploying Windows 8? Waiting for Microsoft to release Service Pack 1?
It could be a long wait.
With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is no longer going to develop and distribute service packs.
To date, Service Pack 1 (SP1) has been a milestone in the maturity and stability of Microsoft products, especially their operating systems.
It has been common practice, and good policy, for IT departments and service providers to wait for SP1 before deploying any new operating system on a large scale in order to avoid the bugs and compatibility issues that are often associated with a new OS.
It allows time for early adopters and home users to discover and report issues and for Microsoft to fix them. It also provides software and hardware vendors a window to release updates and new drivers for their products to ensure they work with the new operating system.
What is a service pack?
A service pack is a collection of updates bundled together in one, large update. Deploying a new operating system with SP1 usually cuts down on problems dramatically which makes life better for both IT people and end users.
Why the sudden change?
If you look at the history of service packs the change may not be so sudden. Windows 2000 had 4, XP had 3, Vista 2 and Windows 7 just 1. For the record, it is rumored but not confirmed, that there will be no more service packs for Windows 7, either.
As for why they have eliminated them, it’s hard to say. The commonly accepted reason is that Microsoft wants to get updates out to users faster. Once a month patches are made available via Windows Update. But this is really nothing new so I am not sure I buy it.
Perhaps the reason is that Microsoft is aware of the practice of waiting for SP1 before IT departments and service companies adopt a new OS and they are trying to eliminate that adoption hurdle.
Regardless of the why, the impact of this change is something that needs to be addressed.
The issues with ending service packs
So, if updates are being released once a month, what’s the concern? Why does the end of service packs present a challenge?
Because a service pack will install all the updates – the most recent version of them – that have been released to date and apply them in one shot. This has two major advantages.
First, testing time is minimized. Instead of a series of updates tested individually, the service pack can be applied to test machines and all the updates to that point can be tested at once. Assuming all goes well that single service pack can be released to the rest of your organization.
Secondly, sometimes updates are skipped or fail using Windows Update. This is something a typical end user won’t notice and, unless updates are being monitored , it is unlikely that a missed or failed update will be detected.
A service pack, however, will see that the update is not installed and will install it.
How to address this change
At the very least, be diligent about updates. Turn Automatic Updates on and then check to make sure no updates were missed or failed during the installation process.
This works okay if you only have a couple computers, but it’s not very practical as numbers increase. In that case you should consider an investment of time and / or money in one of the many products available – some for free – to help you better manage and monitor updates.
Some of the options to manage updates are:
- Windows Server Update Services– free from Microsoft
- Patch Manager – paid from Solarwinds
- GFI LanGuard – paid from GFI
Additionally, if you have an IT support company, like Plenary Technology, they should have the technology and ability to do this for you. If they don’t then maybe it’s time to give us a call.
Your turn. Share your thoughts on the demise of Windows Service Packs or add a link to your preferred patch management tools.