Windows Vista SP1 - Finally Released but...

If you have been waiting for Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, well, the wait is over... sort of. We just received word that Microsoft has released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 for release to manufacturers with the OEM version (RTM) as of Feb 4th.

With the RTM of SP1, OEM partners will get SP1 and start producing new PCs running Windows Vista with SP1 pre-installed. Also the manufacturing process for retail product of Windows Vista with SP1 will start. Both will be available in stores for new Windows Vista customers in the coming months. Today also its starts the process to manufacture DVDs for enterprise customers who get the OS software via the Volume Licensing program.

Microsoft has made available a document detailing whats in SP1 here.

Here are some highlights from the document:

  • Support for creating a single DVD media that boots on PCs with either BIOS or EFI
  • Fixes for most common causes of crashes and hangs in Windows Vista, as reported by Windows Error Reporting
  • Improved the speed of adding and extracting files to and from a zipped folder
  • New compression algorithm for RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) reduces network bandwidth by as much as 25-60%
  • Hot patching reduced the number of reboots when updating
  • SP1 will report the amount of system memory installed rather than report the amount of system memory available to the OS on 32-bit systems

The rollout will be in stages for SP1 Windows Vista users to be in sync with the availability of Windows Vista SP1 on new PCs and in stores. There are a couple of reasons for this. The beta testing identified an issue with a small set of device drivers. These drivers do not follow the guidelines for driver installation and as a result, some beta participants who were using Windows Vista and updated to Service Pack 1 reported issues with these devices. Because the issue was with the way the drivers were installed and not the drivers themselves, the solution was simply to reinstall the drivers. While this worked fine for more technical beta testers, Microsoft wants to deliver a better experience for customers.

While Microsoft knows that most customers who update from Windows Vista to SP1 will NOT be affected, their approach is to improve the experience for all our customers. To do this, they will begin making SP1 available through Windows Update in mid-March, giving them time to work with some of their hardware partners to make adjustments to the installation process for the affected drivers. As SP1 gets delivered through Windows Update, they will only offer it to PCs that they detect don't have any of the affected device drivers installed. Microsoft is taking the next month or so to continue their work of identifying as many of these devices as possible.

Here's the timing for SP1 availability for current Windows Vista users:

  • In mid-March, Microsoft will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update (in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese) and to the download center on Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1. If Windows Update determines that the system has one of the drivers Microsoft knows to be problematic, then Windows Update will not offer SP1. Since Micorsoft knows that some customers may want to update to SP1 anyhow, the download center will allow anyone who wants to install SP1 to do so.
  • In mid-April, Microsoft will begin delivering Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Vista customers who have chosen to have updates downloaded automatically. That said, any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not update successfully will not get SP1 automatically. As updates for these drivers become available, they will be installed automatically by Windows Update, which will unblock these systems from getting Service Pack 1. The result is that more and more systems will automatically get SP1, but only when Microsoft is confident they will have a good experience.
  • The remaining languages will RTM in April.
New customers should feel great about buying Windows Vista today, knowing that when everything is ready, SP1
Microsoft will be deploying Service Pack 1 in two "waves". Wave 0, which is the one released on February 4, will only include five languages - English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. The second wave, Wave 1, is scheduled for release 1-2 weeks later, and will cover all 36 basic languages, including Chinese.

Microsoft claims Windows Vista SP1 will provide key improvements on the security, performance and reliability of Windows Vista by providing :

* All previously released updates since RTM
* Performance and reliability improvements in core scenarios such as file copy, network browsing, and improved response time to resume from sleep.
* Support for new types of hardware, and several emerging standards.
* There are improvements to the administration experience. One of the most important changes they are making is that BitLocker now supports encrypting for multiple volumes.

Of course, Service Pack 1 will also disable two common methods of hacking Windows Vista, namely the OEM BIOS exploit and the Grace Timer exploit.