We were not initially very impressed when we tried to download the latest version of this software from the vendor's website.

Not only did its home page look terrible in Firefox (standards are there for a reason), it also hated the browser so much it made it crash (and we had gone six months without this browser having any problems).

Undaunted, we fired up the less secure Microsoft Internet Explorer and tried to go through the process again. The website does not look that great in IE, either.

At least this is showing a less-than-impressive consistency, as the software is not terribly pretty or as user-friendly as others in the group test.

It has a tabbed interface that displays the status of each Windows machine on the network. The software only covers Windows machines from NT 4.0 up, so NT 3.51 and 9x/ME users would be left out.

This is not a major problem, as these types of machines should have been upgraded or retired by now anyway.

Service Pack Manager 2000 automatically discovers machines on the network and tells the administrator which patches are available for each machine and whether or not they are installed.

It also downloads the relevant Microsoft Knowledge Base page that gives information on the particular patch or vulnerability.

We queried our test computer and found a few patches that were not downloaded via the Windows Update web page for some reason. To install them was simply a case of ticking a box and then downloading it directly from Microsoft's websites.

Patches are grouped much like traffic lights. Red denotes a patch has not been installed or downloaded, yellow means the patch is ready to be installed. Green means the patch has been successfully installed.

Machines can be put into groups called NetGroups and managed accordingly.

According to the documentation, this is very handy for installing patches to machines hidden from the domain master browser for security reasons.

This is not a pretty piece of software, and its looks will put off some administrators looking for a product that they can get to grips with quickly.