Vista SP1 - Download it for the kill-switch removal, keep it for the increased performance, reliability and compatibility

The release of Vista SP1 is imminent. It might be next week, or it might be the week after, but it's now close.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

The release of Vista SP1 is imminent. It might be next week, or it might be the week after, but it's now close. And Microsoft's SP1 marketing machine is also revving up to tempt you to download and install this latest update. But will people be enthusiastic about downloading and installing a major OS update onto their Vista systems? If so, what feature or features will encourage them to take the plunge?

Running Vista SP1 is a far nicer experience than running Vista RTM ever wasI'm going to be my cynical self and suggest that one of the most compelling "features" of Vista SP1 is the removal of the "kill switch" functionality which Microsoft can use to cripple your system if it believes that your copy of Windows isn't legit. Preston Gralla writing on Computer World goes as far as to suggest that Microsoft has deliberately held back on shipping the removal of the kill switch as part of an update simply to use it as a "nudge switch" to get people to upgrade.

For plenty of people, a big reason to upgrade to Vista SP1 will be the death of the dreaded "Kill Switch," which in essence kills Windows if for some reason Microsoft determines your copy isn't a validly bought version. Good move...but getting rid of the Kill Switch is something that Microsoft can easily do as an update without bundling into SP1. So why hold it hostage until SP1 ships? To force you to upgrade, and make the service pack's uptake numbers look better.

I agree. OK, so there's the lure. But there's a lot more to SP1 that the removal of the kill switch, and the more I'm exposed to the release candidates on various machines, the happier I become with the update. While I don't yet see fixes for all the issues and quirks that Vista has, running Vista SP1 is a far nicer experience than running Vista RTM ever was.

The main reason I've fallen for SP1 is that it dramatically improves reliability. If you're a Vista user and you've been sending crash information back to Microsoft, rest assured that people have been paying attention. At launch, the average Vista user could expect to have around 17 hours between system disruptions (an application crash, an application hanging or a total system crash), but now under SP1 RC Microsoft claims that this average figure has gone up to 34 hours between disruptions. While I don't have anywhere near as much data as Microsoft has, I have to agree that reliability is up. In fact, you can easily prove this to yourself in the comfort of your home or office. Take Vista RTM and install it on a PC. Now run it for a few days without any of the performance, compatibility and reliability updates installed. Then install these updates and you should find that things are a lot more stable. Now install SP1 RC and see another marked improvement.

Another noticeable improvement is file copy speed. Moving a lot of files about under Vista is a seriously tedious and lengthy process, and one which can at times be unreliable. SP1 has seemed to have dramatically improved the operating system's ability to cope with moving and copying large numbers of files, which should be a relief for anyone who has a lot of data to juggle. Along with file copy improvements, Microsoft has also worked to make the in-built support for ZIP files a lot faster. I'd given up on using the baked in support for ZIP files on Vista because it was so darn slow and had moved over to 7-Zip, but changed in SP1 actually make this feature useful once again.

So far, I can't see a reason for a Vista user not to download and install SP1 when it becomes available. Of course, everyone should do their own testing and come to their own conclusions, but so far SP1 seems to offer a win-win situation for all Vista users.


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