Windows Service Packs
You might have been advised to install Windows operating systems with specific service packs versions such as, Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 SP1 and you might wonder what’s so important with all these service packs! A brief explanation of service packs will help you understand their specific purpose and what are the best practices when deploying service packs.
A service pack is a cumulative set of the updates that have been created for a Microsoft product which also includes fixes for problems that have been found by Microsoft since the release of the product. Service Packs can also include new system features or design changes but the major difference between service packs and other types of updates is that service packs are strategic deliveries, while updates are tactical. As you may already know, updates especially security ones are developed to fix a specific problem and are released as fast as possible. On the other hand, service packs are well planned with the full set of fixes tested before they are released! Although, it is always to recommended to test service packs in your specific environment before full deployment, it is well known that Microsoft performs extensive regression testing and makes sure that they meet the same quality standards as their respective products.
Service packs are initially released as beta versions during which phase, customers are encouraged to test them on their machines, so that any conflicting issues with third-party products are detected at an early stage! Furthermore, it is advisable to perform the following steps before applying new service packs:
- Review the service pack release notes
- Begin testing in a test environment/machine while, service packs are still in beta versions as this stage you can still work with Microsoft to resolve the issue before the final version is released
- Join online IT communities as to see if others are experiencing any particular problems when deploying or testing in their environments
- Test again in a test environment/machine when the final version is released by Microsoft before deploying to production machines
- It is also suggested to perform a staged deployment where you install the service pack on a limited number of computers and monitor for some days or weeks if any problems arise!
It is important to remember to keep applying security updates to all machines with both the current or previous service packs.