Since December 2007, Microsoft has offered a Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit to organizations that wish to prevent deployment of service packs in their environments. Blogging for the Vista Team Blog, Microsoft Windows Communication Manager Matt LeBlanc indicated on 1/29/2008 that this tool will soon relinquish its ability to block XP SP3 and Vista SP1. The expiration date for XP SP3 is 5/19/2008 and for Vista SP1 is 4/28/2009, each 12 months to the day from the original release of those service packs, and each in keeping with the tool’s stated ability to block current service packs up to 12 months after their release dates. After these dates, these SPs will be available directly from Windows Update.
With Vista and Windows Server 2008 shortly to become the focus of a shared SP2 release (currently guesstimated for April, 2009), this tool retains its capability and may be used to block or defer installation of this new SP for up to 12 months after its eventual general availability date. The Blocker offers admins three different ways to manage Service Packs:
- An MS-signed executable that manages a Registry Key (in HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate) to block or allow Windows Update delivery of a current SP.
- A script that works like the MS executable except that it allows the admin to supply the name of a remote machine where the block/unblock operations may be performed.
- An administrative (.ADM) template that permits admins to import GPOs to block or unblock delivery of SPs into a Group Policy environment.
As Microsoft observes in connection with the Blocker “this toolkit will not prevent the installation of the service pack from CD/DVD, or from the stand-alone download package. This simply prevents the service pack from being delivered over Windows Update.”
For environments where more time is often needed to test and accommodate SPs, the Blocker can be a handy tool. As long as admins understand it does not last forever–in fact, a year from the SPs general availability date is as much leeway as it can provide–the tool can be a useful element in their Vista, XP, and Windows Server 2008 toolbox.