The company said that by going with a collection of updates, rather than a service pack, it would be enabling customers to update their machines more quickly. The release of the "update rollup" will be in the middle of next year, Microsoft said in a posting to its Web site last week.
"Microsoft talked to many customers about their plans for maintaining their Windows 2000 deployments," the software maker said in a FAQ on its site. "The most frequent requests were for Microsoft to make it as easy as possible to keep Windows 2000 systems up-to-date from a security perspective and to reduce the amount of predeployment testing (customers) would need to perform."
The update collection will include fewer fixes than a service pack, with most of those having already been released separately.
Barring a change in plans, the update collection will be the last significant update for Windows 2000, which is still widely used by businesses. The collection replaces what would have been the fifth service pack for the operating system, which was released in March 2000.
"Because Microsoft believes the Update Rollup will meet the needs of customers better than a new service pack, there will be no Service Pack 5 (SP5) for Windows 2000," the software maker said. "Therefore, SP4 becomes the final service pack for Windows 2000."
The company did not say exactly what will be included in the update collection but did say it will contain "all security-related updates produced for Windows 2000 between the time SP4 was released and the time when Microsoft finalizes the contents of the Update Rollup," as well as a small number of updates not related to security.
Microsoft has released collections of security updates for Windows 2000 before, also employing the technique with Windows NT 4 and Windows XP. In order to install the Windows 2000 update when it comes out next year, customers will need to be running Service Pack 4, which was.
Microsoft is winding down its development and support efforts for the operating system, though some work will continue for several years. Mainstream support for the OS is slated to end next June, with extended support available until 2010.