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Service Pack Frenzy

The service packs are coming thick and fast from Microsoft.

If you need any assistance with these updates, please let us know. Clients with fixed-fee network maintenance services will have these service packs automatically deployed as appropriate for their environment, and don’t need to take any action.

Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3 (Released September 2007) — Routine update for quality and stability, and includes all previously-issued security updates. Contains one tiny “gotcha”: it will not open older file formats such as early versions of .DOC, .XLS and others like Quattro Pro. This can be an issue because some modern automated systems generate files in the older formats. There are other security-related lockdowns also. However, these can be disabled by tweaking some settings in the registry. []

There is also an important post-Service Pack 3 update for Access 2003, and AutoCorrect no longer works in Outlook 2003.

Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 1 (Released December 2007) — Routine update for quality and stability, and includes all previously-issued security updates, in addition to the fix for the slow performance of Outlook 2007 and the weird calculation/display bug in Excel 2007. There are also corresponding updates for Project, Visio, Sharepoint, and the server versions. []

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (Released July 2007) — Routine update for quality and stability, and also applies to Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 and the “R2” editions of both. (There is an important post-SP2 fix for SBS which is easily available via Windows Update.) This is a fairly uncontroversial update, not “critical”, but part of the continuing maintenance of the operating system and provides a solid baseline for future security updates. Applying service packs to servers requires some planning and forethought. Cadzow 2000 is compatible (for example, where using Terminal Services/Remote Desktop). []

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 (Released November 2007) — A major upgrade, with many new and improved features. In fact, the improvements are so numerous it makes one wonder how we managed to live without them in the first place. Tread carefully, and research before deploying.

Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (Released 2008) — The one you've all been waiting for (or not). SP2 was released more than three years ago. So Windows XP must have been pretty solid in the meantime? Well, no, there are actually about 100 “critical” patches that apply to Windows XP SP2. Service Pack 3 combines hundreds of previous fixes into one convenient package. A release candidate version was available which allows organisations to start their preliminary testing before the final version is released.

Because of the delay since the last Service Pack, many organisations will have fallen out of practice testing and deploying updates of this nature, and may decide to give it a miss. However, although Windows XP has been superseded by Windows Vista, it will dominate business PCs for some time to come, and Service Pack 3 is a welcome update which provides a reliable base for future updates. We've tested Cadzow 2000 with SP3 and found no issues.

Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (Released March 2008) — When Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6 was released in 1999, the size was a shocker: 34Mb! Ah, for those innocent days. Windows Vista SP1 will be about 450Mb (or 550Mb for the all-languages version). Fortunately, on ADSL2 that will download in about 10 minutes. In any case, due to the efficiency of Automatic Updates, standalone systems will only download what is required, and you probably won't notice it. SP1 is mostly concerned with quality and stability, but not performance. If you've been struggling with some odd behaviour (not counting User Account Control), hopefully it will go away when SP1 is installed. But if you've been struggling with slowness, you'll just have to do what your grandpappy used to do: buy more memory.

Unlike other Windows service packs, you must first install some smaller, standalone updates, but in most cases Windows will download and install them automatically so this won't require much intervention. Our initial experience with SP1 has been very good.

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