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The good and bad with Windows Vista SP1

Bill BrennerIn early December I wrote about where to go to in search of Windows Vista SP1 beta testers. At the time there was a lot of hope in the air that this service pack would fix the problems that have kept enterprises from deploying it up to this point. Now Vista SP1 has been released to manufacturing and users are expected to have access to it in March.

Here’s Microsoft bigwig Mike Nash’s take on the service pack from the Windows Vista Team Blog:

“Service Pack 1 is a very important milestone because it addresses many of the key issues that our customers have identified with Windows Vista over the last year both, directly and through programs like the Customer Experience Improvement Program,” he says. “With Service Pack 1, we have made great progress in performance, reliability and compatibility. One of the great things about my job is that I get to play with the latest builds of our products — I’ve personally been running Windows Vista SP1 pretty exclusively for a few months and I’ve noticed that my systems run faster and more reliably than they did with the Gold release of Windows Vista.” Security Blog Log

Unfortunately, based on some blogosphere chatter and my own reporting on the subject, Nash is probably one of the few who can offer such glowing praise.

So far, the IT administrators I’ve talked to have given Vista SP1 the raspberry. Here’s some particularly harsh criticism from Jeffrey Jarzabek, IT director for Matocha Associates:

“I’ve been beta testing Vista SP1 for some time now and I can honestly say that we will not be moving to it for some time. There are still major problems with installing it and then restarting the system after you get it installed. A lot of what came out Monday was hype. It still isn’t 100%.” Specifically, he takes issue with what he found to be driver and reboot problems that led do system crashes and blue screens. He has found that other beta testers are running into similar trouble. “This has been a disaster since day one,” he told me. “I tried installing it on some Lenovo ThinkPads and it failed. I ran all the updates and SP1 executable and it failed right away.”

I’ve known Jarzabek for some time now and he’s not one to overstate things. So when he offers an assessment like this, I have trouble dismissing it.

But after poking around the blogosphere, I can report that the reviews aren’t all bad.

Arizona-based software consultant Robert McLaws shares his early Vista SP1 experiences in his blog. Unlike some of the acidic views I’ve heard so far, he reports relatively good experiences. After offering a blow-by-blow account of what he did during testing and how things turned out, he offered a fairly sunny assessment:

While some people are willing to spell doom and gloom for SP1, I think most people will see a decent performance boost in real-world scenarios. For machines like the Q1 Ultra, the boost is much-needed enhancement to the hardware. For beefier machines, you might even get more bang for your buck. The 15% performance boost on the XPS 410 is much better than the 10% boost that XPSP3 has over XPSP2, and not even close to the numbers that Devil Mountain came up with for SP1.

Of course, it’s not hard to find people who are having problems.

The ArsGeek blog offers detailed released notes under the heading of “Release notes for Vista SP1 — or things that will break your computer.”

A blogger from the Phillipines named Rollchan details some of the troubles he came across, writing that “after installing SP1 on my desktop, it installed fine. But… the situation with my VAIO SZ lappy is the main problem. At the least, two problems; major and minor. The minor is that my Alps touch pad driver got abhorred by SP1 even after uninstalling and reinstalling it. Major problem then again, is my graphics card. It was abhorred by SP1 and after uninstalling and reinstalling it wasn’t detected by Vista with SP1 installed. I’m still working my way out for the least bit on these two pesky problems that troubles me and I may not install SP1 in an event I decide to fresh intall my system again before the end of the month.”

In the final analysis, I think Vista SP1 is going to be a mixed bag, solving problems for some but causing more pain for folks like Jarzabek. Like anything else, it will depend on individual IT setups. It’s also worth noting that some folks are working off earlier beta versions, not the final product that was released to manufacturing.

So before tackling this service pack, it might be helpful to look at the reams of notes IT pros are posting online. There’s enough of the good and the bad that you can get a pretty good picture of what to watch for before doing your own testing.

Good luck, folks.

About Security Blog Log: Senior News Writer Bill Brenner peruses security blogs each day to see what’s got the information security community buzzing. In this column he lists the weekly highlights. If you’d like to comment on the column or bring new security blogs to his attention, contact him at

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