It’s hard to say the last year has been anything but rough for Microsoft’s Windows division. Although we found Windows Vista favorable upon its launch last year after watching it go through an usually drawn-out development process, such a sentiment hasn’t been shared by Windows users as a whole. Windows XP proved to be every bit the competition for Vista that Microsoft could ever fear it would be, at the time as when Vista was having its own post-launch pains. It was a bad combination, making for a bad year for Microsoft’s efforts in pushing its first new desktop OS in 5 years. Microsoft was looking to make a solid case for why Vista is a worthwhile successor to XP in a market notorious for a resistance to change, and they failed to do this thanks to a failure in immature technology and an inability to get a consistent and convincing message out.

In the year since then you could make the argument that Microsoft’s marketing efforts still haven’t improved, but you would be hard pressed to make the same argument about Vista itself. Since its release an unfortunately large number of bugs and quirks have been discovered in Vista, which has kept Microsoft busy patching them over the year, while to their chagrin many consumers sit on the side watching. To Microsoft’s credit they’ve done a lot with Vista well before the first service pack, various patches including the reliability & compatibility packs released over the last year have solved many of the earliest complaints about Vista; it already performs better and is less quirky across the board now than when it launched. But it goes without saying that this hasn’t been enough to solve all of Vista’s problems, putting a lot of watchful eyes on Service Pack 1.

There is a saying among software development circles that businesses as a whole won’t touch a Microsoft product until the first service pack; they would prefer to wait until a product has been widely used and the biggest problems identified & solved. It’s cold but effective logic that also puts a great deal of pressure on Microsoft. No matter how good (or bad) a product is, half of their customers won’t bat an eye until there’s a service pack, making the first such pack just as important as the product launch itself in some ways. Complicating matters further with the Vista launch in particular is that Microsoft has tied Windows Server 2008 to the Vista kernel; getting Windows Server 2008 out the door means any and all Vista problems that would hinder server operation need to be eliminated. The result is that Service Pack 1 is a big deal for Microsoft, they need to show consumers that they can fix what still ails the OS, they need to show businesses that it’s now ready for them to use, and they need to show server administrators that the core technology is so good that a reliable server can be built off of it.

Furthermore, with the progression of technology in the last year the timing couldn’t be any more critical. The 4GB address space barrier for 32bit x86 is finally beginning to rear its head with more average computer uses; RAM prices have nosedived with 8GB of RAM going for as little as $160, resulting in a wide and very real need for a 64-bit operating system (and XP64 being a poor fit for consumers). Meanwhile PC OEMs are finally warming up to the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and are ready to start building systems with it, meaning they too must move beyond XP. Even governments are finding they need to move to Vista as of late, as new encryption standards come in to play which only Vista supports.

The result of this is that many different groups have been watching SP1 far more intently than past service packs. With the final version of SP1 in hand, today we’ll be looking at what Microsoft is bringing to the table with Vista’s first service pack. With a combination of new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements, there’s a great deal to this service pack that we’ll be covering so let’s get started.

What’s Fixed In SP1
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  • whatthehey - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    The only thing they can do is nitpick about the use of a term like x64, when everybody knows what it means and Microsoft uses it all over the place (i.e. "Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems").

    You, sir, add new meaning to the term anal retentive.

    "The sky is falling - someone said x64 instead of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X64">x86-64! Help!"
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    They probably use the term x64 because Microsoft used it for the 64-bit x86 version of XP - "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition", to differentiate it from the old 64-bit Itanium version - "Windows XP 64-bit Edition".

    Everyone knows what x64 means (everyone who actually needs to know, anyway), so it makes sense to use it as it is quicker and easier than alternatives like x86-64 or 64-bit x86.
    Reply
  • Martimus - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    Is exFAT an open standard? It sounds like a promising File Management system for a non-Microsoft OS. Reply
  • mmjjzz - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    READ, interest problem found!!

    client: Intel Q6600, 4GB RAM, Vista 64bit
    server: Intel Celeron 2.53, 2 GB RAM, Windows 2003 SP1

    Gigabit network (Jumbo Frames Enabled, SP1 didn't improve anything without jumbo frames enabled)

    Pre SP1 (large file)
    -------
    client (non OS drive) -> Server (share 1) = 43MB/s
    Server (share1) -> client = 6MB/s

    Post SP1 (large file)
    -------
    client (non OS drive) -> Server (share 1) = 45MB/s
    Server (share1) -> client = 33MB/s
    on client, Copying from Share1 to Share2 on server = 900K/s

    Share to share TAKES FOREVER.. i never tested this pre SP1, but i am assuming it is the same
    Reply
  • gimper48 - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    I may have missed this in the article. However, some people see it in update some do not. I have vista 64 and it has never come up as an option. Anyone know the methodology to determine who gets it and who does not? Also is the it sp1 only available to technet subscriptions? That kinda screws the small systems admin at a small company. They cannot upgrade all in one shot then. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    No-one is supposed to be getting it via Windows Update yet (except maybe some Beta testers). The fact that it was up there briefly the other day was a mistake on Microsoft's part. It should start showing up some time in March. Reply
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    While you mentioned UEFI, it would be an interesting separate article/guide. With technology description ad current state of affairs.

    Are you planning any such article ?
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    I'm wondering about the comment made regarding XP64 being bad for consumers. Why? Myself I'd like to see XP64 vs. Vista64 benchmarks done (games and all). Is there something stopping you from benchmarking XP64? It's been 2.5 years since this article at Tom's:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/08/23/windows_xp_...">http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/08/23/windows_xp_...

    XP64 looked pretty good then, 2.5yrs later it should SURELY be better correct? Why no testing for XP64? Most of Tom's benchmarks show a dead heat for xp32 vs xp64. On Steampowered.com Vista 64bit only counts for 2.5% of their users and Vista total is only 16.5%. Shouldn't you have a go at 64bit XP? Unfortunately they didn't breakdown the XP32 vs XP64 numbers.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - link

    The issue with XP64 is that it is effectively an orphaned operating system on the consumer side of things. It was never even intended for consumer use, it was a slightly retooled version of Server 2003 designed to fill a gap for workstations that needed a 64bit version of Windows. Very few companies in the consumer space are testing their wares against XP64, this goes for both hardware and software. Compatibility problems are still few and far between, but never the less going forward it's only going to get worse particularly when it comes to drivers. Reply
  • TheJian - Thursday, February 28, 2008 - link

    Are you sure? Nvidia's latest WHQL driver is dated Dec2007 with these notes:
    # WHQL driver for GeForce FX, 6, 7, and 8 series GPUs.
    # Added support for GeForce 8800 GTS 512 GPU.
    # Recommended driver for the latest DirectX 9, and OpenGL applications.
    # Numerous game and application compatibility fixes. Please refer to the release documentation for more information on features, driver fixes, and known issues.

    They are still improving gaming with these! I don't see it as Orphaned when people are revolting against Vista. Read the fixes in the readme. There are quite a few issues fixed in 64bit. Don't forget people were buying this OS for years before Vista. Both Intel and AMD were selling 64bit chips before vista for years. People were running XP64bit and still are (if they wanted to use their chip's abilities that is). Is it so tough to throw up some benchmarks for xp64? Is MS telling you not to do it in some agreement like stopping XP SP3 benchmarks from being published in their EULA? Just checked ATI/AMD and their drivers are updated for 64bit FEB 13th! That's just 2 weeks ago and includes the 3870x2 boards.

    If movement in this area picked up (cough up the benchies!) I could see MS backing away from Vista and just re-releasing XP with DX10.1 and Aero Glass which would make Vista pointless. Vista could end up just like WinME. We ended up with Win2k, and for games that wouldn't run in that OS we dual booted to 98-OSR2 :) LOL I see drivers for my chipsets on Intel P35 and Nvidia boards also. I don't see waning support. Same date for Nvidia's xp32/64 drivers so they are developed together (the readme covers both also). It seems to me only Microsoft wants it orphaned. Crappy benchmarks would prove it (or not if they're great!) so lets see some please.
    Reply

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