The Joy of Patching

For the last couple of months I have read various reports saying Windows XP SP3 will be released in the near future and I have to say that it is none to soon.

This week I helped a co-worker setup a new Dell D630 laptop that thankfully arrived with XP, not Vista. I found that Dell is still building these machines with aging image, which includes IE 6 and Windows Media Player 9.

After taking the machine out of the box, I immediately loaded antivirus software and then went out to visit the Windows Update site. It turns out that this nice new laptop needs a total of 44 High Priority Patches and 9 Software Patches to be current. And that is before we start loading any other software.

Last week while rebuilding a different machine with Windows XP with SP2, the first trip to the Windows Update site resulted in the need to download a total of 87 High Priority patches. Initially I tried to install all of the patches in one pass, but ended getting the machine stuck in an endless loop of the Microsoft XP Activation process. The only way out was to kill the partition and re-install XP. I then had to install the 87 patches in a number of smaller groups, instead of one fell swoop.

Hopefully Windows XP SP3 will reset the counter on the number of patches you have to apply to a fresh install of XP.

I remember first getting XP late in year in 2001, then getting XP SP2 about three and a half years ago. If XP SP3 is released in the next few months, does this mean that we have to wait until 2011 to see XP SP4? Or will Microsoft have succeeded in forcing Vista upon us by then?