BOOT CAMP 517 (25/03/08)

Vista Service Pack 1


Service Packs only became big news with the release of Windows XP SP2 back in early 2005, and what a whopper that was! Until then Service Packs had been convenient wrappers for regular bug fixes and security updates and they tended to be distributed to users with little or no fanfare, through automatic updates or incorporated into new releases, but XP SP2 changed all that.


Early releases of Windows XP were riddled with security problems and all sorts of glitches and the only way to get it back on track was for Microsoft to replace large portions of the operating system’s code. To all intents and purposes SP2 was XP Mk II, which wouldn’t have mattered too much but for the fact that it created a raft of new problems of its own with software and hardware crashing or simply refusing to work.


Vista SP1 was originally scheduled for release last autumn but after several months delay following an extensive beta testing program, Microsoft began shipping Vista with SP1 to PC system builders on February 14th; at the same time it was made available for download to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet Plus subscribers.


The first to get SP1, via automatic updates and downloads, will be users of Vista Ultimate (English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish editions), the rest of us will be getting it over the next few days and weeks, depending which version of Vista you are using, where in the world you live and whether or not your PC is set for scheduled updates.


There’s a lot riding on a smooth roll out of SP1 it with many people holding off buying into Vista until after it has been successfully deployed. The signs are that for most users it will be less troublesome than XP SP2 but inevitably there are going to be problems so over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at what’s in SP1, what you can do to make the installation as trouble free as possible, and what to do if it goes wrong.


Despite not being as wide-ranging as XP SP2, Vista SP1 is still quite a lump, weighing in at between 50 and 700Mb, depending on your system setup. You will also need around 7Gb of free hard disc space for the installation, though this is mainly used for temporary files, so you’ll get most of it back afterwards. It shouldn’t be a problem on most systems but if you were running low on space now would be a good time to weed out and uninstall any unnecessary files and programs to make room, (and if you are that short of space you should be thinking seriously about a hard drive upgrade).


You should also fix any problems that you are be having with Vista; installing SP1 on a cranky system could make matters worse. A number of applications are known to disagree with, or stop working under SP1 – see this week’s Top Tip for more details.


By now you are probably wondering whether it is worth the fuss and bother? My advice is to wait until the dust has settled – more about that next week -- but this is an important upgrade and at the very least it will make your PC more secure. The largest part of SP1 -- that you may or may not need -- is a roll-up of all of the security updates and hotfixes to date. If your PC is updated automatically you will probably have most of them already, otherwise this part of the package is essential to ensure your PC and the data is contains is protected. There are also improvements to behind the scenes features like the random number generator, used by Vista’s encryption systems.


SP1 addresses performance and compatibility issues and fixes more than 100 faults that have been identified since Vista was released a little over a year ago. They include a bug that slows down copying and browsing files over network connections, reducing the time Vista takes to wake up from hibernation and switch power states and there are some tweaks to the laptop battery life display. File compression should be a little quicker, there are some changes to Internet Explorer 7’s JavaScript handling, the Event Viewer should open faster and the Photos screensaver won’t take so long to close. 


There are also a number of new features, though these probably won’t be noticed by most users, at least not yet, as they are concerned with things like improved application and hardware support, the latter also includes new flash memory filing systems (exFAT and an upgrade of Secure SD memory cards).  Don’t expect Vista to look any different post SP1 either, the user interface is unchanged. You may notice a small reduction in your PC’s performance immediately after installation due to the deletion of ‘prefetch’ data, this is normal and it should be back to its old self in a few days.


Next Week – Vista SP1, part 2





Utility in Windows that logs faults and significant changes to the operating system



Programming language, mostly used for creating fancy features and eye-catching graphics on web pages



Folder containing shortcuts and files that the operating system thinks it will need to speed up program launching and running background processes




The lengthy beta testing program has shown Vista Service Pack 1 to be relatively trouble-free but a number of programs have either been found to stop working, or exhibit reduced functionality under SP1. A list of affected applications has been published in Microsoft Knowledgebase Article 935796.  This includes several well-known security and anti-virus programs (BitDefender, Juagmin AV, ZoneAlarm Security Suite, Rising Firewall and Novell ZCM Agent) and we can expect the list to grow once the Service Pack is released into the wild. Patches and fixes are available now for most of the known problematic programs.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



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