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Updating a Windows 2003 Server with a Service Pack

As with all Microsoft applications, Windows 2003 has periodic updates that become available for the software. Interim updates can be downloaded and installed via the Windows Update option on the system, or a visit to the Windows Update website (http://update.microsoft.com) will initiate the installer to check for the latest updates for Windows.

Major updates come in Service Packs that roll up patches and updates into a single installation. Installing a Service Pack brings a server up to date with all the updates to the point in time when the Service Pack was issued. The Service Packs for Windows 2003 are cumulative, so the installation of Service Pack 2 includes all the updates released prior to Service Pack 2, including the Service Pack 1 update.

There are three ways to install a Service Pack update:

  • Windows Update— You can download and automatically install the Service Pack as part of the normal update process.
  • Download and Install— You can download the Service Pack as a file and then launch it to install the update. Do this when your system is not connected to the Internet, or when you prefer to schedule an installation instead of performing an immediate installation after you've downloaded the file from the Internet.
  • Slipstream Installation— For a new installation of Windows, you can merge the Service Pack into an existing copy of the Windows 2003 code, and then install the updated Windows 2003 code with Service Pack updates on your system.

Installing the Service Pack

The Windows Update method and the download and install method of updating a server with a Service Pack merely requires a copy of the Service Pack to be installed on an existing Windows 2003 server. The installation process will overwrite any old versions of drivers and files, and will update the system with the latest version that comes in the Service Pack.

If the Service Pack was downloaded, the file must be executed to install the files. The execution might be as follows:


If the Service Pack is to be installed by the use of Windows Update to automatically install the Service Pack from the update screen, then choosing to "update" from the Windows Update screen will initiate the installation process of the Service Pack onto the system.

Slipstreaming the Service Pack into a New Installation Media

Like many other Microsoft products, Windows 2003 allows Service Packs to be merged into the original application code so that the installation can be a single process, instead of installing the original code and then applying the Service Pack. This merging of the service pack into the original code is called slipstreaming. Effectively, the updated code overwrites the original code and then is burned to a new CD that becomes the updated version of the installation software.

To prepare a slipstream copy of Windows 2003, do the following:

  1. Insert the Windows 2003 disc into the CD-ROM drive and copy the contents of the i386 directory into an empty directory on a hard drive.
  2. Extract the contents of the Service Pack into a different empty directory on the hard drive so that the files for the Service Pack are available. The following is an example of the command to extract the files:
    WindowsServer2003-KB889101-SP1-x86-enu.exe /x
  3. Go into the update folder of the Service Pack directory and run the following command to slipstream the contents of the Service Pack into the original code directory (where c:\win2003\ is the location of the original Windows 2003 software, and c:\sp1\ is the directory of the Service Pack software):
    c:\sp1\i386\update\update.exe –s c:\win2003

The resulting files in the original Windows 2003 directory (c:\win2003 in this example) will be the original code updated with the Service Pack updates. This entire directory can now be burned back to a bootable CD-ROM as a CD that is now a Windows 2003 SP1 installation disc.

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