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3 min read

Windows Server 2003 and XP x64 Editions Service Pack 2

There have been a few articles floating around on the Internet since we released the private beta of Windows Server 2003 SP2 a couple of weeks ago.  To remove any mystery or speculation about what this Service Pack 2 is about, I thought I would take a couple of minutes to lay it out.

First off, I know SP1 to Windows Server 2003 made some pretty big changes to the way we do security and it introduced a cycle of application testing and some compatibility issues….this was, however, a necessary evil needed to address server security.

Now that WS03 SP1 is the foundation for security moving forward, SP2 is back to a ‘standard’ service pack from MS…….

What this service pack contains:

  • All previously release Security Bulletin Updates
  • Roll-ups all individual hotfixes released since RTM of Windows Server 2003
  • Provides fixes to increase reliability, robustness and security
  • A collection of some customer requested features and features to support Windows Vista

What this service pack isn’t:

  • It isn’t SP1 🙂

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 will update the following versions:

  • Windows Server 2003 Editions (32-bit x86)
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 Editions (32-bit x86)
  • Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 Editions
  • Windows Server 2003 for Itanium-based Systems
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition

Did you catch that last one?  That’s right – the same SP2 bits will also update the x64 Edition of Windows Server Professional.  Cool.

Even thought SP2 is a standard service pack meant to  will also introduce a few limited-scope features, which include:

Windows Deployment Services
WDS is an updated and redesigned version of Remote Installation Services (RIS). WDS will be required to support the deployment of Windows Vista. WDS offers this functionality along with improved security surrounding image store, delegation of administration and better management story.

Microsoft Management Console 3.0
Microsofr Management Console 3.0 supports richer functionality in snap-ins designed for the MMC 3.0 infrastructure. In addition it allows users to add or remove snap-ins and provides improved error handling via the MMC console. Microsoft Management Console 3.0 replaces its predecessor (v2.1) for Windows Server 2003 customers. This feature is installed by default upon Service Pack 2 installation. 

Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)
Wi-Fi Protected Access enhances the wireless client software with support for the new Wi-Fi Alliance certification for wireless security. The update also makes it easier to connect to secure public spaces that are equipped with wireless Internet access. These locations are otherwise known as “Wi-Fi hotspots”. This feature is enabled by default upon Service Pack 2 installation.

Scalable Networking Pack
Scalable Networking Pack supports new hardware that allows TCP offloading capability (aka TOE) to the OS. These changes will scale Windows networking to multi-gigabit link rates and across multiple CPUs. This feature is turned OFF by default and can be enabled only when the specific hardware is present.

Enabling ‘Firewall per port’ Authentication
‘Firewall per port; authentication secures traffic between the Extranet environment and internal assets that are protected via IPsec domain isolation. This feature is enabled by default upon Service Pack 2 installation. 

Performance improvements for SQL Server
Service Pack 2 provides performance improvement for SQL Server 2005 under intensive workloads . These improvements are installed by default upon Service Pack 2 installation.

Enhanced discoverability options in MSConfig
MSConfig now contains an additional tab which provide a single launching point for common support tools that will ease the discoverability of common diagnostic functionality This improvement is turned on by default upon Service Pack 2 installation.

Improved IPSEC Filter Management
Service Pack 2 reduces the filter set that needs to be managed in a Server and Domain Isolation using IPSEC scenario from ~400 filters to just 2 filters. It also removes the need for ongoing filter maintenance due to infrastructure changes. This performance improvement is turned on by default upon Service Pack 2 installation.

Performance improvements under Windows Virtualization
Service Pack 2 improves the performance under high APIC access rate for Windows Server 2003 running as a multiprocessor guest operating system under Windows Virtualization. 

You can keep up to date with SP2’s progress at our Service Pack roadmap website:


Ward Ralston