My Early Preview of Windows Vista SP1 BETA

Microsoft has released a ‘test release’ of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to a group of its Technical Testers last week. Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista is a collection of updates and fixes that have been released for Windows Vista since it was Released to Manufacturering (RTM) in late 2006. Microsoft is also focusing on improving the general performance of the operating system in addition to supporting new technologies and standards. The final release is expected sometime in early 2008, but this is subject to change. Microsoft’s Pete McKiernan, a Senior Product Manager for Windows gives us an overview of the update here:

Windows Vista Service Pack 1, V.275 build 6001

One is an improvement to the BitLocker drive encryption system, available only in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista. Under SP1, BitLocker will be able to encrypt multiple drive volumes; all drive volumes, that is, except for USB drives.

Second feature touted by Microsoft is support for emerging hardware and standards. Windows Vista SP1 will support Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), Intel standard for the interface between software, the operating system and firmware, and Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT), a new Microsoft file system that may eliminate the need for defragmentation in the future.

McKiernan categorized other expected changes within Windows Vista SP1 as:

  • Security enhancements: There is nothing here that the desktop consumer will notice. Under the hood, Microsoft will provide more opportunities for third-party security vendors to communicate their product status with the Windows Security Center. In x64-bit editions, third-party security vendors can work with the kernel patch protection, a source of controversy last summer. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) files will be signed. The Windows Pseudo-Random Number Generator will have Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) added. And BitLocker will add multifactor authentication combining Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Startup key stored on a USB device, meaning that the startup key must match the hardware you are trying to use.
  • Reliability enhancements: Microsoft has been analyzing crashes of Windows Vista reported by users and will be making improvements. In particular, more compatibility with newer graphics cards and printers; greater reliability with extended displays on a laptop, various networking scenarios, in systems that were upgraded from Windows XP, and when Windows Vista enters sleep or resumes from sleep.
  • Performance enhancements: Microsoft says SP1 will offer performance boosts including the speed to copy and extract files, time to become active from Hibernate and Resume, CPU utilization within Internet Explorer 7 and CPU utilization in laptops, thereby reducing battery drain, and shortening the time when browsing network shares.

Learn more HERE

Sounds like a worthy update overall. Now on to my experiences with SP1. I installed it yesterday on a machine running Windows Vista Home Premium x86 RTM (no updates applied), no software installed. The time estimated by the software that it would take to install is around 30 minutes, but turned out to be 37 mins for me. Check out my hardware specs:

Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz

2.6 GBs of RAM

nVidia Geforce FX 5200 128 MB AGP

Initial phase of Windows Vista SP1 installation – its a pretty SP. 🙂

The installation was very streamlined and smooth until the rebooting started which happened around three times. During this portion of installation, SP1 lingered on, indicating that "a Service Pack for Windows is being installed", in addition other notifications that informed me that I should not unplug or restart my computer and the update will be applied automatically. Eventually, installation was completed and a dialog appeared on screen that informed that Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista was installed sucessfully.

 

Some scenes from the Windows Vista SP1 installation.

Is it?

Changes

Well, the first big change I noticed was, my theme was set to Windows AERO Basic, the default theme was originally Windows AERO Glass. I tried accessing Explorers such as Personalize and Control Panel, but was unable to. Personalize would not open and the Control Panel applets would not appear. Other parts of the system seemed to work fine. I don’t know what has happened here, but I sure will send off a bug report to find out. I did check the Problem Reports and Solutions history to see if there were any issue logged, there was one particular log for Windows Installer Module CPLs. Notable changes to the system include the removal of the Search link on the Start Menu panel and the new Defragment Tool which allows you specify which drives you would like to defrag – very handy and functional compared to whats in the RTM release.

So far, those are issues I am experiencing on Windows Vista SP1. Its early days yet and I am sure things will smooth over time such as the numerous reboots required to accomplish the installation. I will be testing out some software to see how well application compatibility performs. The SP1 file is a stand alone installer which weighs around 687 MBs, the x64 file is over 1 GB. The installation seem to have consumed around 2 GBs of disk space, but I am sure there is some debug code in there resulting in smaller release. Also, users will be able to acquire SP1 over Windows Update resulting a small file if they have continually updated their systems since RTM.

Users can also look forward to a merged kernel that will be shared with Microsofts next release of their Network Operating System – Windows Server 2008. This should streamline updates and maintainance of both client and server releases in addition to supporting new technologies and standards such as 802.11n based hardware for example and the new EFI standard which was previously mentioned. I am going to do another reinstall though, I suspect something could possibly have gone wrong with my install and I love AERO Glass. 😉 Stay tuned for more updates on SP1!

Andre

Resources:

The Windows Experience Blog: Experiencing Windows Vista Service Pack 1 beta

Windows Vista Blog: Windows Vista Service Pack 1 beta whitepaper

 

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