Vista SP1 hands-on: six trouble-free upgrades

Vista SP1 hands-on: six trouble-free upgrades

Summary: On Wednesday, FedEx delivered DVDs containing the final, RTM bits of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to three ZDNet bloggers. My colleagues posted their results (and in one case an extensive correction). Here's my report: Six successful installations, with no problems to report.


On Wednesday, FedEx delivered DVDs containing the final, RTM bits of Windows Vista Service Pack 1. My colleagues George Ou and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes received similar packages at roughly the same time.

George was first out of the gate, reporting on his “near death” experiences with a desktop and a notebook PC. I was baffled when I read the original piece, which was completely at odds with every experience I’ve had with SP1 throughout its beta cycle and with the delivered RTM bits. The issue came into clearer focus later in the day, when George updated that original post to note that the problems he encountered had little or nothing to do with SP1. The notebook suffered a catastrophic hardware failure. And the desktop PC? As George notes much later in the story, “My desktop computer seems to be a lot healthier now after I installed Vista SP1.” George has since extensively updated the post, rewriting nearly every paragraph and acknowledging that several of his original speculations were incorrect. backtracking from almost every conclusion he drew originally. [See note at end of post.]

A few hours later, Adrian reported that his first SP1 installation “went without a hitch” and then followed up with a report that says “the promised performance gains are there.”

Meanwhile, over the past 24 hours I’ve been busy installing the RTM bits of SP1 on three different machines here, alongside three other machines that had already been upgraded via Windows Update with a release candidate that turned out to be the final build after all.

And guess what? It all just worked.

  • On my main desktop system, a one-week-old Dell XPS 420 running Windows Vista Ultimate, the complete SP1 setup, start to finish, took just under 49 minutes from start (insert DVD, click OK on installer dialog box) to finish (at the Windows desktop, ready to work). It restarted three times during the installation.
  • On my wife’s 18–month-old Acer notebook, also running Windows Vista Ultimate, I encountered a minor stumbling block yesterday morning when I first tried to install SP1. It stopped almost immediately, warning me that an installed language pack was incompatible the the version of SP1 I was trying to install. After some digging in Control Panel’s Regional and Language Options dialog box, I found the culprit. Last June I had installed the Italian and Spanish language packs on this machine, and the initial release of SP1 is only compatible with five languages: English, German, Japanese, French, and Spanish. (The all-language version will be ready in April.) After I removed the Italian language pack, SP1 install proceeded smoothly. I have no idea how long the actual installation took. When I came back 90 minutes later, the installation had completed and my wife was checking her e-mail and browsing the web. After a day of use, she reports no issues.
  • My main Media Center PC, a year-old Dell XPS 410 that was upgraded with CableCARD support last October, just completed the upgrade. It took a grand total of 57 minutes, with no manual intervention required, and all of its Media Center functions, including communicating to a pair of Linksys extenders in other rooms, are working well.

The other three machines on which Vista SP1 is running are working properly, with no issues. For the last few months, I’ve been monitoring the private and public newsgroups carefully. Based on that feedback (thousands of hands-on reports), I know that my experience is typical. There is a known issue with some third-party drivers that don’t follow proper installation practices and can screw up an SP1 installation. That issue should affect a small percentage of Vista users, but it’s serious enough that Microsoft decided to delay the official release of SP1 by about six weeks. Aside from that issue, which will be fixed when the hardware companies release new drivers, I have seen very few SP1–related flaws.

Sadly, anyone who came to ZDNet yesterday read George’s inflammatory (and ultimately incorrect) post blaming SP1 for what actually turned out to be a hardware failure. How many people passed along those links? Quite a few, I suspect. How many people believed the incorrect information and concluded that SP1 is a buggy piece of crap? Too many. How many people came back and read George’s extensive corrections? How many people noted that the inflammatory original headline (“Death encounters with Vista SP1 RTM”) had been revised to the more prosaic and accurate “First experiences with Vista SP1 RTM”? Only a handful, I’m afraid.

I’ll be doing my benchmarking tests over the weekend and will post the results as soon as they’re ready. I’d rather be right than first.

[Update: In an e-mail to me, George points out that he tried not to draw conclusions and did indeed point out that the problems might not have been related to SP1. After rereading his post, I agree with him. The trouble is, the original, inflammatory headline and the first two paragraphs leave the unmistakable impression that SP1 caused a "near death" and a "real death" experience for two computers. Hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of ZDNet newsletter subscribers will see only that headline and the blurb that goes with it, and they will, quite naturally, jump to conclusions. No matter how factual the complete post may have been, the short story it and the headline told was wrong.]

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Realized

    I realized at the time I read Georges post that his would be one of pressure to be the first out with SP1 experiences. I never read his backtracks after I read Adrians post of a somewhat successful install. Even though I will still be wary of SP1, even though there should be enough supporting evidence by the time I get my own install complete in mid march to warrant it necessary.

    I think Vista is ok at best and the only reason I have it is because it came with my Toshiba laptop. The only real problem I have with it is that it seems to hog more and more resources with every iteration, sure it runs great, only because the "recommended" hardware is 2gigs of ram. My desktop with AMD 5400+ and 1 gig of ram and WinXP runs smoother and faster than my toshiba laptop with 2 gigs of ram and Intel Duo 2ghz with Vista Premium. Hopefully with this SP they might run neck and neck but I doubt it.
    • History of "Recommended RAM"

      Some years ago, I learned the hard way that "recommended RAM", in practical terms, means the amount of the amount of RAM Windows needs to make the Desktop work. If the user tries to do much beyond that then more RAM is needed. I don't know how much, but as a rule of thumb, I would double that figure. Right now, with Vista, I use 8 Gigabytes of RAM. Okay, maybe it is overkill, but that's what years of hard lessons have taught me. I also played it safe with the power supply, installing a 600W when I needed only a 400W.
      • Talk about Overkill...

        From what I've heard/read Vista and the latest Mac recommend 1 GB. Thus 2 GB would be more than enough unless A)you plan on running other OS's some vmware, and/or B) the system in question's going to be a busy server.
      • Uh...

        Dude, Vista will only take 3.5 Gb of RAM, plus the ReadyBoost, if mind serves. That means you bought 4 Gb for nothing, unless you're running it on your mac, in which case, Vista can still only address the "4" so you have 4 for Vista and 4 for Os X, which is STILL overkill. I'm running Vista with 2.5, and it's to the point where it made no difference going between 1.5 and 2.5, but I load things into RAM on start up so more things come up quicker once the system finishes booting.
        • Uh.. Dude...

          The 32 bit version of Vista (or XP for that matter) will only see and use 3.5 GB of RAM. However, the 64 bit version will do more... MUCH more.
      • but vista can only use 4GB unless you have 64-bit edition!

        somebody correct me if i'm wrong, but a 32bit OS only has a 4GB address space right?
  • Interesting point of view

    I know I dont HATE MS or windows, Ive been using it since conception. There will always be a few people who have problems with installations and OSes no matter where you go or what platform you use. Whether we buy MS or get Linux for free has no relevance on the issue of bugs/fixes. In IT you have to have the tolerability to understand this and be able to brush it off as just another day in a support industry.

    I have no experience with Leopard but Im sure Linux, no matter which version, has a high number of problem reports/bug fixes that either need attention or have been attended to.

    You will always get people who prefer one over the other, theres nothing you can do about it. As well everyone will have an opinion and will want to express theirs. I agree that there should be no emotional interest either way but when you spend hours and hours trying to get something to work and in the end still doesnt work the way you want it to then it feels personal because youve invested so much wasted time on something when you could be doing more productive things.
    • And the interesting thing to me is...

      You make some interesting points about all OSes having issues (with corresponding patches), including Linux.

      But the real interesting part to me is, why is it that every single Windows patch gets its own ZDnet and Slashdot headline, while you never hear about [b]any[/b] Linux patches?

      Does it not have any patches? Well, in fact it does, but unless you go and dig around for them, you won't know it just by coming here to ZDnet or Slashdot. This causes a lot of the trolls you see here on ZDnet to post their uninformed rants you find anytime the word "Microsoft" is in the title.

      In fact, Windows seems to be special that way. Every single Windows patch get [b]two[/b] headlines: Once when the patch as announced, and then the next week it gets a brand new headline when the patch is actually released. This of course makes the trolls happy because they get to rant all over again about the same thing without even realizing it. How cute.

      Isn't it time every Linux patch gets a headline as well, or do we just want to continue this double standard since the trolls will be happier that way?

      It is always funny to me how the anti-MS crowd likes to think of themselves as the pure, ethical, smart ones, but apparently double standards and misinformation when it comes to MS is A-OK in their book. Weird that.
      • Maybe?

        I dont disbute anything you have to say at all. Maybe the fact that Microsoft has such a high profile and so widely known that a lot of customers are unaware that Linux even exists. I would like to see more posts on linux/macos patches so everyone can see that no one OS is any better than the other for bugs/fixes. I notice too that everyone is so concerned with microsoft patches that everyone and their dog posts two or three reviews and then everyone that blogs about those reviews almost repeat themselves over and over again. Ive probably even been privy to doing such practices. But I know that Im sick of seeing vista this vista that. Lets change the subject line already.
      • Linux distros do a pretty decent job

        of informing its users of [url=]security alerts[/url]. I can see where you're coming from as far as the media not publicizing it so much, but Linux's own users are not left in the dark, and even if you aren't a Linux user and you're just doing research it's not all that difficult to look through some of these databases. You could even build a custom front end to some of them if that tickles your fancy.
        Michael Kelly
        • So...

          [i]Linux distros do a pretty decent job of informing its users of security alerts.[/i]

          So does MS. There is no reason why any Windows user ever needs to go and look for patches, or be informed via any media source about patches. Unless you changed the defaults, those patches will be applied automatically. I don't understand how you can imply that somehow there is anything more required from Windows users than Linux users, or that there is a requirement to inform them about patches via the media.

          The public's perception of Window's security has been influenced by endless headlines of Windows patches, while there are never any mention of Linux patches in those some "news" sources. Most people that don't dig for information are probably under the impression that there just aren't any Linux patches. Most of the trolls on ZDnet seems to think so, judging by the endless rants in these same forums.

          If you can set aside your hatred fro MS for one minute, can you honestly say that your average semi-geeky user (doesn't know too much about computers, yet visits ZDnet) has an accurate view of security based on patch headlines alone? Do you think it is fair that there is such a double standard?
          • You're certainly jumping to a lot of conclusions

            First, you assume that I have a hatred of MS. I do not. I simply do not like the overall quality of Windows. I do not have too many problems with their other products. And believe it or not, I actually have a somewhat favorable view of Vista. I won't say it's perfect, but in general I like the direction they are going in with regards to security measures, plus I like the features Home Premium provides.

            Second, you say that I imply that somehow there is anything more required from Windows users than Linux users, or that there is a requirement to inform them about patches via the media. I do not. I am simply saying that Linux users do have a conduit to be well informed about the state of security of their software, and that they are not misinformed or under any delusions (other than delusions they create themselves) about how their software compares to Windows or any other product. I did not imply that Windows user do not have the similar conduits through MS channels to find information about their software.

            Third, you assume that I disagree with you. I do not. I do not like a double standard, and I do my best to not have a double standard when criticizing software vulnerabilities. I do jump on F/OSS software for its deficiencies (especially security deficiencies) just as hard as I do those of MS or other proprietary software companies.

            As for what the media writes about, they write whatever gets people to read, or click on a web page. Obviously Windows vulnerabilities get more clicks than Linux, although Apple has been becoming more competitive lately. That's partly because the Linux kernel itself hasn't had too many security alerts (the last one in the link I provided was in 2004, the year 2.6 was initially released), and the other packages that consist of the operating system proper don't generate the kind of headlines that "Linux" does. So Linux does have an advantage in that only kernel alerts would carry the Linux name (and thus generate a headline) whereas any package included in the Windows OS package would carry the Windows name, whether it's the kernel, a file manager, the web browser, the media player, or even the desktop calculator. Is any of this fair? No, but unfortunately that's the hand that's been dealt.
            Michael Kelly
          • I guess my main point

            I guess the point I am trying to make is not that [b]Linux users[/b] are unaware of the fact that there are patches for Linux, but that those that are not Linux users will get the impression that there aren't any. This is because every Windows patch gets a two headlines, yet they never see any headlines for Linux patches, hence there are no Linux patches, right? Or even for all OSS patches in general, not just Linux as you say.

            To prove my point further, let's take Slashdot as an example. You'd think that on a website like Slashdot that is heavily Linux orientated, you won't see the same thing happening there. Yet, once again every Windows patch gets its double headlines, but I can't recall the last time I ever saw a headline for a Linux or any other OSS patch.
          • Let's face it.

            There is a concerted effort by many, from the linux camp to the Apple camp to the Google camp, to bring down Microsoft using any means necessary. There are thousands of posts going out each day aimed at nothing more than distorting facts and leaving out others, to make Microsoft look bad. <br>
            Anyone can see that is the case here and on many other sites like Slashdot. These are not true professionals and even though it has created a false representation of Windows, I think overall the tone and focus of obvious hatred scares more away from alternatives, than it does convert Windows users to other platforms. It's cowardly and in the end it will not prevail. <br>
            It's not just linux, look at Steve Jobs spending an hour at WWDC 2 years in a row trashing Vista, or their advertisement campaigns aimed only at making Windows look bad. <br>
            There is an industry wide effort to bring down microsoft from open source to Apple to Google to IBM. They all have their grudges and they are driven by the same thing that drives terrorists, or those that hate America for example. Jealousy. <br>
            Jealousy is a very potent emotion that brings out the worst in people. <br><br>
            The objective free world is by far the vast majority, so if you feel Microsoft is being wronged, i wouldn't worry too much about it, but never stop pointing out what is wrong. That is simply the right thing to do.
          • Two things...

            1] The attention that Vista SP1 is getting is due mostly to Microsoft itself. MS has been making PR statements about Vista for years. When it was released and became known as a bloated resource hog, MS then starting telling us how it would be all fixed in SP1. Every few days since then, we have had more press releases from MS about what's gonna appear in the patch. Now we have press releases that the patch is RTM and a few early adopters are now telling us how it works. Why does it garner so much attention? It's mostly because MS won't quietly produce it and release it. They and their PR machinne have brought this silly issue to the front of everyone's mind.

            2] My ubuntu 8 lappy quietly up dated itself this weekend. I got a simple message that the update was successfully applied and that was that. I didn't need to do anything, not even a reboot. So what is there to write about here? Nothing. There was no earth shaking news or OS angst involved in any way. This is not a case of a double standard. It's a case of MS own actions and their need to appear relevant and responsive. If you think that each patch and update from MS gets too much attention, then talk to MS about that...
        • My experience with Linux patches

          What I have found is that my Linux distro has an indicator on the main screen that tells me there are updates to the system. If I click on that icon I get a list of the updates and I can either check them to install or not. I install and without rebooting I can then go on with whatever I want to do. Compare and contrast with Windows. YMMV
      • What about Update Tuesday?

      • It's Good to be da King...

        [b]But the real interesting part to me is, why is it that every single Windows patch gets its own ZDnet and Slashdot headline, while you never hear about any Linux patches?

        Does it not have any patches? Well, in fact it does, but unless you go and dig around for them, you won't know it just by coming here to ZDnet or Slashdot. This causes a lot of the trolls you see here on ZDnet to post their uninformed rants you find anytime the word "Microsoft" is in the title.[/b]

        Of course Linux gets patched. So does OSX. So why is it we only hear about Microsoft patches? Two words - Market Share. When your OS runs 80 - 90% of the desktop and laptop computers in the world, then yes, you can expect headlines and stories to follow. When the OS in question is a single digit minority, then it's not likely to garner as much, if any attention.

        Oh.. and BTW... OSX gets it's share of patches and I've seen stories on Apple's patch cycle as well.
  • Two Things.

    [b]First, let me say that I respect George and this is aimed 100% at the people who will use George to further their irrational hatred of a product they don't own, and never will own.[/b]

    Hmm, sounds like your posts of, [b]A[/b]nything [b]B[/b]ut Apple when the subject isn't even about Apple.

    [b]Too bad they can't show such astute thinking with a product they technically should have no emotional interest in either way.[/b]

    Yes, too bad you don't practice what you preach. ;-)
    Arm A. Geddon
  • George Ou

    I respect George greatly. He was the first to do the full SP1 trial and he related his experiences as he encountered them. What's to dislike?

    So his initial impressions were inaccurate? So what? How often has a power user blamed his hardware failure on your software upgrade? We hear it all the time.

    I even talked to a well respected, highly technical Project Manager who blamed a hard disc crash on his project management program. Impossible! But this is the way it goes. Something happens and the first thing that comes to mind is that whatever you were doing most recently is the cause.

    I just want to thank George for being so open and honest about his impressions. At least this way we get a fore-taste of user reactions.

    Clearly this upgrade is going to be interesting on many levels. it will fail because an installed hardware driver is unrecognized by SP1. Or it will fail because we have an installed and unsupported language.

    I am still anxious to see real world timings on file transfers from a workstation (Vista of course) to a server, or from one Vista workstation to another. Finally, I want to see figures on file transfers from Vista to a non-Windows PC.

    Then there's the whole HD support upgrades.

    This is just the beginning of this upgrade cycle. With any luck ZDNet's contributors will be on the forefront of this effort so we are all prepared for the inevitable "crap storm" from our user base.