What you can expect in Vista SP1

What you can expect in Vista SP1

Summary: Microsoft has finally removed the wraps from its plans for Windows Vista Service Pack 1. What's in it? When will you be able to get your hand on it? Will it include a new search interface to address antitrust complaints? I've got answers to those questions and more.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

After maintaining tight-lipped secrecy around the details of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, Microsoft has finally begun to release information about the long-awaited update. This morning, as my colleague Mary Jo Foley reported, Redmond made it official: Yes, SP1 does exist. Yes, it's currently being beta-tested by a small group of corporate partners and insiders. No, unless you're an invited beta tester (or willing to install bootleg bits from dodgy websites) you probably won't see it until after the new year.

I haven't been part of the insider beta program, so I can't provide any hands-on details about the service pack itself. But I have uncovered enough information to answer the questions you're likely to have about SP1:

What's in Service Pack 1?

Like every Microsoft-issued service pack, this one will be cumulative, rolling up every previous update and patch. The new stuff includes bug fixes, bug fixes, and more bug fixes, plus new drivers. SP1 is slated to include some updated administration tools (including improvements to the BitLocker Drive Encryption interface and to Remote Desktop capabilities). It also will add support for some new hardware standards, including boot capability on Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) machines and a new file system (exFAT) for flash drives and other removable media.

What's not in Service Pack 1?

There will be no obvious changes to the user interface, and the development effort has been targeted at minimizing regressions in application compatibility. In short, you most likely will need to look very closely to determine whether a Vista system has been upgraded to SP1.

Over the past few months, two features have been widely rumored to be due for release with SP1: One is a possible change to Vista's desktop search interface, driven by Google's antitrust complaint. The other is a set of changes to Windows Media Center code-named "Fiji." A sentence buried deep in the whitepaper detailing the collected changes in SP1 appears to spike rumors about both of those features:

Windows Vista SP1 will deliver improvements and enhancements to existing features that significantly impact customers, but it does not deliver substantial new operating system features. For example, the service pack improves the performance of the desktop shell, but it does not provide a new search user interface or a new version of Windows Media Center. [emphasis added]

Update 9:30AM PDT: A Microsoft spokesperson confirms that the basic search interface will remain unchanged in SP1 but that other search-related changes will indeed appear in SP1. Specifically:

  • Computer manufacturers and consumers will be able to select a default desktop search program similar to the way they currently select defaults for third-party web browsers and media players in Windows Vista.
  • Links to the default desktop search program will be provided on the Start menu and in Windows Explorer windows.
  • Microsoft will provide information to developers of third-party desktop search programs about how they can optimize their programs to minimize any performance problems.

When will the official SP1 beta be available?

"In a few weeks."

Who gets the beta?

Microsoft says the next SP1 beta will be released to "a moderate sized audience." Invitations have already gone out, and testers who've been accepted to the beta program have received confirmation via e-mail and online at Microsoft's Connect portal for beta programs. There's unlikely to be a public beta until a release candidate is available, although it's virtually certain that the code from the upcoming beta will leak onto public websites and spread via torrents within hours of its official release.

When will SP1 be released to the public?

According to the press release, "Microsoft is targeting first quarter of 2008 for Windows Vista SP1 but will collect customer feedback from our upcoming beta process before setting a final date." Knowledgeable observers don't expect that date to slip much. The code base for Vista SP1 is the same as Windows Server 2008. In a separate announcement today, Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2008 would release to manufacturing in the first quarter of 2008 and that the launch event scheduled for February 27, 2008, in Los Angeles is still on.

How big is the service pack going to be?

Big. Very big. For the beta release, you'll need 7GB of free disk space to install the x86 version and 12GB of free disk space for the x64 package. (Most of this space is for temporary files and for the Vista image-based installer.) For home users with a reliable Internet connection, Microsoft plans to offer an Express update option that should require only a 50MB download; the stand-alone installer, which includes support for all languages and all Vista editions, checks in at a hefty 1GB. The final release might be smaller, but not much, if history is any guide. As Microsoft acknowledges, "SP1 will change a significant number of files," with fixes incorporating feedback from Windows Error Reporting tools and from the Windows Server 2008 development cycle.

You mentioned bug fixes. What kind of bugs?

The official list of "reliability and performance enhancements" includes the following:

  • Improved reliability and compatibility of Windows Vista when used with newer graphics cards in several specific scenarios and configurations.
  • Improved reliability when working with external displays on a laptop.
  • Improved Windows Vista reliability in networking configuration scenarios.
  • Improved reliability of systems that were upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
  • Increased compatibility with many printer drivers.
  • Increased reliability and performance of Windows Vista when entering sleep and resuming from sleep.
  • Improves the speed of copying and extracting files.
  • Improves the time to become active from Hibernate and Resume modes.
  • Improves the performance of domain-joined PCs when operating off the domain; in the current release version of Windows Vista, users would experience long delays when opening the File dialog box.
  • Improves performance of Windows® Internet Explorer® 7 in Windows Vista, reducing CPU utilization and speeding JavaScript parsing.
  • Improves battery life by reducing CPU utilization by not redrawing the screen as frequently, on certain computers.
  • Improves the logon experience by removing the occasional 10-second delay between pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and the password prompt displaying.
  • Addresses an issue in the current version of Windows Vista that makes browsing network file shares consume significant bandwidth and not perform as fast as expected.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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    The worse feature of VISTA, Windows Mail which tends to crash with regularity is not even addredded in this service pack? -- what a pain
    • Windows mail is such a dissapointment

      With no identities and with spell check problems. Not to mention slow as can be. Too bad we can't go back to outlook express.
      • Have You Tried Seamonkey

        Rather than wishing that you could go back to OE, why not just abandon IE entirely and install Seamonkey, the Mozilla package that includes both the browser and email?
        • im switching to thunderbird (mail client)

          it has native support por GnuPG too.
          • I?ve not found a perfect E-Mail client yet.

            Each one is missing something important or at least convenient.

            Thunderbird’s main flaw is that it requires entry of E-Mail address one at a time, unless you define groups. With Outlook, Outlook Express, and (presumably) Windows Mail and Windows Mail Live, you can do this:

            To: mail1@domain.com; mail2@otherdomain.org; …

            This means that I can easily generate a mailing list from my organizational database, ready to copy and paste into the Bcc: field, by simply setting up Word Mail Merge to connect to the database and entering this into a Merge “Catalog” document (don’t do a regular Letter document, as that Merges each new E-Mail address to a new page!):


            Merge to New Document, and voila! Ready for copy-and-paste!

            Can’t do that with Thunderbird nor SeaMonkey Mail. Can do it with Opera9’s built-in mail, but that has other problems (no HTML E-Mail composition, for instance: not that I often do HTML E-Mail).

            I need to try Eudora. I keep hearing great things about it.
            Joel R
          • WTF are you talking about?

            Why are you posting this here?

            Eudora sucks. I've been using it for over 10 years, and it has pretty much been abandoned by Qualcomm. Same old bugs, year after year. For example, it runs text filters on messages BEFORE decoding their HTML. So spammers totally defeat your keyword filters by simply inserting meaningless tags in the middle of every word. This has totally fooled Eudora for YEARS now. Pathetic.

            Thunderbird's biggest problem is its inability to EXPORT FILTERS. What are you supposed to do, manually re-type dozens of filters into every system you own, and then run around revising them all periodically? Just plain stupid.
          • Dude! Are you on crack?

            "Eudora sucks. I've been using it for over 10 years"

            ... It hurts me when I hit myself in the head with a hammer...
            I sure wish I would stop doing it... OW!
      • You left out a couple of Flaws

        Additional problems with Windows Mail:

        The new Contact's format; I miss having an address book that I could actually navigate!

        Calendar! Birthdays, etc in your contact are not synced to the calendar!

        IMAP, if you use IMAP you can expect constant hangs and error messages.

        [conspiracy] They want you to buy the full Outlook, so they crippled this! [/conspiracy]
        • IMAP in Windows Live Mail works fine

          I've had no problems with Windows Live Mail (the update to Windows Mail, now in beta) and an IMAP accont.
          Ed Bott
          • Of course...

            Everything you do in Viasma shines perfectly, works with above average efficiency, bakes bread, cans beer and washes cars. Vista is so wonderful, after installing it to run your whole home, don't you want to have it installed on your automobile?

            Oh, there are safety issues with a 11 sequential forced reboots of your ignition system while doing 75mph on a freeway?

            Never mind, wait until SP11 comes out in 2021. You'll not need your car til then.

            This whole blog section is so far beyond silly that it must be one long joke.

            No other company in the world produces such consistently shoddy junk with so many follow-up excuses and outright lies. Example: http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/vista/windows_genuine_crack.html

            No other company has an established department with paid obfuscators whose existence is bound up with lying and misleading the public.

            How can such an entity exist in business? Part of the reason is blogs like this.
            Jeremy W
          • Non sequitur

            I report on my experience. Some people report based on the little voices in their heads. Maybe a tinfoil hat would help you.
            Ed Bott
          • Non sequitur?

            Oh sure. Write another few paragraphs about how anyone who disagrees with this kool-aid needs a tin hat.

            Ever tried looking out into the real world?

            Go here: http://www.crn.com/white-box/200900857

            The truth is that this blog serves up the kind of drivel nonsense that leads people to consider that the Redmond Bloatfarm rubbish is something other than what it is: rubbish.

            You seem to lack all awareness of the damage your writing does.
            In that sense, this is very much of a sequitur.
            Jeremy W
        • If they wanted us to buy Outlook (presumably 2007),

          then why is Outlook 2007 so friggin’ slow and unreliable with IMAP? Hangs and error messages there, too!
          Joel R
      • get windows live mail

        windows mail is the pathetically bad.

        try windows livemail--the update to windows mail and outlook express.

        yes, it is beta but i've been using it for months now with only a few minor problems (the biggest one is that i have to do email merges using windows mail).

        it is WAY faster, has a great search function, looks cool, has a much better address book (though if you have more than 1000 contacts on different machines, you need to export your current mail address book and import it to the other machine--there is currently no export function in livemail).

        you can get it at:
    • Separate update/download

      The Windows Live Mail client is going to replace Windows Mail It's available now as a beta and is much improved over the Vista version:

      Ed Bott
      • Do you have to use Hotmail?

        I don't use hotmail, do you have to have an hotmail account?

        Does it offer better intergration with Calendar and Contacts?
        • Hotmail not required

          I have Windows Live Mail running here with a single account using IMAP to connect to a mail server I run. No Hotmail at all.
          Ed Bott
        • Calendar and Contacts

          Whoops, hit Send too soon.

          I haven't tested integration with Calendar and Contacts, so can't say whether it's better.
          Ed Bott
  • Slipstream SP1

    So how soon will you give folks the skinny on slipstreaming SP1?
    Will slipstreaming be different with Vista vs XP?
    • Need code first

      I'm not going to even attempt to make any definitive statements on how it works until I have code. Microsoft has told me they are working to get that code to me but no timetable yet.
      Ed Bott