When Microsoft released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to manufacturing on February 4, they promised to make it available for the general public in mid-March.
Today they delivered on that promise, making SP1 available to Windows Vista users through Windows Update and as a standalone installer package from the Microsoft Download Center.
I covered most of the features of this service pack in detail in my earlier Vista SP1 FAQ and More Vista SP1 Answers, so I won’t rehash that information here. In this post and its accompanying image gallery, I’ll show you what you can expect from the public release.
First things first: SP1 won’t be installed on your system automatically. (Automatic Updates won’t begin for at least another month, and even then they’ll be rolled out slowly.) In fact, you might not even know SP1 is available unless you manually check Windows Update. If you meet the qualifications, you’ll see the download listed as an Important update.
If you don’t see this update in the list of available updates, you might be blocked temporarily by one of the following issues:
* You are running a version of Windows Vista (or have a language pack installed) for a language other than the five available in this release: English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese. (I ran into this issue last month, on a system that had the Italian language pack installed.) In that case, you’ll have to uninstall the language pack or wait till the full international release is available in a few months.
* You might not have installed the prerequisite updates. SP1 requires updates to the so-called servicing stack (the code that handles updates) and, for Ultimate edition, for Bitlocker disk encryption. If you see other available updates, install them first and then try Windows Update again.
* You might have a hardware component that is using one of a handful of drivers known to cause minor problems with SP1. The issues aren’t catastrophic, I’m told, and most experienced users can resolve the issues (changes to default settings or lost sound, for instance) quickly enough by reinstalling the problem driver. But those options aren’t acceptable for nontechnical users, so the Windows Update detection code blocks deployment of SP1 and offers fixed versions of some (but not all) of those drivers.
Other possible causes include a “known inconsistency in the file or registry structure,” a previous beta version of SP1 installed (uninstall it), and (ahem) you used vLite to modify Windows Vista. Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article 948343 helpfully includes the website address of vLite.