Microsoft has done it! After a month and a half of being completed Vista SP1 has been posted to the servers for anyone and everyone to download. There are all kinds of performance improvements included in this Service Pack that will make the operating system more appealing to users who have been holding out on an upgrade. Although I’m skeptical as to whether this, and only this, would sway someone to jump on the Vista bandwagon.

Shortly after Vista SP1 had been completed we decided to give it a whirl and see if Microsoft had actually prevented the use of the cracks that they said they did. We installed a copy of Vista with SP1, and one OEM BIOS crack did not work. It only took us a few minutes to find another crack that did work though, and I’m sure Microsoft is walking around with their heads down since they didn’t patch more of the cracks in time for SP1. I don’t expect them to patch every crack, but something is wrong if it only took me a few minutes to find another working crack. Since then they’ve pushed out an update that correctly checks whether the cracks are installed and notifies the user, but does nothing else.

So it looks like piraters and genuine users alike will be enjoying the benefits that Vista Service Pack 1 has to offer. The download will be available via Windows Update at some point (I don’t see it yet), but you can download the standalone packages if you don’t want to wait. These are, however, quite large in size and may take awhile for the download to complete:

Microsoft has quite an extensive list of improvements in Vista SP1, and instead of listing them all I pulled out the ones that I find to be the most significant:

  • An improved SRT (Startup Repair Tool), which is part of the Windows Recovery environment (WinRE), can now fix PCs unbootable due to certain missing OS files.
  • Improves the performance of browsing network file shares by consuming less bandwidth.
  • Improves power consumption and battery life by addressing an issue that causes a hard disk to continue spinning when it should spin down, in certain circumstances.
  • Improves the speed of adding and extracting files to and from a compressed (zipped) folder.
  • Improves performance over Windows Vista’s current performance across the following scenarios:
    • 25% faster when copying files locally on the same disk on the same machine
    • 45% faster when copying files from a remote non-Windows Vista system to a SP1 system
    • 50% faster when copying files from a remote SP1 system to a local SP1 system
  • Improves the copy progress estimation when copying files within Windows Explorer to about two seconds.
  • Includes improvements to Windows Superfetch that help to further improve resume times, in many environments.
  • Windows Vista SP1 includes a new compression algorithm for the RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) that helps reduce network bandwidth required to send bitmaps or images via RDP. The compression, which can be selected by administrators via Group Policy settings, is transparent to all RDP traffic, and typically reduces the size of the RDP stream by as much as 25-60%, based on preliminary test results.
  • Enables support for hotpatching, a reboot-reduction servicing technology designed to maximize uptime. It works by allowing Windows components to be updated (or “patched”) while they are still in use by a running process. Hotpatch-enabled update packages are installed via the same methods as traditional update packages, and will not trigger a system reboot.
  • SP1 includes a number of changes which allow computer manufacturers and consumers to select a default desktop search program similar to the way they currently select defaults for third-party web browsers and media players. That means that in addition to the numerous ways a user could access a third party search solution in Windows Vista, they can now get to their preferred search results from additional entry points in the Start Menu and Explorer Windows in Windows Vista with SP1. 3rd party software vendors simply need to register their search application using the newly provided protocol in Windows Vista SP1 to enable these options for their customers.
  • With SP1, Windows Vista will report the amount of system memory installed rather than report the amount of system memory available to the OS. Therefore 32-bit systems equipped with 4GB of RAM will report all 4GB in many places throughout the OS, such as the System Control Panel. However, this behavior is dependent on having a compatible BIOS, so not all users may notice this change.