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129. Windows Vista Service Pack 1

By Andrew D. Wright

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this column was not published in the Weekly newspapers. A second version of this column with updated material was published 18 April 2008.


Microsoft has publicly released the first major revision to the Windows Vista operating system, Service Pack 1. SP 1 can be downloaded as a stand-alone version or as a smaller download from Microsoft's Windows Update site. It will be released as an automatic update during Microsoft's regular monthly update in April 2008.

Service Packs are major updates to Microsoft software, rolling up months of security updates and program bugfixes into one download and sometimes adding new features.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 includes all the security updates and software patches Microsoft has released for Vista since it came out in January 2007. It also fixes some of the more commonly reported bugs with Vista including slow file copying, slow extraction of compressed zip files using Windows Explorer, and poor network performance.

SP 1 improves Vista's hibernation and resume function, and adds battery run time to laptop computers through more efficient processor and graphics usage.

Vista's UAC, the User Account Control watchdog that protects Vista by making the user manually approve any sensitive actions has also been reworked.

Advanced users with the Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Vista may like the new BitLocker disk encryption system, and gamers with the very latest video cards may enjoy the new Direct3D 10.1 update.

Vista SP 1 adds support for some new hardware and software standards not currently in wide use such as Secure Digital (SD) Advanced Direct Memory Access, coming in the next generation of SD host controllers; booting from UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which is set to eventually replace the computer BIOS (Basic Input/Output System - the part of the computer which starts first); and better support for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD optical drives. Support for the next generation of larger size flash memory is also included.

Now the bad news. Original Vista was widely criticized for its lack of support for older hardware, even some relatively recent hardware. Users discovered devices such as printers, scanners, sound cards, TV tuner cards, fax modems and other multimedia devices would not work with Vista. While some of these devices eventually got new drivers written for them, many were simply rendered obsolete.

Vista Service Pack 1 is even less tolerant of older hardware. In some cases hardware that would work with Windows Vista will produce system lockups and the famous Blue Screen of Death with SP 1. Dialup Internet users in particular may want to avoid this update unless their modem has had new drivers written specifically for Vista or Vista SP 1.

Before installing Vista Service Pack 1, be sure to check for the newest drivers for all computer hardware, most especially any hardware involving video, graphics, networking or sound. Device drivers written before 2007 may simply not work.

Backup any personal documents or important files to a different device than your hard drive, just in case the update goes seriously wrong and your Vista hard drive needs to be re-formatted. Be sure to have enough free hard drive space available for the update - up to 15 GB may be needed.

Leave lots of time for the install. A quick problem-free install on a fast computer can take less than an hour, but the process can take up to several hours on a slower machine. The computer will need to reboot several times during the update and may appear to be not making any progress for long periods of time. Be sure to do the update when there is good weather as a badly timed power outage can make a real mess of things.


Windows Vista Service Pack 1 standalone download (free - 435 MB):


Things to know before downloading Vista SP 1:


Microsoft Vista SP 1 Support Web Forums:


Free Microsoft Vista SP 1 Support:


Programs with known issues with Vista SP 1:


Device drivers with known issues with Vista SP 1:


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Originally published 4 April 2008


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