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Part: VII Appendixes > About Service Packs

About Service Packs

Windows XP is part of Microsoft's “New Technology” or NT family of operating systems, along with Windows NT, Windows 2000 Professional, and the various flavors of Windows 2000 Server, and Windows Server 2003. These operating systems were designed from the ground up for stability, reliability, and security, and to keep them in tip-top shape, Microsoft releases a constant stream of software updates called Critical Updates, Recommended Updates, and Hotfixes:

  • Critical Updates are just that: Fixes for bugs that are so severe or involve such serious security risks that you really have to install them. As you know, XP can automatically download and install these, or at least download and offer to install them, so you don't miss out. You can also find a list of Critical Updates by visiting the Windows Update Web site.

  • Recommended Updates are not security fixes, but are updates to accessory programs like Messenger and Media Player, new desktop themes and the like. Recommended Updates are also listed on the Windows Update Web site.

  • Hotfixes are bug fixes that affect a small enough group of users that Microsoft doesn't send them out to everyone. Instead, you have to hunt for them by researching the Knowledge Base at support.microsoft.com, or hear about them from Microsoft's Tech Support department. They're not widely advertised because (a) if you're running into a serious-enough problem, you'll go looking for the solution, and (b) Hotfixes tend to be released in a hurry without extensive testing, so they sometimes cause new problems of their own. Hotfix users tend to be corporate IT people whose job it is to stay on top of these things.


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