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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 02/23/2011

Microsoft's Windows 7 Service Pack 1 does... something

By Rob Pegoraro

Microsoft shipped the most important update yet to Windows 7 yesterday--or so you'd conclude from the Redmond, Wash., company's home-page promotion of this Service Pack 1 patch. Its name would suggest the same; Microsoft ranks Service Packs among its most comprehensive, sweeping fixes, issued only two or three times for an edition of Windows.


Duly motivated, I set out to install Windows 7's "SP1" on a Dell notebook yesterday afternoon. Although the initial dialog in Windows Update suggested this download could run anywhere from 44 to 533.1 megabytes, this machine only needed a 62.5 MB download, or less than a tenth of some of Apple's Mac OS X updates. Windows Update took about 30 minutes to install SP1, after which the computer spent another 24 minutes in a post-reboot "configuring" session.

And then I struggled in vain to find any difference from this update. Not all Service Packs incorporate major changes--Windows XP's SP3 was remarkable for its lack of headline features after the desperately-needed security upgrades brought by SP2--but Win 7 SP1 may be Microsoft's least consequential Service Pack ever. For most home users, its primary utility is ensuring that they're current with all of Microsoft's prior patches and fixes, including some that were not automatically distributed.

That's not a bad thing. An operating system shouldn't need major corrections a year and a half after its debut.

But it is a problem when an update, however boring it may be, is so poorly documented. Microsoft's "What's Included" page says this download "includes previously released security, performance, and stability updates" but also brings new, vaguely defined corrections:

SP1 also includes new improvements to features and services in Windows 7, such as improved reliability when connecting to HDMI audio devices, printing using the XPS Viewer, and restoring previous folders in Windows Explorer after restarting.

But the "Service Pack 1 resources" page linked to from there did not have the promised release notes that would provide a full description of this update. Instead, it reported that "This content is no longer available" and suggested visiting a third support page.

The links under that page's "Key Resources" heading promised a full report but instead directed me to a fourth tech-support page, on which I could download a series of documents about the update. Not regular pages I could view in my browser, or even PDFs readable with a plugin, but Microsoft Office documents.

One, a Microsoft Word file called "Notable Changes in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1," revealed that SP1's consumer-relevant updates didn't extend beyond those listed on the first, "What's Included" page. (To spare you the download, I've reproduced those portions after the jump.) Another, an Excel spreadsheet named "Hotfixes and Security Updates included in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1," itemized the 755 "hotfix" patches (not all of which you would have received through Windows Update) and 41 security fixes (which you should have gotten already) rolled into SP1. Some of those earlier updates, however, only affect Windows Server 2008, Win 7's younger, non-consumer-oriented sibling.

So, yes, Win 7 SP1 is a big deal. It's just apparently not big enough for Microsoft to document properly.

I hope that your Win 7 SP1 install has been as drama-free as mine, but if it wasn't, I'm sure I'll read about it in the comments. How has that upgrade gone for you?

2/25, 10:17 a.m. If you're having trouble installing SP1, have a look at the two troubleshooting options--one built into Windows, the other requiring a separate download--suggested by ZDNet's Ed Bott this morning. (On my test Win 7 laptop, the first remedy found and fixed two unspecified problems with "Windows Update components"--not that I'd had issues with Windows Update on that machine before.)

Microsoft's "Notable Changes..." document lists three updates to Windows 7 and four shared with Windows Server 2008. Of those, three might affect home users anytime soon. Here they are:

Improved HDMI audio device performance
A small percentage of users have reported issues in which the connection between computers running Windows 7 and HDMI audio devices can be lost after system reboots. Updates have been incorporated into SP1 to ensure that connections between Windows 7 computers and HDMI audio devices are consistently maintained.
Corrected behavior when printing mixed-orientation XPS documents
Prior to the release of SP1, some customers have reported difficulty when printing mixed-orientation XPS documents (documents containing pages in both portrait and landscape orientation) using the XPS Viewer, resulting in all pages being printed entirely in either portrait or landscape mode. This issue has been addressed in SP1, allowing users to correctly print mixed-orientation documents using the XPS Viewer.
Change to behavior of "Restore previous folders at logon" functionality
SP1 changes the behavior of the "Restore previous folders at logon" function available in the Folder Options Explorer dialog. Prior to SP1, previous folders would be restored in a cascaded position based on the location of the most recently active folder. That behavior changes in SP1 so that all folders are restored to their previous positions.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 23, 2011; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Security, Windows  
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If it doesn't fix the "feature" of auto-closing Explorer when you eject a CD or remove a flash drive, SP1 is worthless then.

Posted by: koalatek | February 23, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

And as usual Microsoft's main concern is itself and not it's customers. First hurdle was the need to validate my copy of windows. Which tells me they are more on the lookout for software pirates then "helping customers". Just like it is easier to keep windows updated if you have Ms Internet Explorer then if you use another browser. They love to blow air up your bottoms and tell you it's A/C. They have to do something to keep their "Guest" workers busy.

Posted by: southernrican | February 23, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Well I installed Win 7 SP1 (x64) from the MSDN downloads center, as a separate EXE isntall(though it's quite a bit larger and supports many languages). It took 1.5 hours to install, then 20 mins of post boot configuration.
Some things got reset, like desktop.ini files get recreated, on some web shortcuts on my desktop, their icons refreshed from their respective site.
It appeared with my first boot to come up faster, but that may be a red herring.

Overall its been painless and without any glitz. I guess what I've learned is to let Windows Update find/download it as opposed to running the large 900+MB separate install.

Posted by: bustawheat | February 23, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I've had the HDMI audio issue on a PC we have hooked to our TV. I feel strangely excited to try out Windows 7 SP1 to see if that fixes the issue.

Posted by: joelsef | February 23, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I've had the HDMI audio issue on a PC we have hooked to our TV. I feel strangely excited to try out Windows 7 SP1 to see if that fixes the issue.

Posted by: joelsef | February 23, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

What's the point in comparing this with "some of Apple's Mac OS X updates"?

Posted by: jpilot56 | February 23, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I have been using MS operating systems for 30 years, and WIN7 is by far the best for me, along with a 3d party free anti-virus plus Spybot. Have not had a hiccup with it in the year since I bought it with my HP laptop. I use autoupdate on my legal copy, too. No, I don't work for MS or similar, but I do use my laptop six hours daily. fwiw

Posted by: crispydog1 | February 23, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Broke ITunes/IPhone Sync.

Installed Win 7 SP1 64 bit on a Dell i7 machine. When I connected my iphone, iTunes completely locked up. After a few minutes, it responded, but no iPhone was detected.

Tried the standard Apple recovery processes including full re-install of iTunes, but did not fix the problem.

removed SP1 and all is well again.

Posted by: DDD4 | February 23, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

@southernrican: why shouldn't you validate your copy of Windows? I can understand if you are complaining that the process of validation is cumbersome but I think the need to validate is valid. Why should users of illegal copies of Windows expect free updates? Also since they've included "Automatic Updates" as a control panel feature, you don't need IE to get updates.

Posted by: tundey | February 23, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it's nice to know that it doesn't do much, because it won't install on my Toshiba laptop. I've tried twice so far. I've been automatically updating whenever there are updates available since I bought the laptop last spring, so I suppose I already have most of the patches and fixes already.

Posted by: moxilator | February 23, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

No, you don't need IE even without automatic updates.

I downloaded and installed SP1 using Google Chrome.

Posted by: DomesticAvalanche | February 23, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 takes way too long to install! I'll wait a week or two and hopefully they'll fix whatever's wrong with it. No update that's 62MB in size should take a whole afternoon to install.

Posted by: PsychoUnderPressure | February 23, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Everything seemed to go fine - took about an hour to download and install, then 15 mins to reconfigure which wasn't bad. But the moment I was back on my computer, the .NET runtime optimization service started using a frightening amount of CPU and I wondered if I was going to have to uninstall the stupid service pack or risk burning up my computer since stupid microsoft doesn't warn us about that at all!

Yay for techie blogs! Tho' old, this info is exactly what was going on and yes, mscorsvw.exe suddenly went away and my CPU usage went back down to normal levels. Whew!

But why doesn't stupid microsoft tell us up front that's what's going on?? Why do we have to rely on nice techies to explain everything for us, doing microsoft's job for microsoft??? Cuz if we were microsoft's employer, we'd be firing them if they tried this on our payroll!

Posted by: jiji1 | February 23, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

PS: Toshiba laptop running W7 Home Premium 64-bit, Firefox browser \m/. I make the update process ask me for approval and generally install every microsoft update (but haven't installed Live because friends have had some nasty problems caused by Live on their computers)

Posted by: jiji1 | February 23, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Downloaded service pack 1, about 70mb from memory was needed. To install and configure, about 15-20 minutes on my Toshiba Satellite A300 notebook. Everything works perfectly 24 hours later, so far anyway...

Posted by: wavey | February 23, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Earlier today (six hours ago) I installed the service pack 1 on a computer that came with Windows 7 on it and the install went great! I then attempted to install the SP1 on a computer that I upgraded from XP to Windows 7 last month. I had used a 3-install upgrade to windows 7 then and it went great then. Today when I downloaded the SP1 for it (45 minutes on Roadrunner high speed) it installed (another half hour) then prevented the PC from booting. The repair/restore function didn't fix or restore anything.It appears that when you upgrade from XP without a clean fresh install, the SP1 will try and use the old XP drivers (big OOPS Microsoft!)and prevent a complete boot.
Rather than call India and wait online for four hours, I am currently reinstalling with the second Windows install of the three-pack, and guess what? SP1 is no longer listed as an available update!
Perhaps Microsoft should remove the upgrade option and only go with the clean fresh install. You would think with all the employees at Microsoft, they would have figured this out by now.

Posted by: OldPitSnipe | February 23, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Install went pretty smoothly. Download took 11 minutes, install took 19 minutes - 22 minues, including the reboot. I started from an up-to-date Windows 7 install on a Thinkpad.

Posted by: emathias | February 23, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The update went smoothly, but with proliferation of web applications, what is the importance of operating systems these days?

Posted by: mjaniec | February 24, 2011 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Pegoraro kind of misses the boat here. What differences or new features was he expecting and why was he expecting them? It can't be based on anything MS has said as they have been quite clear that Win 7 SP1 is basically a roll-up of previous patches and security fixes along with an under the hood tweak here and there. And this sort of illustrates the problem of the tech press these days in a nutshell. The tech press is by and large acting as Apple fanboi PR cheerleaders and as MS critics, and that's an issue that I wish each of them would look in the mirror and address.

The lack of major changes and fixes to Win 7 actually speaks pretty well of MS where Win 7 is concerned. It basically means that they got the OS right when it was released. It basically boils down to Mr. Pegoraro complaining that there isn't a lot that needs to be fixed.

Note to southernrican: Why are you complaining about needing to validate? Validation isn't required for installation of SP1 via Windows update, only for download of the standalone installers. And the fact is that you really don't even need to do that as the standalone installers are available for download from reputable sites all across the net. Even if you did need to validate, it takes all of a few seconds. What's the issue?

Note to DDD4: iTunes is an awful application and it both breaks under Windows and breaks Windows and other Windows apps with alarming regularity. SP1 has been available for testing by software vendors for some time. If Apple couldn't be bothered to get their act together with their software, that's on Apple.

Same thing I said about Mr. Pegoraro applies to some of the previous comments. Apple has fanboi cheerleaders. MS has critics. That really is a problem. Dang if I know what to do about it though.

Note to everyone else: There's no need to rush to install SP1. People wanting to know what's in SP1 can download the documentation direct from Microsoft at and see for themselves.

I do recommend SP1 and have had no issues with it on any of the many systems I maintain. Of course we also don't allow known bad software (like iTunes) on the systems we maintain either...because bad software brings issues that are caused by bad software.

Posted by: oxfordsystems | February 24, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

My install failed. Had to go to System Restore. Wasted whole lot of time. Not to mention the angst...

Posted by: wovose | February 24, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

My install failed. Had to go to System Restore. Wasted whole lot of time. Not to mention the angst...

Posted by: wovose | February 24, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Oooh, your download was less than a tenth of some OSX updates. Wow...stunning. Likely this is to do with the fact that Windows is a tenth of the OS compared to OSX.

Reminder. Windows service packs are more often fixes to an operating system(if you can call it that) which is released too soon with more priority one bugs and security cracks than a rusted bucket full of cockroaches.

Posted by: otokoyama | February 24, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for being here.

My own installation of this SP1 was uneventful into an HP Pavilion 64 bit laptop with the following puzzle....I got an "Error" pop-up saying that Update KB2387530 "Failed". But, somehow I don't really care.

For "Information" on this error I was referred to Error Code 80242016 which in turn led me to a "Troubleshoot" page with ten options to check out. I didn't bother with this as I've learned that one can take days upon days "troubleshooting" being forced to use Microsoft's peculiar way of writing sentences with no apparent meaning.

Since I was right in the middle of your article here I thought I'd submit this for general whatever-it-may-concern type of thing.

So, here it is....I must add the personal note that I'm 79 years old and had managed very well in a fairly well-ordered life without "Computers" up until 2003 when an old friend said that I "had" to get into this stuff.

As a last observation....why, oh why, do we unwashed have to put up with this arcane BS when MS surely has a staff of writers to translate what their programmers have wrought?

And, Rob, please don't go away.

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | February 24, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse


5:30 download
5:40 install & reboot

I felt the download was slow, but I bet MS is getting slammed pretty good with this new update and things will probably speed up in a few days or less.

The install went super quick; most likely because I've kept up on all updates so SP1 probably didn't have to download much extra. Also, I have SSDs in my system.


Posted by: SLORider | February 25, 2011 4:24 AM | Report abuse

Microsoft's Windows 7 Service Pack 1 does... something ELSE :D

I just noticed you can now disable the Battery warning in SP1, before it would always tell you to "consider replacing battery" now you can disable the warning popping up from the icon in the tray :D

apart from that, system is running a lot smoother on my end, using 28% physical memory instead of 34%, also somehow my processor got an extra 0.1 in the experience index giving it a 5.1 hahaha old laptop, new update, smooth running :D

Posted by: wo88les | February 25, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Windows Update isn't used for anything but security/compatibility updates, as highlighted below (among other things):

Posted by: Dariodee | February 25, 2011 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Kaboom. Looked like it went into my machine smoothly...but then I noticed in explorer sorts on dates and names slowed up significantly. File openings began to slow up.... things seem to be slowing up not improving or staying the same....Then low and behold...whacked ATI 3850 drivers were not in use. Monitor (Samsung 226bw) could not be found....

Tried to uninstall SP1... failed. Remove all remnants of notoriously bad ATI drivers and tried again.... BSOD!....

Finally ran uninstall in safe mode.... again said it failed. Next a restore to before SP1....failed. Running out of options.

Removed SP1 again and it seemed to work. Restarted in Safe Mode.... messsage said removal was successful. Who you gonna believe?

Re-installed ATI drivers.... BSOD.... restarted in safe mode..... all good... Restarted again..... and up and runnning.... this nonsense was done over a 2 day period. SP1 ...stay away from it..... clearly ticking bombs inside it.

Posted by: johnmoen | February 26, 2011 4:19 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone tried to create a slipstreamed install disc for Windows 7 SP1 yet? I'd be interested in how to do that.

Posted by: dogobyte | February 26, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

1. Horrow of update.
After 4 failed attempts on a new HP computer, I find error message says if any adjustment of initial computer discs by ANY third party software SP1 will not register for update.
2. As I use a third party back-up system to back up OS software, which MS Windows 7 Home Premium will not do, it only backs up users' documents etc, The back up software is from a reputable company which installs a partition to store backups, so it shrinks the windows C:\ drive. This MS deems stops a major update SP1, while all other updates take place normally. (System was fully patched before SP1)
3. Something is bad at MS when they act this way, so depriving legitimate fully paid copies of program from updating by careful users who try to safeguard their systems.

4 Perhaps you may want to take this up with MS,as a journalist you have more clout than just any old user

Posted by: eionmac | February 26, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Ok people, if you're having issues with this install, you did something wrong. First time I attempted, it worked without a hitch. I'm sorry you pirated your copies.

Eionmac, I don't know why you'd have 3rd party backup software. I use W7 Home Premium and my backup tool back up all 936GB of my primary HDD to a secondary HDD I have installed, also without fail. So this is a cause of your own.

I've not had any issues with drivers, BSOD, or the like. In fact, my computer actually feels like it's running smoother *For once*. Glad MS implemented the few minor fixes my gaming rig was desperately needing and didn't screw it up.

Posted by: Domasi90 | February 27, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't inconsequential for me. The SP1 update made both my Asus K52F laptop and my scratch built (and screaming fast) desktop machine grind to a halt. The desktop machine has a brand new six core CPU along with a sweet new mobo that supports most of the best overclocking tweaks; It ran like a testarossa for like four days, but the SP1 update reminds me of the Windows ME days - I can't even load a wapo article quicker than dial up speeds worked back in the day. I have no choice but to boot into my *nix kernel to do anything online right now. A word of advice for windows 7 64-bit users - wait on this for a few days more before you install SP1.

Posted by: sql_yoda | February 28, 2011 4:04 AM | Report abuse

This one is aimed at Domasi90:

You can't assume that everyone having problems with this install is not paying for windows 7. That's like me assuming that it worked out great for you because you still connect to the internet through AOL.

Most people with Windows 7 got it when it was pre-installed on their machine... when they bought it legitimately.

I have an OEM version of Windows 7 because I built the machine myself... I have another OEM version because it came pre-installed on my laptop. NEITHER OF THEM worked out - or in your words - went off "without a hitch". The service pack caused both multi-core machines (with advanced bios and clock settings) to slow down and refuse to even call up the google on the default browser (IE x64) in less than 2 full seconds.

It may work to your satisfaction but this SP is currently a train wreck for me and I would bet quite a few other folks. You can't assume that my company would allow me to stay employed, working with pirated software, just because the software we paid a pretty penny for doesn't work as intended and/or advertised.

Posted by: sql_yoda | February 28, 2011 4:38 AM | Report abuse

The update went smoothly, but with proliferation of web applications, what is the importance of operating systems these days?

Posted by: mjaniec

You can't get apps without an OS. That's like asking "with all these apples all over the ground in September, why do we even need apple seeds?"

Posted by: sql_yoda | February 28, 2011 4:57 AM | Report abuse

"but I think the need to validate is valid. Why should users of illegal copies of Windows expect free updates?"

1) Every PC comes with a legal copy of Windows (I invite you to try and buy one without Windows). Are there some hobbyists who download a dodgy copy of windows and install it on an old PC? Undoubtedly, but that's statistical noise.

2) Since Windows PCs are one of the greatest threats to Internet security because of the sheer number, Microsoft should keep them updated. The danger isn't to the person with the computer, its to everyone else.

3) Again, referring to point #1 above, where is the harm (statistically) in keeping every PC up to date versus the great benefit?

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | March 1, 2011 5:24 AM | Report abuse

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