Windows Vista SP2 Review

Windows Vista SP2 ReviewMicrosoft Windows Vista SP2 Review

My mission is simply to give you early warning of Vista’s SP2.  Here is advice from the horse’s mouth.  "For most customers, our best advice would be to wait until the final release [of SP2] prior to installing this service pack," said Mike Nash of Microsoft.

Windows Vista SP2 Topics


Vista SP2 Beta

What makes the Windows Vista SP2 unique is that there is just one service pack for both Vista and Windows Server 2008.

As of December 2008, Vista SP2 is only available in beta and Microsoft don’t plan to release the final version until about May 2009.  You could think of SP2 as a classic service pack which ‘rolls-up’ all fixes and updates since Vista SP1. 

However, Windows Vista SP2 also includes support for new types of hardware, such as Bluetooth 2.1 and emerging standards such as ICCD/CCID smart cards.

Other minor but significant improvements include:

  • Windows Search 4 for faster indexing with improved relevancy
  • Better resource efficiency the gadgets you may install in the Sidebar
  •  Fix for Wi-Fi connection problems for some machines resuming from their ‘Sleep’.
  • Nifty clean-up tool, which deletes the previous versions of files which are superseded by SP2. 


General Advice on Beta Software

In a nutshell, those with a manager’s mentality are correct, it really is best to avoid beta software and wait for the final version.  As for me, when I reviewed beta software such as Vista and Server 2008 I enjoyed the feeling of being a pioneer.  However, there was an even greater feeling of pain when features were not available and the beta software crashed.  Working with beta software does give early warning and early experience of new products, yet, it can result in confusion when features get removed from the final version.

I do hate it when managers are wiser than techies on computers matters, but in the case of beta software, the managers win, it is best to wait for the final version.

Two Opposite Approaches to Applying Service Packs

The gung-ho approach to service packs is to install them then ‘suck it and see’.  If it works – great, if not, then you look for Uninstall (best), backup, or a restore point.  Should you be tempted by this bullish approach at least start on a test machine; ok, if you are really gung-ho please apply the service pack to only ONE machine, and don’t use WSUS to apply to everyone’s machine, until you see what happens during the first week.

The alternative, and more thoughtful approach, is where you trawl the internet for ‘problems with Vista SP2’.  This is a worthy idea, but don’t get paralysed by research to the point where you won’t take action.  Also make sure that the ‘problem’ affects your Dell machine with Office 2003, and is not a minor issue confined to some rare breed of computer running an application that you have never heard of.

Solarwinds Patch ManagerGuy Recommends You Try SolarWinds Patch Manager (SPM)

With SPM you can push out patches, which companies such as Mozilla Firefox or Adobe Acrobat provide.  The point is that because WSUS does not do this for non-Microsoft software updates, you need a good add-on to take care of this task.  With the Patch Manager you can even create your own packages to apply to your servers or clients.

Download your free trial of SolarWinds Patch Manager

Problems to look out for with Vista service packs

In recent years there has been a rash of service packs doing unexpected stuff and causing distress to those affected.  From reading the press it’s hard to believe that XP SP3 and Vista SP1 worked perfectly on ten times more machines than they caused problems.

The real lesson was that problems affected specific combinations of hardware and software.  Because the affected minority became so vocal all the conflicts caused by SP1 are well documented.  Any nasty side-effects surface within a week of release; thus at the risk of stating the obvious, if you Google ‘Vista SP2 Problem’ you will get instant feedback.   If all is quiet a month after release you should be OK.  Examples of early problems with Vista

  • Compatibly – There are a few 3rd party programs that work with XP but don’t work with Vista SP1 or 2.
  • Endless Reboots – Would have been a reason not to install SP1.  Solution Microsoft issued a fix, and now all is well.
  • Laptops – Beware the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ syndrome, the machine goes to sleep and does not wake up for 100 hours.  Actually, SP1 improved the reliability of Hibernate and Resume.

If you need Uninstall a service pack then go to the Control Panel, Programs, right-click on Installed Updates.  See more on service packs.

Solarwinds Patch Manager (SPM)

With SPM you can mix and match the two strategies of pushing out patches which companies such as Adobe or Mozilla, or alternatively, you can create your own custom packages.  The point is that SPM does not do this for non-Microsoft software updates.

See more on extending WSUS with Patch Manager »

Service Pack Basics

Microsoft has gained valuable information for fixes from its automated error reports from the CEI (Customer Experience Improvement).  The data is sent from Vista machines which allow utilities such as WER (Windows Error Reporting) and OCA (Online Crash Analysis) to report problems to their Microsoft mother-ship.

Windows service packs contain hot-fixes, security updates and sometimes enhancements for existing features or menus.  Actually, your computer may already have 95% of these fixes and updates; however it’s handy to have them all in one file when you are rebuilding a machine.  For me a service pack also provides peace of mind.

I don’t often check my Vista’s Windows Update History, but when I did I was shocked to see that some updates failed.  To be fair, it seemed that the Automatic Updates tried again and invariably succeed in the next update cycle.  My abiding thought was that SP2 will ‘roll-up’ these updates, and thus ensure that none have been missed.

Talking of peace of mind, one 32-bit (X86) service pack covers all desktop / laptop editions of Vista, but not embedded operating systems.  Naturally, there is a separate SP2 file for 64-bit operating systems.  In due course home users could get a copy of Vista SP2 via Windows Update, while larger installations would benefit from rolling out the service pack with WSUS (Windows Server Update Services).

Probably most important piece of information to look out for with any service pack is, ‘Can I just apply it to a new installation without adding previous service packs first?’  No!  SP2 is it what Microsoft calls a cumulative service pack, meaning that you need to have already applied SP1.  But no worries, SP2 will detect the status of your computer and if necessary prompt you to install SP1.  Incidentally, XP’s service packs were also what Microsoft call cumulative and Guy calls sequential.

Types of SP2


Not a big Service Pack only 55 Mb, tunes the ‘package’ for each computer.


Huge 7Gb (12 Gb for x64-bit)  All versions all languages.


See also
Windows 7 SP1 changes

Windows 8 "Blue" SP

Summary of Vista SP2

As usual, it’s best avoid the beta version, and wait for the final version of Vista SP2.  Make a plan before you roll out this service pack; perhaps a little internet research, then start with a test machine.

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Preparing for Windows Vista Topics: