SP1 Release Candidate is now available to MSDN subscribers, having passed the beta phase. Some say it's Microsoft's last chance in redeeming this much maligned operating system.
SP1 does not add any new features. It's main purpose is to deliver reliability and performance improvements, as well as some hardware compatibility. Along the way, Microsoft closes some security holes, and boosts the performance of IE 7. For the full list of "features", read this blog post, or the Microsoft Official change log. Here's a description of my personal experience:
Prepare to spend a little over an hour, with 3-4 restarts. If your machine, like mine, is a dual boot (XP is still my main OS), you'll need to be in attendance of every reboot to make sure it comes back to Vista. Prepare to spend 30 minutes staring at the phrase: "Now updating: step 2 of 3: 23% done".
As you can see, the version now shows Service Pack 1, with the RC version 668. The good news is that memory now finally shows 4GB of RAM instead of 3.32GB it showed so far (oh, really? more later). The bad is that even with a Dual Core 2 and 4GB of Ram, my computer is only rated 3.1 (out of the 5.9 available) on performance. (Sorry Microsoft, I promise that my next installation of Vista will be on a Cray supercomputer - maybe then I'll manage to get to 4 ).
Going in and out of hibernation used to be one of my main pet peeves with Vista so far. Since Vista is installed on my laptop, I sometimes want to preserve the current state, turn off the laptop, and carry on in a couple of minutes (e.g. when the plane finally gets to 10,000 feet). But the time it took Vista to wake up was longer than a full restart!
Now going into hibernation takes the same amount of time it takes on my XP (probably due to the memory size) - but the biggest improvement is coming out of hibernation - major speed improvement! Well, one problem solved.
Overall performance looks better. I've originally set Firefox to be my default browser (due to IE's pale performance and lack of add-ons), but will give IE 7 a chance - it certainly takes less memory than Firefox.
Speaking of memory, although the main properties page shows 4GB,
it seems like the OS is still reporting a lower number. Task Manager still reports 3.317GB. And the Multi Meter gadget shows 32% of memory consumed - 1GB - with no application running!
This means you have to have at the very least 1GB of memory to survive and at least 2GB to work. Talk about a resource-hungry OS (compare to Leopard and Ubuntu - both can run on 512MB machines and deliver the same features).
Unlike earlier RC versions of service packs, this one can be uninstalled when the GA version arrives (so you do not need to reinstall the system).
All in all, a performance improvement can be felt throughout the system - bringing Vista up close to an XP level. And that's saying a lot - if the best you could do is avoid regression.
I do recommend this SP1 to any Vista user, but I wouldn't recommend Vista on the whole.
Note: together with SP1 for Vista, Microsoft released SP3 RC for XP. I've yet to test it on my main machine, but it seems to be doing quite well on an XP VM. Which brings to mind the following question:
- assume Vista + SP1 == XP + SP2
- and XP + SP3 > XP +SP2 (performance wise)
And why would Microsoft shoot themselves in the foot by releasing a service pack for an older OS? Could it be a hint? Read item 4 in this post to see what IT professionals think.
Read about the newer SP1 version, Refresh, here. The article also contains a download link.
Look at some SP1 updates here.
Finally! 7 months after this post was originally published - the final version was released today and made available through Windows Update.
There's also a standalone version of it (about 660MB download) and even a Vista version with SP1 integrated (available to MSDN subscribers).
If your Windows Update doesn't pick it, remove any beta version of the SP and reboot. It took me 3 restarts and a lot of patience until the SP appeared in my Windows Update applet.
This is what the final result looks like:
As you can see, it now just states "Service Pack 1" - no version number, and no annoying "Evaluation Version" label on the desktop.
No other differences in behavior than the beta versions. It's still faster on startups, shutdowns, and hibernation, but overall still slower than XP.
It won't recognize all the functionalities of my All-In-One printer (Dell AIO 926) - it has drivers available for download, but the installation fails time and again. I'll check with Dell to see if they have a solution.