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Vista Service Pack (SP1) Installation Report

Apr 16, 2008
The long-awaited Windows Vista SP1 update was recently released. As soon as it became available, I suited up, strapped on my Microsoft protective vest, tightened my helmet's chin strap, and began the installation. I am pleased to report that the big Vista SP1 update was installed without incident, injury, or wooziness.

After installing SP1, I began checking every conceivable aspect of my Vista system, all user settings, all programs, printing, peripherals, updates, and everything was fully functional. I have used the system daily since installing it and I haven't detected even the slightest problem. While there are never any guarantees how an update this large will fare on other systems, this appears to be a good, solid update and not likely to cause any problems for most Vista users.

The SP1 update is a compilation update. That means it incorporates all previous Vista updates, so if you missed any updates along the way, you'll get them as part of SP1. SP1's formal name is KB936330. The "KB" refers to Microsoft's Knowledge Base, so if you go to the Microsoft Help and Support page (http://support.microsoft.com), type KB936330 in the search field, and click Search, you can access more information about SP1. It's not necessary to do that, but if you ever have insomnia and need some snooze-inducing material to read, the Microsoft Knowledge Base cannot be beat.

The installation process for Vista's SP1 is very simple. If you have Windows Automatic Updates enabled, you may already have it, but if you go to your Control Panel > Security > Check for Updates, if it's available to you, it will be listed there. SP1 is being rolled out slowly, so it's possible that it may not be immediately available to you yet. If you don't have it, check back periodically and sooner or later it will appear.

Before installing the SP1 update, be sure to back up your important data files. It's unlikely anything will happen to them during the update, but it's a good idea to back them up just to be on the safe side. Vista includes a backup utility you can access by clicking the Start orb and typing "backup" into the Search field, then going to the "Backup and Restore Center." Other popular backup utilities include Acronis True Image 11 (http://www.acronis.com), which will make a mirror-image of your hard drive and NovaBackup (http://www.novastor.com). I don't use either program, but those are available, if you're so inclined.

Some experts suggest preparing for the SP1 update by downloading and installing the latest hardware drivers. (Drivers are programs that allow your computer hardware to communicate with the operating system). I did not do that. I figured if I ran into a problem with the update and any particular hardware device, I'd update the drivers at that time. It just seemed like a lot of extra work that probably wouldn't be necessary. If you're more comfortable updating your hardware drivers before installing SP1, by all means do it. I did not suffer any ill-effects as a result of my wanton, reckless and arguably irresponsible behavior.

I've also read suggestions that users check with their respective computer manufacturers to determine if it has any specific recommendations or prerequisites before installing SP1. I didn't bother with that, either. I think some computer "experts" must have more time on their hands than most users do. The thought of calling a company's tech support line, waiting on hold for 27 minutes and then asking Banglaore "Bob" if he has any recommendations for me prior to installing SP1 -- that just strikes me as overkill and making mountains out of molehills. By the time I did all that, I could have the update installed.

The truth is, I performed the same amount of preparation for SP1 as I do for most software updates: I did nothing. I didn't defrag my hard drive; I didn't disable any security programs; I didn't fiddle with my router; I didn't do anything prior to installing SP1 other than pour a fresh cup of coffee. I felt that was adequate preparation and indeed, it was.

The installation itself is a rather slow process, so the best advice I can offer is to keep your hands off the computer once the download and installation begins. There are no weighty decisions to be made during the installation process, so it's unlikely that you will be compelled to do any major dithering during the installation. You will simply click to install the update, you'll click again to give Vista permission to proceed, then you can pretty much sit back.

It may appear at times as if nothing is happening -- which is, coincidentally, what Mrs. Modem says when she observes me at work. There is, however, a display that indicates the percentage of completion of both the download and the actual installation. If it appears to stop at 25 percent or 30 percent or some other percentage, it's very tempting to give it a poke, but don't do anything. In fact, once it starts, you can't go wrong if you leave the room. Check back every 15 or 20 minutes to see how it's progressing, but don't try to help it along.

My total time for downloading and installing SP1 was approximately an hour. When it's done, there will be a message on screen advising you that the installation was successful and a button to click to restart your computer. Click the button, and walk away. The initial restart may be a bit slower than normal -- or it may appear that way because you'll be thinking that something is bound to go wrong, but given enough time, everything should reboot uneventfully. At that time you can pat yourself on the back and bask in the glow of your successful update. Congratulations!
About the Author
Mr. Modem (MrModem.com) is an author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and publisher of the wildly popular, always entertaining, Pulitzer-lacking weekly "Ask Mr. Modem" computer-help newsletter. Mr. Modem's columns appear in more than 300 publications and each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. Visit MrModem.com for additional information, to view a sample issue, or to subscribe.
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