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Microsoft Updates Windows Vista With Service Pack 2

Last Tuesday, Microsoft quietly shipped its second major update to Windows Vista, Service Pack 2. Like last year's Service Pack 1 for Vista, this download combines a few new features with many smaller bug fixes and other refinements.

An article on Microsoft's TechNet site outlines the notable changes in this release. Many of them only apply to "enterprise" users, those who toil away on large corporate networks, but a few should make a difference at home. The two most important among them are probably SP2's updated Windows Search 4.0, software to index and find files on your machine, and its Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless, an upgraded package of WiFi and Bluetooth wireless-networking components.


That tech-support document also says SP2 should improve a Vista system's responsiveness when displaying RSS Web-site updates in the Windows Sidebar and, if you use a WiFi Internet connection, after it awakes from sleep mode. And if your computer, unlike most, can write data to Blu-ray optical discs, SP2's support for that option can free you from having to use a third-party disc-burning program.

For now, your only way to get SP2 is to download a standalone installer that, because it contains every component that you might conceivably need, plus versions of this update in five languages, will take a while to download: about 348 megabytes for the 32-bit edition (what most users will want), and 577 MB for its 64-bit edition.

In a few months, this update should begin to arrive in a condensed form, customized for your PC's configuration, in Vista's automatic Windows Update; Microsoft says the 32-bit auto-update download should be around 43 MB, while the 64-bit release should weigh in at roughly 60 MB.

I tested SP2 by loading it on a copy of Vista Home Premium that I'd put on a MacBook laptop, using Apple's Boot Camp software, a few months ago. The install itself took about an hour and required one restart.

The only evident glitch came when Windows reported that a copy of the free Avira anti-virus program had "known compatibility issues"; clicking that dialog's "Check for solutions online" button didn't yield any fixes, but downloading the latest version from Avira's site fixed the problem.

SP2's benefits look less obvious on an initial inspection. It doesn't seem to use any more or less memory or processor cycles than SP1-vintage Vista. Bluetooth networking seems a little simpler at the margins--I was able to send a file from the Vista system to a nearby Mac without any hassles, which is something of a first in my experience--but otherwise the only clue of SP2's presence is a line in a system control panel.

A boring Windows update is nothing to complain about, especially considering how little care I'd taken to keep this MacBook's Vista system in good condition. I hope that's the case for everybody who installs this update--but, knowing the weird ways in which Windows can go bad, I can't assure you that everybody will have the same experience.

Have you put SP2 on your own Vista system? Share your findings in the comments...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 1, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Windows  
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"A boring Windows update is nothing to complain about"

A boring /anything/ update is nothing to complain about. Boring updates are getting more common.

Posted by: wiredog | June 1, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I updated Vista Home Premium Premium 32-bit last week. It took a while but it went smoothly and uneventfully. I tried the new search, didn't find what I was looking for, but it looked interesting.

Posted by: b_100666 | June 1, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I have never been able to install SP1 on my laptop. After spending dozens of hours trying to install SP1, and dozens of emails back and forth with MS, I gave up. I guess MS gave up also because they stopped responding to my emails.

Do you know if it is possible to install SP2 on a machine that was not updated with SP1?


Posted by: Ralar | June 1, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@Ralar According to this:

"Service Pack 1 is a prerequisite for installing Service Pack 2. Please make sure that your system is running Service Pack 1 before you install Service Pack 2."

Posted by: catester | June 1, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Don't upgrade to Vista SP 2! I upgraded two computers to SP 2 and it totally destroyed them. Damn you Microsoft! I am now busy reinstalling all my software on my laptop, an HP Pavillion tx200, and a Shuttle SG45H7. Both are fairly new and it appears whatever damage MS did to the Shuttle it is terminal. It looks like I will have to take out the hard drive and put in a new one then start over. Beware, MS upgrades can be harmful.

Posted by: unsavoury | June 2, 2009 2:45 AM | Report abuse

I received SP2 via Windows automatic update feature. As a result one program that I run daily became unstable and had to be reloaded. One, so far! My experience with Vista is that every upgrade creates new problems.

Posted by: walt17 | June 2, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Q: Have you put SP2 on your own Vista system? Share your findings in the comments...
A: I did last night. The first attempt crashed my system at reboot. It automatically went through CHKDSK and never installed. I then ensured to disable Norton 360 at the next install attempt, and everything went fine. I have not had a chance to play with the pc yet for any hidden gremlins

Posted by: nonag | June 2, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

SP2 was pushed to my HP Pavilion dv2500 notebook a few days ago. The only downside I've noticed is I don't stay signed-in at websites (wapo, nyt, facebook, etc.) from session to session. Have not noticed any upside.

Posted by: GaryJean | June 2, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Rob. You need to get a windows machine to test windows updates. No fanboi bs here; its just that you introduce way too much potential for issues by testing on a mac. I'm sure that everyone reading your work who is running vista home premium on a mac is glad to hear your report. How about something for those that don't own macs? C'mon. This isn't an unreasonable request.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 2, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Lemme get this straight... You have a failure of the install when Norton is loaded, but when you unload Norton the Windows SP install goes fine and you think the problem is with the install? You need to rethink the situation, I believe.

Posted by: rapier100 | June 2, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I've had SP2 since last week. The system definitely gets to a usable desktop faster. Windows sidebar now loads almost instantly when I get in to desktop. Windows Explorer seems slightly snappier. However, shutdowns seem to take up to 3 minutes at random times. Other times it's as fast as my XP box shutting now. I have noticed no adverse side effects and the install was easy.

Still not as fast as my windows 7 x64 install though.

Those having problems should first check what software they have install. McAfee and Norton suites are notorious for botching up major patches - I would check if removing those fixes it. Also, make sure you're installing the patch as an administrator. I would log in as one though instead of running the setup file as admin just to be safe.

For those saying it broke their systems, have you tried to do a system restore from the windows boot screen?

Posted by: rlescaille | June 2, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I tried installing service pack 1 on my HP when it came out, and lost the use of my large expensive printer. After many emails and calls to Microsoft, I got use of the printer back...sort of.

NOT wanting to take a chance on SP2. Starting to think about going to Apple for my next computer.

Posted by: dmadrone | June 2, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I have applied Service Pack 2 to two desktops and two laptops at home (all running Vista Ultimate 32 bit) and one laptop at work running Vista Enterprise 32 bit. I have had no issues on any of the computers. Regarding the problems with antivirus programs, there is an instructional box that appears at the beginning of the upgrade that suggests that any antivirus program be disabled during the installation. Good luck to all.

Posted by: dcbart | June 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Installed Windows Vista Service Pack 2 on my Dell desktops, vista ultimate 32 bit. My wife's dell laptop, Vista ultimate 32 bit, and my laptop, Vista business 64 bit. All is well. We are looking forward to using Windows 7, but not looking forward to paying for what Vista should have been.

Posted by: josephdurnal | June 2, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Started Vista SP2 upgrade process on a Dell Vostro 200 running Vista Business. Have McAfee installed & I neglected to turn it off. However the upgrade still appears to have installed correctly. It took somewhere around 30 or 35 minutes during the middle of the day. I checked on it periodically to make sure it was progressing & didn't note any problems. I do keep the system up to date via WindowsUpdate.

Posted by: 2saws | June 2, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I've had SP2 on my work computer through SUS, as well as a few other workstations in the office. Nobody has reported any anomalous activity on their computers.

Posted by: JoStalin | June 2, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Vista SP2 update worked fine on a desktop with Vista x64 and on a laptop with Vista 32 bit.

It's a pretty boring update overall.

But it's fast, and easy to do, so it doesn't take much to stay current.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | June 2, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

One last comment... the use of Norton or McAfee for AntiVirus is the mark of uninformed computer user.

I don't think these things do much more than use computer cycles and respond to 2-3 year old viruses.

You'd be better off casting spells at your PC.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | June 2, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I had the same experience as others. It takes a while to download. It took something like 20 minutes to install. It did not produce any problems.

Posted by: dnjake | June 2, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Plan to make an image of my system prior to applying this update. SP 1 install was buggy on one of my three identical systems so I expect about the same when I go to apply this update. I must admit that I was surprised to see anyone posting a Vista SP 2 experience in the context of a business computer. Out of all the people I know that regularly work on computers (not IT folks, just people that use a computer for their job), none have seen Vista in the workplace yet.

Posted by: jim_maryland | June 2, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

walt17, GaryJean: That Microsoft blog post linked to at the start of this entry says nobody should have received SP2 via an automatic update last week: "sometime during the coming months your computer will download and install SP2.... SP2 delivery over Automatic Update is a 'throttled release' which will begin in June." Are you sure it was SP2 that arrived and not SP1?

lostinthemiddle: The whole point of testing SP2 on a MacBook was to "introduce potential issues"! I don't want to conduct these trials under optimum conditions; that's not going to help the majority of people who use their computers under less-than-perfect circumstances.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | June 2, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

lostinthemiddle: The whole point of testing SP2 on a MacBook was to "introduce potential issues"! I don't want to conduct these trials under optimum conditions; that's not going to help the majority of people who use their computers under less-than-perfect circumstances.

- RP

Indeed. One issue you've introduced is micro-relevance. The majority of Vista users are running windows on pcs. The scenario you tested fits one of the most rare profiles of users, which would be great if you ALSO tested a more prevalent profile. If you had to choose only one, why the one that would be helpful to the fewest users?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 2, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

SP1 fails to run on my Dell Lap Top. I've gone months with out sound from my Dell lap top computer and all the blogs and MS say SP1 is a fix because a bug in MS Vista software. I still can't load MS Vista SP1 on my Lap top computer. I have no sound from my Lap Top when playing CD/DVD and SP1 is suppose to have a fix but after it finish down loading it fails. Any advise?

Posted by: DelSteele | June 2, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: janeseven | June 2, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I had heard that Vista SP2 freed up a bunch of hard drive space. Well I downloaded and installed last pm, and it is indeed true. My hard drive had 169 GB free prior to the install, and 209 GB free afterward. What a bounty I have received! So far everything seems to be working fine. Now I have to install Windows 7 RC over the Beta I have on my partition. To be truthful, I don't see much of a difference between Vista and 7, despite all the hoo-hah raised by the tech writers. Both are very stable systems for me. I don't use the Vista machine primarily (for kids), but this seems to work well. I use a Mac and like dabbling in both worlds.

Posted by: badness | June 3, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

RP - after reading your article on Vista SP2 availability, I reviewed my downloaded updates from Windows Update and the SP2 update was listed as 'important' and available for installation (published 5/26/2009). It is, however, the large 337.9 MB - 343.9 MB version. It must have arrived within the past few days, but has not yet prompted me for installation.

Posted by: arjayef3 | June 3, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I've installed SP 2 on three 32 bit and 2 64 bit machines with no problems. The advantage seems to be slighter better boot-up time and responsiveness in several programs.

Posted by: melmatthews | June 4, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I install SP2 and immediately had problems with media player and browser. Tried numerous fixes and none worked. Reinstalled original SP1 and now everything works perfectly. My advice......don't install SP2 now.

Posted by: zbd21 | June 4, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

After installing SP2, the Excel/Word PDF converter doesn't respect the page setup. It doesn't recognize graphics or graphs in the Excel Files that have a specific layout and are set to print on 1 page. All of my work and business documents that are converted to PDF and sent to clients are a mess. I'm hours behind in my work and have a document backlog because of it. This was supposed to be a FIX - automatically installing the PDF or XPS converter instead of having to download it. It worked perfectly before they FIXED it. Downloading the old PDF converter took about 2 minutes and now I've spent hours trying to sort out this mess. I either have to wait for Ms to fix the bug or uninstall SP2 - not trivial. Macintosh is looking better and better.

Posted by: katmando | June 6, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I had to do a system restore (from the day before the install) to get back to normal. Lost use of Microsoft Calendar among other things. Strongly recommend you take a system restore point before trying installing Vista SP2.

Posted by: rp21643 | June 7, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

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