Windows Vista Service Pack 1

There’s an old saying when it comes to Windows: business users won’t even think about upgrading to the new version until Microsoft ships the first service pack. For the uninitiated, service packs are a way for Microsoft to collect security fixes and other bug fixes into a single installable package. Corporations like service packs because they make it easier for them to keep up-to-date with the latest fixes; and if they happen to roll out a Windows version one, two, or several years after Microsoft first issued the OS, they can get the latest fixes in one whack. This can save a lot of time and effort.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is the first major update to Windows Vista, a collection of bug fixes, minor functional changes, and other additions to Microsoft’s latest operating system. From an end-user perspective, there are no major changes in Windows Vista, but that doesn’t mean SP1 isn’t interesting. Indeed, Microsoft has improved Vista in many ways with SP1, including the following:

• Bug fixes: Windows Vista SP1 includes a collection of previously released and new security fixes, bug fixes, and other minor updates.

• A new kernel version: SP1 includes an update to the Windows kernel to bring the Vista kernel (version 6.0) up-to-date with the version in Windows Server 2008 (version 6.1).

• Kernel Patch Protection changes: The Kernel Patch Protection (“PatchGuard”) feature is designed to protect the Windows Vista kernel in 64-bit versions of the OS. However, security companies such as McAfee and Symantec complained that this feature kept them from integrating as tightly with the OS as they could in previous Windows versions, so Microsoft changed Kernel Patch Protection and released a set of APIs aimed at helping developers write code that interacts with this security feature.

• Instant Search changes: Microsoft changed Vista’s Instant Search feature to allow third-party desktop search product makers to more closely integrate their products with Windows Vista. In the initially shipped version of Vista, the Instant Search indexer ran at full speed even if a third-party product was installed, reducing overall system performance. In SP1, this has been fixed.

• Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) changes: Microsoft removed the annoying Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM) and Non-Genuine State (NGS) mode for Vista installs in expired non-activated and non-genuine states. Now with SP1, even expired non-activated Vista installs will work normally, though users are notified every hour that they need to activate.

• Device compatibility: This is up dramatically, from a bit over 40,000 compatible devices at launch to just under 80,000 devices with SP1. The number of logoed devices devices that are certified by Microsoft to work properly with Vista—is also up dramatically, from about 2,000 at launch to over 17,000 with SP1. Improvements to Vista’s drivers aren’t limited to sheer numbers, either; changes to video, audio, and other drivers in SP1 have actually improved the battery life on laptops from several major PC makers by an average of 7 percent.

• Application compatibility: This has also improved significantly with SP1. While this area includes consumer-oriented applications, incompatible enterprise applications were the big deployment blockers during Vista’s first year. Microsoft and its partners remediated over 150 enterprise application blockers during the development of SP1: These are applications that previously prevented one or more corporations from upgrading to Vista.

• Reliability: This is better in Vista SP1, too, Microsoft says. The company’s telemetry data enables Microsoft to analyze various system disruptions in Vista, including such behaviors as nonresponding applications, application hangs and crashes, and system crashes. Compared to the release version of Vista, SP1 more than doubled the mean number of hours between disruptions, from about 17 hours to about 34 hours.

• File copy improvements: One of the biggest complaints users have had with Windows Vista concerns file copy operations, both locally on a single PC and over networks. Microsoft isolated the causes of these and provides the fixes in SP1. A number of areas are affected, including the performance of file copy operations and system responsiveness during these operations. According to the latest data, file copy operations are 44 to 71 percent faster with SP1 than they were under the original version of Vista. Microsoft has also improved the speed at which Vista resumes from Sleep or Hibernation in SP1.

• Security: This is another oft-discussed aspect of Vista, and Microsoft points to data showing that Vista is less vulnerable to electronic attacks than are rival operating systems and its own predecessor, Windows XP. SP1 includes a small change to the highly criticized User Account Control (UAC) feature in Vista and a change to BitLocker, enabling it to encrypt nonsystem disks.

• End-user changes: While Windows Vista includes no major end-user changes, it does include a few changes you might notice. In addition to the Instant Search changes mentioned previously, for example, Microsoft improved the built-in Disk Defragmenter utility so that you can now select which disk volumes (partitions) are defragged automatically.

• Administrative improvements: Windows Vista SP1 includes a number of changes aimed at the system administrators who deploy, support, and maintain Vistabased systems. Local printing from a Windows Terminal Services session has been improved; there’s a new version of the Network Diagnostics tool, available from the Diagnose and Repair link in Network and Sharing; and SP1 includes a number of Group Policy (GP) changes.

• Support for new hardware and standards: Windows Vista SP1 includes support for the extended FAT (exFAT) file system used in flash memory storage and consumer-oriented mobile devices, Secure Digital (SD) Advanced Direct Memory Access (DMA), EFI network booting on x64 PCs, the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) remote access tunneling protocol, and DirectX 10.1, the latest version of Microsoft’s multimedia and gaming libraries.

As you can see by reading through the preceding list, SP1 does not dramatically impact your day-to-day usage of Vista, though it does of course add many desirable low-level improvements. This is in keeping with Microsoft’s traditional view of service packs, though nothing like Windows XP Service Pack 2, which was in many ways a major Windows update.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows Vista Secrets SP1 Edition

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