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Fall 2012 Edition
This article as a PDF.
Isaac Asimov was right: "The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change."
This applies to software as well as other aspects of life. The GIS user community requires new functionality and applications. Operating systems, databases, complementary software, and industry standards are constantly revised. ArcGIS software, too, constantly evolves to meet users' needs and function in this changing environment.
Consequently, it is important to keep up-to-date with service packs. Each service pack helps improve performance and get the most functionality from ArcGIS. A service pack contains all the fixes and patches released for a version of a product as of that date, including all previous service packs. Occasionally, service packs even add functionality.
Because patches and hot fixes are built on the most recent service pack, software must be current on service packs to implement patches and fixes. Regularly applying service packs to all installations of ArcGIS also simplifies maintenance and troubleshooting because all machines will be running the same software.
Service packs relate to specific products and language versions of the software. Each is supplied as a Windows Installer patch (.msp) file or as a .tar archive file, depending on the product and/or platform addressed by the service pack.
To download service packs, go to the Support section of esri.com and click the Patches and Service Packs link to view a list of the available current service packs and patches. Make sure service packs are downloaded to a location other than the one where ArcGIS is installed. All users can download service packs, whether or not they are on maintenance. Upon request, service packs can also be supplied on CD on a quarterly basis to those on maintenance.
To find out which Esri service packs are currently installed on a machine, use one of the PatchFinder utilities available for Windows and UNIX platforms from the Patches and Service Packs page on the Esri Support site.
Prior to installing a service pack, read all the accompanying documentation. If several Esri products are installed on the same machine, the order in which service packs are applied may be important. Once a service pack is applied to the software, it can only be removed by uninstalling and reinstalling the software to which the service pack was applied.