Say goodbye to Windows service packs

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 24, 2012

A service pack contains a number of patches, fixes and improvements for the software it has been released for. Microsoft up until now released service packs for many of its popular products including the Windows client and server operating system and Office. The service packs usually consists of patches that have already been available in one form or the other, with notable exceptions that are then released together with the service pack.

It is not uncommon for companies to wait for the release of the first service pack for a new Microsoft product before it started migrating of systems to a new version of a software product. One of the reasons for this practice is that it usually takes less time to test and deploy a service pack, which basically is a single software product, than the testing and deployment of dozens of smaller updates.

We know that Microsoft decided to do away with service pack for Windows 8 to concentrate on smaller updates and patches instead. Users may actually benefit from this as updates may be available sooner. This is for instance the case for the recently released Windows 8 performance and reliability update  which improves a variety of systems and features including battery performance, audio and video playback or driver compatibility.

According to news published by The Register, Microsoft won't release a second service pack for Windows 7 either. This does not mean that there won't be any updates anymore for the operating system, only that updates will be made available via Windows Update and Microsoft Download Center when they are released, and no longer as part of a service pack. Depending on the priority of the updates, it may mean that some updates slip past the user if they are not automatically installed by the operating system if Windows Update is used to update the operating system. Windows users who download the updates from Microsoft manually, for instance to deploy them on several systems without having to download them multiple times, may also run into the same issue as it may happen that a patch gets overlooked on the download site. Third party solutions that download all available patches for a particular system can be an option in this case to avoid this from happening.

It needs to be noted that Microsoft has not commented yet on the news, so that it is still in the realm of possibility that we will see a second service pack for Windows 7 after all.

What's your take on this? Service packs yay or nay?


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  1. Roman ShaRP said on October 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t think that ditching service packs is good idea. Earlier their was a distinction between different SPs, developers said “this works with XP SP2”, without SPs that it won’t be possible.

    But is well-known that MS pushes its ideas regardless of what users think…

  2. Leslie said on October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Total disaster for users like myself who only have a dial-up connection with no hope for ADSL for at least 3 years where I live (and no wireless).

    I just reinstalled Windows XP on a machine and there are 118 updates and thats after SP3 has been applied. So this idea of trickle feed updates is going to cause a lot of grief to people in my situation.

  3. David said on October 25, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I wanted to make a new system image backup, butt this time integrating SP1 & SP2. Darn, my plan has been thwarted by MS. Thanks a lot, MS… :(

  4. DanTe said on October 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

    I like service packs. They save me a lot of time when I install or reinstall a system. Just stick in the service pack and load. Versus logging online, waiting for the downloads, and load.

  5. Jim said on October 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    How will we know when it is safe to upgrade? The first service pack has been the signal for everyone since W98. Now no one will know, so no one will upgrade. Maybe analysts will identify specific patches to wait for.

    My comment is mostly tongue in cheek because us Linux folks are used to a regular stream of small updates rather than big batches of them. It probably won’t be a big deal once people get used to it. They’ll just wait a year after release. That should be good enough.

  6. ilev said on October 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Microsoft never fix bugs in Windows or IE. When was the last time anyone saw
    a bug fix from Microsoft to any of its software (excluding security updates).
    Service packs were more than just cumulative of all security patches and included
    bugs fixing that where known to few and and could be installed only by sending
    a special request form to Microsoft.
    Windows 7 has 100s of such bugs and doing away with service packs will leave
    the majority of the users with a buggy OS never to be patched.

  7. Morely Dotes said on October 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Microsoft has stopped the use of service packs for Windows 8 because Microsoft cynically believes businesses will be stampeded into earlier deployment of Windows 8 if they can’t use Service Pack 1 as a benchmark for “most of the bugs are out and it’s now ready for release” date (a very common practice in the Enterprise). I think this will backfire on Microsoft, however. Instead of earlier rollout of Windows 8, businesses will wait as long as they reasonably can, because there’s a very good business case to *NOT* spend money on new operating systems as long as the old one is working. This is especially true of Windows 8, which is going to cost whatever the price is on the package *plus* $1000 or more for training per user, *plus* the cost of upgrading business-essential software to run on Windows 8. It seems to me now that, entirely aside from the lackluster performance we saw with Vista, it was a marketplace failure more due to massive user interface changes over Windows XP than for any other reason. By the time Windows 7 was released, many more people had been exposed to Vista and were comfortable with the interface differences – enough to embrace the real performance upgrades achieved with Windows 7.

    1. Morely Dotes said on October 24, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      ARGH! That’s “use,” not “sue.”

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