Microsoft posts free service pack for Vista

Microsoft has posted a major package of updates and security fixes for Windows Vista.

The world’s largest software maker said on Tuesday that “Service Pack 1” will improve Vista’s reliability, security and performance, though many components already have been released during monthly updates since the operating system went on sale just more than a year ago.

Industry analysts offered mixed reports on whether the updates made their Vista experience better.

Michael Cherry, of the research group Directions on Microsoft, said the time it took to copy files over a network “returned to normal” with SP1—meaning the operation felt as speedy as it did using Windows XP, Vista’s predecessor.

But he said one thing SP1 did not fix was his ability to wake his PC from sleep mode, which he described as “a hit-or-miss affair”.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, said it took an hour or so to install the service pack on each of two of his computers, but once the machines were upgraded they both seemed “snappier” and less prone to crashing.

Is Vista “as fast as XP or not? Now it’s close enough where you can have the argument, where before, [Vista] was clearly slower,” Enderle said.

Before SP1 was made widely available, Microsoft confirmed the update will break some programs, including a handful of smaller antivirus applications.

While Cherry argued that breaking those security programs was unacceptable, Enderle said that’s par for the course with service packs, which often make changes to deep layers of the operating system that security applications access.

Microsoft said SP1 will block several applications from running for “reliability reasons”. The list includes BitDefender Antivirus and Internet Security, version 10; Fujitsu’s Shock Sensor hard-drive protection for rugged laptops; two versions of Jiangmin KV Antivirus software; and an older version of Check Point Technologies’ Zone Alarm Security Suite.

The company also said a few programs won’t run on SP1, such as web-application design program Iron Speed Designer, while others will stop working well, including the New York Times Reader application.

On Tuesday, a Microsoft blog also said some Vista users will not be able to download the update until certain software conflicts are resolved.

Certain older device drivers from RealTek AC, Intel and Symantec are among those Microsoft said will prevent an upgrade to SP1. The software maker said PC users can seek out updates from most of the makers of those devices to fix the problem.

Vista users can get the update by running the built-in Windows Update tool or visiting Microsoft’s website to download SP1.
In some cases, computer users may need to download older updates before upgrading.

For now, the service pack is available for copies of Vista in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. Versions in other languages will be released for manufacturing in mid-April, when Microsoft is also expected to push the upgrades to computer users who have set their PCs to receive automatic updates.

While Microsoft has not specified when retailers will start stocking boxed copies of Vista SP1, web retailer was selling the software for shipping on Wednesday.—Sapa-AP

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