Just days before it cast Windows NT 4.0 Workstation into the no-support zone, Microsoft issued its fourth service pack for Windows 2000, the operating system that succeeded NT in early 2000. Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 (SP4) is a collection of over 650 fixes and doesn't add any new functionality, unlike the previous service pack, though it does include all of the updates from the previous three service packs. Microsoft describes SP4 as a "recommended update," by which the software giant means it has held SP4 to a higher level of testing than its hot-fixes and the company believes the service pack is safe for customers to deploy broadly. One item that has changed, however, is SP4's end user license agreement, which has been updated to better communicate which features of the product use a network connection to transmit information to Microsoft.


"What we have done is update the EULA so the customer knows that they can turn off these features they may not want to have turned on," Microsoft Group Product Manager Bob O'brien told InfoWorld. "This is about being super transparent with our customers so they know what the product is doing."


Windows 2000 SP4 includes fixes related to security, application compatibility, operating system reliability, and setup, Microsoft notes. In addition to the updates found in previous Win2K service packs, SP4 also includes Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4 and Outlook Express 5.5 with Service Pack 2. As with previous SP versions, starting with SP2, upgrading to SP4 will automatically upgrade your computer to 128-bit encryption, "to provide better online and local security and to bring your computer up to the current worldwide encryption standard," Microsoft writes on its Web site.


There are several ways to acquire SP4. To order SP4 on CD, please visit the Microsoft Web site (URL below); the CD version of SP4 includes documentation such as the Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 Installation and Deployment Guide, the Microsoft Windows 2000 Hotfix Installation and Deployment Guide, and the Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 Installation and Deployment Guide. If you choose to download SP4 from the Web, you can pick from the Express installation (15 to 27.5 MB), which is geared toward single PCs, and the Network installation (129 MB), which can be deployed to multiple PCs in an enterprise.


Windows 2000 SP4 download information and links:

Order the Windows 2000 SP4 CD-ROM

Download Windows 2000 SP4 (English)

Windows 2000 SP4 Web site