XP SP3 canceled? Who cares!

Windows XP SP3 with advanced security and something or ratherIn another week of Paul says, Mr. Thurrott claims on his WinInfo Short Takes article now Microsoft has no plans to ever ship Windows XP Service Pack 3. I’m not going to dispute whether he’s right on wrong, but who the hell cares?

Holy GrailWhat is a service pack? And why is it the holy grail of computing all of a sudden? Microsoft says,

“Microsoft continually works to improve its software. As part of this effort, we develop updates and fixes to recognized issues and release them for customers. On a regular basis, we combine many of these fixes into a single package and make the package available for installation. These packages are called Service Packs.”

Great, so a service pack is like a collection of hundred of patches rolled up into one neat executable. History has proven us that’s exactly what it is with one exception, Windows XP Service Pack 2, which included enhancements to the operating system beyond what was available in patches. That was done only because it made sense to include such a big modification to the operating system in a package you’d expect to make big modifications sooner than later. To make sense of what I just said, you wouldn’t deliver a silent patch over Windows Update, and users the next morning would discover their whole operating system has changed, would you? Don’t get smart.

Windows UpdateWe shouldn’t expect anything like that to ever come again. With the increasing popularity of the intertubes and use of Windows Update, we’re getting patches in real-time, as soon as they’re available. A service pack on the other hand would seem out-of-date. A service pack would only make sense as a long-term solution to update retail copies to include major security fixes.

The only difference service packs has is the inclusion of some hotfixes which target specific issues that aren’t applicable to the majority. For example, a Toshiba optical bay may not be recognized when you swap it. Issues like these are common, fixes are available either by request from Microsoft, or the particular OEM will distribute it themselves. A service pack would come in handy for users affected by these problems, but if they’re suffering from problems, they would have called support and got the fixes anyway.

I really don’t know why anyone thinks they need Windows XP Service Pack 3, or thinks Windows Vista isn’t worth using until Service Pack 1. If you want SP3 or SP1, turn on Windows Update, and visit your OEM’s website often. Windows XP was still a usable operating system before SP2, it only got better. Windows Vista will without a doubt, continually get better too, but it doesn’t mean it’s not approachable right now.

Update: From reading some of the great comments on this article, I have this to say… I don’t speak for an IT manager, or any group of client users even, I just speak for myself. I’m just a little disturbed by the public’s attitude to service packs and whatever benefits they think it will bring to the platform. Obviously I worded my post a little heavy, but I didn’t mean to tell anyone what they should or should not think, but only to describe what I thought and why I thought.

38 insightful thoughts

  1. It’s easy not to care about Service Pack 3 — if you don’t have to support thousands of computers.

    Configuring a computer with Windows XP SP2 still requires way too many updates! And if you install MSIE 7 now you risk not being able to use your recovery disk! This is a big deal!

    So if we had a Service Pack 3 with ALL of those many updates since XP2 — plus the ability to recover Windows XP WITH MSIE 7 installed would be a welcome edition.

    So I hope that Paul is wrong.

    Blake Handler
    Microsoft MVP

  2. It kinda is a big deal, for those sticking with XP, or reinstalling XP.

    And MS has announced that Vista’s SP1 is gonna be more than just a bunch of patches wrapped up, and will include a kernel update.

  3. In another week of Paul says, Mr. Thurrott claims on his WinInfo Short Takes article now Microsoft has no plans to ever ship Windows XP Service Pack 3.

    We already pretty much knew this by the length of time it’s been since the last SP came out and the fact that MS seems to be shipping less and less SP’s for their products as time goes on.

    I’m not going to dispute whether he’s right on wrong, but who the hell cares?

    System Admins?
    People who care about the stability of their systems?
    OEMS/Other’s who slipstream or receive the updates oS CD’s with the fixes integrated into the CD?

    Service Packs are tested far more thoroughly than Windows Updates. Windows Updates are tested by MS but nowhere near as thoroughly as SP’s. Basically Windows Update subscribers are the beta testers of Windows Updates.

    This is why most smart System Admins wait certain periods of time before deploying updates to their clients. (A number of factors can determine when an update should be deployed, what applications are being used, the security level of the fix, in what way it will affect the user, if the user even needs the fix, etc, etc).

    So basically anyone who cares about the stability of their system and doesn’t want to be an MS shill cares.

    That was done only because it made sense to include such a big modification to the operating system in a package you’d expect to make big modifications sooner than later.

    No hablo espanol. Please learn how to write a sentence.

    XP SP2 included enhancements to the OS because MS was getting raped over the in-security of their OS. They HAD to do something or lose face. Therefore they decided to break their practice of only shipping fixes in their SP’s and to enclude extra features. Alot of use would rather have a “hotfix” SP and a “useless features SP” but unfortunately MS lumps both together. The unwashed masses (see your post above) really couldn’t (and shouldn’t) give a shit.

    To make sense of what I just said, you wouldn’t deliver a silent patch over Windows Update, and users the next morning would discover their whole operating system has changed, would you?

    Yes, of course MS would and does. Which is why if they either:

    1. Didn’t install automatic updated automagically and reviewed the updates that are to be installed they wouldn’t have this problem.

    or

    2. Wait for the Service Pack and read the release notes which lists every fix included in the SP.

    We shouldn’t expect anything like that to ever come again. With the increasing popularity of the intertubes and use of Windows Update, we’re getting patches in real-time, as soon as they’re available. A service pack on the other hand would seem out-of-date. A service pack would only make sense as a long-term solution to update retail copies to include major security fixes.

    An SP isn’t out of date. When you install a fresh copy of XP and download those bajillion updates are the earliest updates “out of date”? No, in all likelyhood alot of these updates have never been updates and never will. (and alot of updates are updated again and again).

    An SP reduces download time.
    An SP slipstreamed into a copy of your OS provides you with an updated version of that OS. (For free….hey sort of a lame “free” extremly distance cousin to free Linux updates….).

    The only difference service packs has is the inclusion of some hotfixes which target specific issues that aren’t applicable to the majority. For example, a Toshiba optical bay may not be recognized when you swap it. Issues like these are common, fixes are available either by request from Microsoft, or the particular OEM will distribute it themselves. A service pack would come in handy for users affected by these problems, but if they’re suffering from problems, they would have called support and got the fixes anyway.

    The only difference? Different to what? Windows Updates? I thought you just said SP’s provide “enhancements to the OS”, now your saying the only difference is specific hotfix issues? Not to mention what I stated above about the more thorough testing procedures for SP’s.

    Yes they can get the updates from MS if you want to pay $$$ for the fix. Hmmm, for some strange reason most people don’t want to do that for a FIX FOR THEIR BROKEN OS. Strange isn’t it?

    I really don’t know why anyone thinks they need Windows XP Service Pack 3, or thinks Windows Vista isn’t worth using until Service Pack 1.

    Because you don’t use your PC that often?
    You use a MAC primarily and are unaware of the problems with Windows operating systems?
    You started using operating systems starting with XP and have no prior experience with Microsoft or their patching systems?
    You haven’t use Vista have you? There are alot of good reasons to wait for an SP, just like there are alot of good reasons to wait for patches for PC games to come out before you play them.

    That’s like saying:
    “I really don’t know why anyone thinks they need a patch to remove the copy protection from the game that doesn’t allow me to play it, or thinks that the game isn’t worth playing until the patch comes out”.

    If you want SP3 or SP1, turn on Windows Update, and visit your OEM’s website often. Windows XP was still a usable operating system before SP2, it only got better. Windows Vista will without a doubt, continually get better too, but it doesn’t mean it’s not approachable right now

    Downloading updates are not the same as SP’s. Get your head out of your ass.

    Windows XP was a “useable” operating system but it was (and still is) by no means a perfect or secure operating system. People had issues with it which is why SERVICE PACK 2 was released.

    Windows Vista may run “perfectly” for some. (Although if people tell me their operating system runs “perfectly” I just shake my head and smile), but there are MILLIONS of computers in the world where Vista will not work perfectly. Where Windows Update will not work perfecly. Where people do not trust nor will they ever trust Windows Update and they want a properly tested Service Pack instead of being a lab rat to test MS updates.

    If MS wants me to download their update and immediately install it upon release then they better give me some godamn money for the time and effort I spend backtracking and troubleshooting issues because the damn automatic update installed because they were too lazy to do proper QA on their millions of lines of code that they cannot document properly nor have enough staff to test properly.

  4. Blake is right. Service packs are a big deal for corporations because it’s a lot easier to deploy one service pack to all of your machines than 60 different updates and hotfixes.

  5. I spend most of my time in Visual Studio 2005 working on fairly large projects written in C#, C++, or VB.NET. I honestly tried using Vista for my day-to-day work, but now I’m back on XP. I only spend time on Vista testing applications. Why?

    Vista is just too unstable when working on large projects. I can’t open more than one instance of Visual Studio without asking for trouble (I can have 4 or more on XP). As a developer, I constantly have to access administrative tools like regedit or device manager and UAC is so, so, so, very poorly implemented.

    And I know you are going to say this is nit-picking, but:

    1. I can’t run my favorite multi-monitor utility UltraMon with full functionalty.

    2. I have to run VS as administrator most of the time or certain tools won’t work.

    3. I *hate* the way AERO looks! I *hate* the overhead and all the eye candy. But the basic theme is even worse. And I have to reboot back to XP to see that my form layout works on XP themes. Why can’t I use the Zune or Media Center 2005 theme on Vista? (I like those and they are not resource hogs.)

    Ok. Before you say I need to get a better computer, I’ll tell you about my average computer. Pentium 4 HT 2.6 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 2 SATA 320 hard drives, ATI (AMD?) Radeon X1300 video, 2 LCD monitors. Vista rating: 3.9.

  6. Oh. I forgot to say that’s why I want either XP SP3 or a Vista SP1 that lets me tune the system for something other than use as a home entertainment center.

  7. Installing XP SP2 then applying all the patches is not viable. Not making SP3 available is basically a very strong message saying “XP is dead, please use Vista”.

    Vista is not as great as you imply. It is not yet stable, misses tons of drivers and is extremely slow for some operations (like unzipping large files). I have a dual boot XP/Vista, and I’m writing this from XP… Vista is not ready for prime time yet for the majority of people (in my opinion). Pretending it is doesn’t cut it for me for example.

    Now you like Vista I gather, and you probably don’t do things that are not viable with it…

  8. @John: I recognize Vista has problems, file copying for example, but these things I can live with. It’s not enough to undercut the huge advantages Vista brings to my productivity (ex. new start menu).

  9. You asked “who cares about SP3?”. I think the answer is “a lot of people”. Vista is great for some people, but not for most (yet). I’m a developer BTW. I’m trying Vista of course, but I would like to skip the hour or so of downloading updates when I install XP. My IT group would love it even more than me… (I’m installing occasionally, as opposed to them – daily).

  10. Why do people reinstall XP like they clean their room? I’ve never reinstalled XP beyond new computers or major system failures, and even then, I wouldn’t mind downloading all of the patches and spending about 15min restarting/updating.

  11. I know you don’t install XP :)
    Developers install XP all the time. IT people (“Systems guys”) install XP all the time too (for new employees, when a machine crashes, etc). Journalists who do benchmarks install it all the time too.

    Companies and software/hardware pros install XP all the time basically. I’m sure you don’t mind losing 15 minutes (well actually, more like an hour…) installing patches. But try making it your job, and you’ll see if you still don’t mind.

  12. Well, I think a lot of people are saying “don’t use Vista until SP1” because of XP’s issues before SP2. Of course, anyone with half a brain realizes that Vista is more secure than SP2 ever was, but that doesn’t stop people from believing whatever the media says.

    Another that people have to look at, too, is that Vista SP1 isn’t like any other service pack we have ever seen. Usually, a SP pushes lots of updates that could be found individually (SP1 and 2 broke this chain, they gave us anti-trust measures and security addition, respectively). In Vista SP1, Microsoft is going to actually release a new kernal. That’s a big deal, and should make a lot of changes to Vista, especially in security. That might just be the reason some companies have waited until SP1.

  13. Though I personally don’t care about XP Sp3 since I’m using Vista, If I wasn’t using Vista I would be pissed. It’s a lot longer than 15min of reboots, Long. As John said it’s more like an hour. And that’s with a fast net connection to download the updates!

    On the flip side,
    To me, Vista is far from a replacement of XP.
    I have High End hardware, and all I have are a bunch of shitty half feature complete drivers to use.
    I have a Nvidia 7900Gtx graphic card, a Creative Audigy 2 ZS and a Logitech G15 keyboard.
    All the above hardware isn’t fully working with Vista. For the graphic card, the drivers still suck balls, performance is poor. But it’s mainly AA that’s killing the fun. 4X AA runs worse than 8x AA on XP.
    My sound card still doesn’t support EAX in Direct X games. And its missing a Key feature that I need/used all the time, which is Surround sound stereo mapping.
    And Logitech, hah! Don’t get me started! Just head over to their support forums about the G15! What a joke! (Though by the end of this month “they say” there will be some Vista drivers out for it.)
    So that’s on the hardware side.
    Now for the Software side…
    Roxio Easy CD Creator 7.5 drives me nuts with that STUPID “The CinePlayer decoders cannot find a valid licence” dialog box every time I open up a folder with videos in it. ECC 8 is crap. And version 9 doesn’t install right on Vista! Well that’s with the CD version that I own. I’m sure the web install would work.
    I tried using Nero Enhanced (the version made for Vista) but its causes my system to BSOD.
    And there’s a few Vista bugs that are really starting to get to me…
    Wow I just had a bit of a rant didn’t I! What were we talking about again? Oh that’s right! XP SP3!

  14. @Matt: They will most likely ship a new kernel, but nobody knows what that will be? How will it benefit you? Why should you wait for it? It baffles me how people think a new kernel could mean 100% performance increase or 200% more stable. It might not change a thing except the version string.

  15. LONG: “I actually think corporations are scared of service packs more than security patches, since they don’t know exactly what it changes. Whereas they can check individually the changes patches make.”

    BLAKE: Corporations are (rightfully) scared of ALL updates because ANY small change can break an application. Which is why testing a patch before you delpoy is necessary. Service Packs are simply “scarier” because it contains MORE changes at once.

    LONG: “WSUS makes normal patches/hotfixes pretty easy too.”

    BLAKE: Yes, WSUS and SMS are great tools for patch management — but please don’t oversimply the process just because there’s a “program” to help. Patching MANY THOUSANDS of computers is never “pretty easy too”

    LONG: “Why do people reinstall XP like they clean their room?”

    BLAKE: If you are infected with “anything” you should do a clean installation. Once malware or a virus infects a computer you can NEVER be sure that everything as been removed — or if it was removed . . .is there some residual damage.

    LONG: “I’ve never reinstalled XP beyond new computers or major system failures, and even then, I wouldn’t mind downloading all of the patches and spending about 15min restarting/updating.”

    BLAKE: In a large IT environment, you can’t spend too much time “fixing” individual problems. It’s usually ALWAYS faster to reimage. We all WISH the entire upgrade process only took 15 minutes! Of course, it takes MUCH longer — and again let’s do the math and multiply this by thousands of computers!

    LONG: “My suggestion to all those people would be to image it! Then slipstream that image with the latest updates.”

    BLAKE: You can’t splistream MSIE 7

    LAST COMMENT: The most important issue — when you upgrade to MSIE 7 the Windows XP Recovery Disk will no longer work! You are supposed to uninsall MSIE 7 to repair your computer (of course if the computer doesn’t work – that will be very hard!)

    While people supporting a handful of computers may not seem to care about Windows XP SP3 — IT Professionals defenatly need Windows XP SP3!

  16. Has anyone heard of nLite? It is pretty well known.
    For those of you who ‘install XP 10000 times a day’
    You can integrate pretty much anything.
    Hotfixes from RYANVM.net
    Drivers from driverpacks.net
    You can have IE7 integrated and everything.

    Tada! Your own PERSONAL SP3!

    Mitch

  17. As of now, no one I know is using Vista, and few have plan of upgrading. There are just to many issues with Vista to make it worth it.

    With that said, all of those people are using XP. SP3 is needed, despite what Microsoft or anyone says. There are too many problems with the updating process and XP in general.

    This is just part of Microsoft’s plan to force Vista on to us slowly.

  18. Long,

    The kernel update will bring it up to match the kernel in longhorn server. I’m sure there’s more than a version string change. You sound like you’re in denial.

    I am using Vista and love the many improvements. But there is no denying that SP1 is going to be much more than just a roll up of patches.

  19. So, Long, you have a blog, you write passionaltely about Windows, but… your lack of experience in the real world of Enterprise software distribution and deployment is telling w/all of your original statements in this post as well as your comments that follow. You are much too young and have too little experience in the area that you are posting on to have any weight to your statements. SP3 would be a welcome release, as will Vista’s SP1 when it ships. And to put my comments in perspective, I am running Vista and have been continually for the last year, since December CTP as my principal OS. And I consult & train specifically around best practices for Windows deployment & infrastructure. Stick to what you know & listen the wiser posters in the comments… we need your youthful exuberance, you need our wisdom.

  20. @ Glenn.
    I think that Long can write about whatever he wants to… He’s still pretty young and has much to learn but this is part of his learning experience! Don’t brag because you have been using Vista since December CTP, and don’t make cut him down because you think you are better than him! If you don’t like what he writes about then why are you here?

    Mitch (15 years old)
    btw you spelled passionately wrong

  21. @Glenn: This is a Windows client-focused blog, not an enterprise or server. Notice how I never write about Longhorn Server?

    I speak from the perspective of a student user in the home. Not as an IT manager of a 3000-deployed company.

    Whilst I welcome your experience and opinions, it’s obvious we’re going to have differences of opinion.

  22. Long, maybe if you didn’t use such strong language like “who the hell cares?” about SP3 you wouldn’t have riled people up as much. You still seem to think that the missing SP3 is inconsequential. I think it would make a better impression just to say “you’re right, I didn’t think about the Enterprise concerns since I don’t work in that area”. As it stands it is a huge concern for people that manage large numbers of systems. And that’s not an insignificant group! Also, maybe you don’t remember a time when Service Packs did include many, sometimes unforeseen and problematic, enhancements. XP SP2 wasn’t the first one that’s for sure!

  23. @Chad: I didn’t use “who the hell cares”, but I see your point 😛

    I knew enterprise was always a problem, but I thought Microsoft had it pretty much under control since I don’t hear many IT admins complaining about hotfixes more than service packs.

  24. HAHAHA! Go Long Zheng!

    Next time you should put a big sign on your head that says “pretend nerds, attack here!”.
    You should have known better than to tell the “experts” that Vista is ready, or that a Service Pack is mainly a complilation of already available patches/hotfixes!

    Lol, but as always I applaud your work. And so many posts in one day? 😉

    P.S. – I do however hope that Vista SP1 brings something cool… I love it when the surprise me… but it wouldn’t be a surprise because it’d be leaked a few weeks beforehand.

  25. I copied and pasted right from your post: “I’m not going to dispute whether he’s right on wrong, but who the hell cares?”

    Don’t get me wrong, I think your blog is great, very interesting and a refreshingly upbeat take on Microsoft-related news.

  26. @mitch

    Wasn’t braging about use of Vista, just putting my comments of another passionate Vista user w/one foot firmly in reality, or which, XP SP3 would be well received. And, please re-read my post. I state that we NEED Long’s voice, not that he doesn’t have some right to state his thoughts!

    @long
    Even someone speaking from the perspective of the Windows client uses and partcipates w/services that are provided by and managed by Enterprises. Patch management, whether we are talking about one machine or thousands, is a necessary topic in our world of software & hardware. And while WU & WSUS both have their place in appropriate arenas for which they were designed, it benefits ALL users of XP or Vista when the first time you turn them on, they are sufficiently patched & up to date. That is the intent of Paul Thorrott’s original post which brought about our current discussion.

  27. @Chad: You’re right. My mistake. :)

    @Glenn: You’re also right, I didn’t mean to sound condescending. I don’t speak for an IT manager, or any group of client users even, I just speak for myself. I’m just a little disturbed by the public’s attitude to service packs and whatever benefits they think it will bring to the platform. Obviously I worded my post a little heavy, but I didn’t mean to tell anyone what they should or should not think, but only to describe what I thought and why I thought.

  28. Given Paul’s other comments, I think he pulled “no SP3” from the dark side of his moon. Given MS’ extension of support for XP and the chance to integrate several updated apps/frameworks, I don’t think MS would want to miss that opportunity. I think SP3 will come after “Longhorn” RTMs. This will enable MS to include backported fixes from “Longhorn”, and align the release (i.e., the relative patch state) of XP SP3 with “Longhorn” RTM, Vista SP1 and Server 2003 SP3. It’d make no sense to release XP SP3 before “Longhorn”.

    Should Paul’s rant prove to be true, there’s still likely to be a rollup release.

  29. @n4cer
    Good point about the timing.

    Besides, by waiting a bit to release SP3, they save people from having to install SP3 and a second service pack in rapid succession.

  30. I’d rather have one package full of updates then having to download 50 million updates and have to restart only 5 million times.

  31. After reading through the many posts on the subject of XP SP3, and hopefully as a neutral observer, it seems to me that we should be communicating our concerns directly to the OS provider – not eachother. Some of the issues here are quite huge to those actually concerned with them in their day to day lives. As to the OS provider, there is no way (it seems) that they can possibly satisfy everyone’s needs. Having said that, I don’t see why some form of SP3 cannot be shipped to include only ‘critical’ updates which affect everyone. I don’t mean ‘critical’ as defined by the OS provider, I mean critical as in … erm, there’s a gaping hole in your security otherwise and hitherto not previously noticed. Me? I only have to look after five PC’s and I am not that good at it because I don’t have the time to dwell too much on it. But there’s one thing which we all seem to agree on; whether or not we subscribe to the idea that it is indeed necessary to perform a clean install, and that is … It really does take an age to perform a clean re-install. For most of us time is money .. That Matters!

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