Service Pack

Dennis Faas's picture

A Service Pack (SP) is a collection of updates, fixes and/or enhancements to a software program delivered in the form of a single installable package.

Many companies (such as Microsoft) typically release a service pack when the number of individual patches to a given program reaches a certain (arbitrary) limit.

Installing a service pack is easier and less error-prone than installing a high number of patches individually, even more so when updating multiple computers over a network.

Service packs are usually numbered, and thus shortly referred to as SP1, SP2, SP3 etc. They may also bring, besides bug fixes, entirely new features, as is the case of SP2 of Windows XP.

Incremental and Cumulative Service Packs

A service pack can be incremental, which means it only contains the updates that were not present in the previous service packs or, it can be cumulative, which means it includes the contents of all its predecessors.

In the case of Microsoft's products, an incremental update was called a service release. For example, Office 2000 must be upgraded to service release 1 (SR-1) before one can install SP2.

XP Service Pack 3: Requires Service Pack 1

Recent service packs for Microsoft Windows have not been cumulative starting with Windows XP Service Pack 3. Windows XP SP3 requires at least SP1 to be present on an installed copy of Windows XP, although slipstreaming SP3 into the gold release is still supported. An unsupported workaround to install SP3 on Windows XP RTM also exists.

Windows Vista Service Pack 2 also is not cumulative and requires at least SP1 to be present on an installed copy of Windows Vista.

Slipstreaming Windows Service Packs

Slipstreaming refers to updating the original Windows installation (for example) with the updated Service Pack release. This is especially useful for new installations of Windows, so that it will be relatively up-to-date after being installed for the first time.

In Windows environments, it is common for system administrators to make slipstreamed installation sources of the operating system available on network shares. That greatly simplifies deployment for new installations. Microsoft also usually allows ordering slipstreamed CDs from their website. Newer versions of Microsoft products usually come either already slipstreamed or with a separate CD holding some updates.

This document is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which means that you can copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license.

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