Microsoft is only weeks away from releasing a major upgrade for their problematic Vista operating system. We take a look at the changes and the problems that Microsoft say will be fixed.
Microsoft has announced the availability of a major upgrade for their Vista operating system. Jeff Putt Director, Windows Client Business Group Microsoft Australia has said that the Windows Vista SP1 contains changes focused on fixing reliability and performance issues that have been discussed in online forums. Among problems singled out are fixes for such problems as copying files and shutdown times.
He has also said that the Vista upgrade supports new types of hardware and emerging standards, like EFI and ExF and will include some management, deployment and support improvements, such as adding the ability to detect and correct common file sharing problems to Network Diagnostics.
Windows Vista SP1 will also include secure development Lifecycle process updates, where Microsoft identify the root cause of each security bulletin and improve their internal tools to eliminate code patterns that could lead to future vulnerabilities.
Nick White a Vista Product Manager said that Microsoft had only released the update to a private group of Beta testers via connect.microsoft.com. He said “We’ll review some of the changes made in SP1 later this week and our VP of Product Management, Mike Nash, will answers questions about Windows Vista and SP1 in a video conference that will appear online”.
Brandon LeBlanc one of the beta testers for the Vista SP1 said that the most common way the user will get SP1 will be through Windows Update. That is how he installed SP1. In a blog found on the Microsoft Vista site.
He says that before getting to the SP1, a series of 3 prerequisites had to be installed first (It was 3 for me since I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate, but users who aren’t running Ultimate or Enterprise will only have 2 to install since BitLocker is not included in the other Windows Vista SKUs). I talked to Product Manager David Zipkin who explained what these prerequisites are for. The first prerequisite includes updates to the servicing stack. The second prerequisite is an update for BitLocker-capable PCs (Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate) to ensure proper servicing of Bitlocker. And the third and final prerequisite includes some updates to Windows, necessary to install and uninstall the service pack.
With me being a power user, I went into the Windows Update control panel to install the service pack and prerequisites manually but most users have Windows Update configured to automatically install updates and so the prerequisites-like other updates-will automatically install, typically overnight.
Once the prerequisites are installed, you will then be able to proceed with updating to SP1 via Windows Update. David told me that Microsoft also intends to release some of these prerequisite updates ahead of the service pack, as part of normal monthly updates, so you shouldn’t see all these when you install the Service Pack.
When SP1 shows up in Windows Update, it does so as an “important update” and gives a size range from 51MB – 679.6MB. For me, the download of the service pack through Windows Update occurred relatively fast so I assume the size of SP1 is more on the lower end rather than the high. While SP1 is installing, I was able to continue working without any issue. Once SP1 finishes installing, Windows Update alerted me it must restart to finish the installation, allowing me to finish up my work to restart my PC.
On my Desktop PC, I decided to give the standalone installer for SP1 a try. The standalone installer is the version of SP1 offered as a single downloadable file in x86 and x64 flavors. Since I am running at 64-bit on my desktop PC, I chose the x64 standalone installer for SP1.
The standalone installer is mainly used by IT administrators in a corporate network environment to roll out via SMS or other 3rd party management tools. In the case of Windows Vista SP1, the size of the standalone installer is noticeably larger than previous Service Packs in part due to the fact it accommodates for the 36 basic languages supported Windows Vista and all Windows Vista SKUs. This should make it easier for IT administrators to roll SP1 out to PCs running different languages on different SKU’s on their network. 1 file does it all. My experience installing SP1 with the standalone installer versus installing SP1 through Windows Update was pretty much the same, except the standalone installer also took care of installing the prerequisite packages for me.
The Windows Update client, which is built in to Windows Vista, allows you to view all available updates real easily. By right-clicking on any of the available updates, you can view details regarding that specific update. You can also view your history of installed updates as well.
If you’ve enabled the use of Microsoft Update – you will also see updates for other Microsoft products using the Microsoft Update Engine. You will see updates for Windows Vista and Microsoft Office grouped into seperate groups. In the case of this evening, I had several updates for Office 2007 including an update for the Outlook 2007 Junk Mail Filter. Some of the Windows Live desktop apps are also designed to take advantage of Microsoft Update too.
You can see if you are using Microsoft Update or not in Windows Update by checking where you receive updates at the bottom of the Windows Update window.
If you are not using Microsoft Update, it will say “Get updates for more products” which you can click to install Microsoft Update.
Windows Update is also great at delivering updated device drivers. A few nights ago I was alerted of a new wireless network adapter driver for my laptop. And this evening I got an update for the Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver (which I will talk about in a later post).
If you have Windows Vista Ultimate you’ll notice that Windows Update is used for downloading Ultimate Extras such as Windows DreamScene.
Overall, you’ll find being able to keep your PC up-to-date is real easy with the Windows Update client in Windows Vista.
NOTE: These experiences are based on having automatic updating configured in the Windows Update client on Windows Vista.