What Windows XP and Windows Vista SP's mean to Windows Server 2008 admins?

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 has been released in a staggered fashion to a variety of channels, and Windows XP Service Pack 3 is right around the corner. So why should you care if you're also considering adopting Windows Server 2008? How do the respective service packs fit into the overall design? Let's take a […]

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 has been released in a staggered fashion to a variety of channels, and Windows XP Service Pack 3 is right around the corner. So why should you care if you're also considering adopting Windows Server 2008? How do the respective service packs fit into the overall design?

Let's take a look at each of them.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Perhaps the most well-known change in store for Vista Service Pack 1 users is the alleged improvement in file-copying speeds between SP1 machines and Windows Server 2008 computers. Some tests -- using pre-release builds of both of these products -- showed a comparatively significant improvement in transferring both a large number of smaller files and a single, extremely large file over a link to a Windows Server 2008 machine.

The increase in file copy speed isn't actually limited to only Windows Vista SP1-to-Windows Server 2008 transfers. Indeed, a reviewer from PC World confirmed the improvement in an experiment where she copied 1.9GB of files, consisting of 562 JPEG images, from a 2GB Kingston SD Card to a PC. The file copy averaged 384 seconds over three passes using the gold copy of Windows Vista. With SP1 installed, the copy process averaged 348 seconds, according to PC World.

Now of course, different machines in different conditions may affect results, and one also has to think about how important file copy speeds are in the grand scheme of usability. And certainly not everyone agrees that Vista's file-copying performance has improved.

Interestingly, the initial, release-to-manufacturing version of Windows Server 2008 is known internally within Microsoft as the Service Pack 1 version. This is because both Windows client and server are now based on the same code, and have the same kernel. Along with this parity, the same patches and updates apply to both Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008. It may seem strange to have the first release of an OS call itself Service Pack 1, but the first service pack for Windows Server 2008 will indeed be named Service Pack 2, and should appear in the channels at roughly the same time as Vista Service Pack 2.

Some other miscellaneous improvements relating to SP1 with regard to Windows Server 2008:

  • Bitlocker, the drive encryption feature, now supports encrypting other volumes besides just the main C:/ drive in a system. The Bitlocker code in the Vista client has now achieved feature parity with that in Windows Server 2008.
  • Terminal Services printing is improved, specifically when printing to a printer local to a machine from within a Terminal Services session.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 has released to manufacturing already and is available to subscribers of some of Microsoft's premium support services, with wider, general availability scheduled for sometime in early- to mid-March.

Windows XP Service Pack 3

The biggest change in Windows XP Service Pack 3 for Windows Server 2008 administrators is the addition of Network Access Protection, or NAP, support. NAP is the feature in Server 2008 that allows you to set up criteria that define a healthy network client, and to bounce machines that don't fit that baseline off the network via a variety of methods.

Windows XP contains the system health agents (SHAs) and system health validations (SHVs) that will allow NAP policies configured on Windows Server 2008 machines to be used for verifying that a client meets admin-specified guidelines. XP Service Pack 2 and earlier does not include this capability within the product itself, though it may be available for download later.

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Windows Vista, Service Pack, Vista SP1, Windows XP, XP SP3, Windows Server 2008, Admin, Administrator