Living with Service Packs and Hotfixes
All operating systems have their share of application fixes and driver updates, and Windows in any flavor is no exception. Microsoft is trying to make applying these fixes a smoother process, however, by continuing to add new features that assist in the update process. The latest feature is called Dynamic Update. You can launch this tool during setup so that critical fixes are applied to drivers that might cause problems during the setup process. Dynamic Update requires a PC to have an Internet connection to receive the updates. Network administrators on larger networks that are running a deployment cycle have the option of downloading these files to a network share so that large numbers of workstations can be updated at once without affecting wide area network (WAN) bandwidth.
The service packs themselves contain only bug fixes. Any product enhancements are available through a different channel, so administrators can install relatively small service packs. Although service packs are expected to be a fairly regular event in the Windows XP world, bugs are detected between releases of these service packs. When the bug could affect the security or performance of systems, Microsoft releases what are known as hotfixes.
In the past, hotfixes had to be individually downloaded and installed in a specific order. Beginning with Windows 2000, however, Windows Update is used to automatically detect, download, and install the required hotfixes.
The Joys of Slipstreaming
Many Windows administrators have learned to live with service packs. It has always been a real battle to get the configuration correct. A common question was "I just installed application X. Do I need to install service pack Y?" This dilemma has disappeared with the introduction of slipstreaming in Windows XP.
In a nutshell, slipstreaming modifies the Windows XP distribution files while the system files are being updated. This ensures that the next time the distribution files are used to install an operating system, the system will be up to date with all service packs and hotfixes.
This modification to the Windows XP distribution files provides two important items. First, it creates new files that can allow installating the OS with all service packs and hotfixes already applied. Second, it makes it unnecessary to reinstall service packs and hotfixes after adding applications or services to an existing Windows XP installation.