Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

Summary: Last week, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Since then, I've been monitoring the release. As with any major update, there are some issues, but are they widespread or isolated? And how can you ensure a trouble-free SP1 install? I've got the answers.


Last week, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. I’ve been monitoring the release in online forums and via individual reports since then. I’ve also talked, unofficially, with some people who have access to Microsoft’s customer support database.

At that time, I noted that this “looks like a successful rollout.” Everything I’ve seen since then suggests that there are no widespread issues with Service Pack 1. Microsoft representatives who have looked into the release have also confirmed for me that they are not seeing any indication of significant issues with the update on Windows 7.

That doesn’t mean 100% of installations will be trouble-free. SP1 doesn’t add any new features, but it is a major update. Given the complexity of the PC ecosystem, it’s inevitable that there will be some hiccups in the process. For example, one reader pointed me to this lengthy thread on Microsoft’s TechNet forums, which highlights a troublesome issue that arises when all language packs are installed on Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise. If that describes your setup, I strongly recommend reading this thread before starting an SP1 update.

Fortunately, that type of error seems to be extremely rare. The more common (and still rare) outcome is an SP1 installation that fails to complete, leaving the system unchanged and still usable. This happened to one of my readers, who noted that she received error 0x800f0826 at the end of the installation process. A quick search of the TechNet forums finds other reports of this specific error, which has been associated with Vista service packs as well. This error reportedly occurs on some systems where the third-party DriverSweeper utility has been used. If you encounter this issue you might be able to fix it by running the System Update Readiness Tool and then reattempting the SP1 installation. According to Microsoft, this tool is automatically offered to machines where the Service Pack installer detects inconsistencies such as store corruption.

Should you avoid Service Pack 1? That’s certainly the most conservative approach. Given that SP1 is primarily a rollup of previously issued updates and hotfixes, there’s no compelling reason to install it today. If you’re cautious, feel free to wait a little longer. For network administrators who want to continue testing before deploying SP1, use the official SP1 Blocker toolkit from Microsoft to prevent SP1 from being delivered through Windows Update. (Note that this toolkit blocks the SP1 files from being offered through Windows Update until February 22, 2012. It does not prevent the installation of the service pack from CD/DVD, or from the stand-alone download package.)

Update: It's worth emphasizing that these comments apply to Windows 7 and not to Windows Server 2008 R2. In general, I strongly recommend that anyone running a Windows server should wait and install a service pack only after they have fully tested it in their environment, with their applications. It's relatively easy to recover from a problem with a single workstation, but much more difficult to do so with a server.

If you decide to press ahead with an SP1 installation, some basic precautions are in order, the same ones you should use with any important upgrade:

  • Create a manual System Restore point first. That gives you the option to roll back to the current configuration in the event of a problem. (Click Start and type restore point in the search box to see the Create a restore point option.)
  • Perform a manual image backup of your system drive before starting the SP1 install. Every version of Windows 7 offers the option to create a system image that can be saved on an external hard drive and restored from a repair disk. The process is quick and easy, and it provides a foolproof recovery option even from a worst-case failure. To create a backup image, type backup in the Start menu search box and use the Backup and Restore utility.

In the event you do encounter an SP1 installation issue, you can find excellent support resources at Microsoft’s TechNet forums. That should be your first stop if you need help with any SP1 issue.

If you have other reports to share, please feel free to leave them in the TalkBack section or use the comment link to send them to me via email. I’m continuing to monitor these reports.

Update: If you use Microsoft's Remote Server Administration Tools, there's a known issue with SP1 that prevents you from installing the RSAT utilities after SP1. (If the tools are installed first, they will work just fine.) Details here.

Also, a reader points to this discussion on VMWare's forums, which documents a workaround for a possible performance-related issue with VMWare Workstation.

Topics: Microsoft, Data Management, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

    Yes, absolutely you should install it. A roll up of security fixes that need to be installed to protect you from the dangers of the internet. I can't see a reason not to install it, and in this day and age its very rare for an update to do any harm to your system.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      @Loverock Davidson Well, if you have kept up with the updates then it should not be a big deal. Problem is, most users don't and that causes a problem when installing an update as big as SP1.
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        Most users do update as automatic updates are enabled by default.
        Loverock Davidson
      • when you are dumb enough to have

        automatic update on a system well you deserve to have problem ......
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        There haven't been any problems except in a few rare cases with special configurations.
        Loverock Davidson
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        @statuskwo5 not so... this does contain a cumulative list of updates, but it also had several other updates that were specific to SP1. In my opinion it has made my i5 laptop perform a bit better...
    • RIght, that is why in the past month, we have

      @Loverock Davidson... seen microsoft pull back updates to their Windows Mobile OS, and had to patch Windows Updates to fix some inconsistencies.

      And just to day, my Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 SP1 stopped working, citing compatibility issues with OS, and running VPC in compatibility mode does not fix.

      Our organization has seen patches wreak havoc with third party software, which is why we deploy to a test batch early in the weak, then to the rest of the organization mid-week, provided the test batch had no issues.
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh: Virtual PC 2007 <> supported under Windows 7, so little wonder it "broke" for you. You need to use Windows Virtual PC or a third-party product like VMWare or VirtualBox.
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        Hey smoosh,
        I have three win 7 machines (two 32 bit and 164 bit) and I had zero problem with the service pack. Of course, I have real machines with real software. Get out of vitural computing and greatly depreciate your problems.
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        you've got a 164 bit processor? holy moly....
        also, I agree that vitural computing is a bad thing. Virtual computing on the other hand is great...
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      @Loverock Davidson

      well it stuffed up my wired (not wireless) connection - blue screen. Uninstalled and working again
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      I have Windows 7 x64 running as a virtual machine on Debian Squeeze. I installed all prior updates. After installing Service Pack 1, Outlook kept losing my connection to the exchange server, to the extent that I could not send an email. The messages would remain in my outbox indefinitely. Once I roll back to the previous restore point, everything works just as well as over the past 5 years of running XP and/or Windows 7 VMs on Debian using kvm.
    • Fixed -Couldn't install on upgraded 7 from vista machine error 0x8004402f

      The answer is: download the entire SP1 from the mothership instead of using automatic feature - my download was 551 megs and installed perfect

      The problem was: I tried to install SP1 on machine updated from Vista to 7 but it wouldn't take and would fail at the end of install giving me the 0X8004402f error message.
      rich from metwell
      • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

        @rich from metwell
        Two of my machines were upgraded from vista; still no problem. The other was wiped free of XP when win 7 beta come out. Wped it clean when the final win 7 caome out. But, absolutely no problems.
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      @Loverock Davidson

      Ask a Samsung user and see what he thinks ?
      Alan Smithie
    • It's very rare for an update to do any harm

      @Loverock Davidson Your sarcasm is entertaining. :-)

      Oh. You were serious?
    • My rare system destroyed by SP 1

      @Loverock Davidson I agree it's very rare, but my Asus notebook computer, brand new in December 2010 with Windows 7 pre-installed, is apparently that rara avis. I installed it Friday, and it no longer boots. As others who did encounter a problem also note, it somehow also eradicated any chance of rolling back to a stable configuration. It also de-registers Windows 7 so that my software was no longer legal (when I restarted in safe mode). Asus says to send the physical computer in for service, and I'm now going into Day 5 without my system, as my automatic install took place last Friday afternoon. I hope that most users don't go through this hell.
      Thad McIlroy, The Future of Publishing
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      @Loverock Davidson
      But it does significantly slow down the system. Not just my oppinion - look here:
    • RE: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

      @Loverock Davidson
      No it makes Windows significantly slower
  • Mixed ... but uniformly happy endings

    1. One year old DELL 430 with multiple x64 Windows 7 partitions. All upgraded without incident.

    2. HP Microservers. SP1 via Windows update ... stalled. Rollback. Update via full download ... stalled.
    Complete rebuild via integrated W7+SP1 ... completed with no incidents.
    Couple of updates to do ...
    ... stalled ... but after leaving for 15 minutes and aborted ... seemed to be OK.
    HP Microservers are not certified for W7 but seem to be fine (they are after all only portables in a server configuration).