Here's a SQL Server riddle for you: What's smaller than a breadbox and filled with hundreds of goodies? SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1).

Microsoft made SQL Server 2000 SP1 available for download from its Web site on June 12. But do you really need to install this service pack?

One school of thought preaches that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is solid advice that's hard to argue with, but we'd still be running DOS if we took that approach to its extreme. And are you positive that your system isn't broken or that it's running as well as it could be? Your queries might not cause access violations, but some queries might be running at less than optimal levels because of a bug that SP1 fixes.

Many people will disagree with me for encouraging customers to apply the service pack in the absence of "known" problems from the "official" fix list. But I think upgrading is the right thing to do for most sites. Service-pack upgrade decisions are easier now that Microsoft posts detailed fix lists of all the problems the service pack corrects. And I can think of two reasons why you should apply the service pack even if you don't see a relevant issue on the fix list. First, are you positive that nothing on the fix list applies to you? SQL Server 2000 SP1 features almost 400 fixes spread across the core database engine, Analysis Services, and Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC). I don't know about you, but I could easily miss something on that list. Second, you might not be experiencing one of the bugs today, but how do you know that the mission-critical query your developers write tomorrow morning won't be affected by a SP1 fix?

Let's say you've decided to update your systems. Should you simply download the service pack and ask a junior database assistant to run the setup of your company's mission-critical Web site while you're on a coffee break? Make sure to dust off your resume if you choose that path. You should never take upgrading production or even development servers lightly. I encourage you to apply the service pack. But please, please make sure you roll out the service pack in a controlled manner that lets you easily roll back your SQL Servers to pre-SP1 status if an unanticipated problem arises.

As I've said before, the readme.txt file is called that for a reason. I printed readme.txt and the entire fix list—a total of 51 pages. Read all of them BEFORE you create your upgrade plan.

On a final note, if you use a high-end SMP system with eight or more processors, you should definitely apply SP1. The service pack includes several kernel-level tweaks that let SQL Server scale much more effectively on SMP systems.