Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is it worth getting, Vista SP1 and if so, how can I get it?

This one is for my friend's who are queued on Vista Support SP1

Let's tackle the second question first. In mid-April, Microsoft began downloading the update, called Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), to computers via online automatic updating. So if your Vista computer has automatic updating turned on, you may already have it. To find out, right-click Computer in the Start menu and choose Properties. If SP1 has been installed, it will be listed in the "Windows edition" section. and you not need to carry any further vista installation.

If you don't have the update, there are two ways to get it. You can turn on automatic updating by going to Windows Update, which is in the All Programs folder in the Start menu. Or you can download it manually from microsoft.com/downloads. Just be aware that SP1 is a big file (435 MB), so it will take time to download, even with a high-speed Internet connection.

Is SP1 worth installing? In Microsoft's words, it is "the complete set of Windows Vista updates Microsoft has issued over the past year plus additional enhancements to improve your PC experience. SP1 doesn't add new features or require you to learn anything new - it simply makes your PC more reliable, run more smoothly and even more enjoyable to use, all at no charge."

As yet it's unclear whether those claims are true. But there are some tangible benefits to SP1. For example, it includes the myriad security fixes Microsoft has issued since the release of Vista in early 2007. It also lets you change the default desktop search program to use third-party software from companies including Google and Copernic.

Bottom line: Consider SP1 as more of an oil change than a major tuneup. If you're happy with the way Windows is working, I'd put off updating at least until SP1 has been out for awhile and any bugs are fixed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Microsoft Quietly Rolls out Vista Service Pack 1

Few service packs (SPs) have received more attention than Windows Vista SP1. Perhaps it's the general lack of confidence in Vista, or just high expectations for a release that will hopefully address some of the ongoing criticisms of the operating system. At least the controversy over SP1's availability has been settled: It's now available to all. Through my MSDN subscription, I got it before the official release for an early look.

Installation took less than an hour, during which my PC rebooted several times. But don't expect too much in the way of new features: This release targets performance, reliability and security.

Installations Issues
One thing you should note is that Microsoft has done away with the so-called kill switch, or reduced functionality mode. This function disabled the OS if it determined that it was no longer installed on the same system.

Instead, Microsoft has reverted to a nagging approach. If it detects what it considers a new system or an illegitimate configuration, it will remind you that the OS needs to be reactivated. The trouble is a combination of changes to the hard disk, memory and other system parameters detected by the OS can trigger that nag. Because I frequently make changes to my PCs, this is an annoyance I don't need.

Installing SP1 will also turn off Windows Defender and User Account Control. This may be disconcerting to less-technical users, because you'll have to turn them back on manually.

Performance is touted as a big advantage of this service pack, but the results here are mixed. In the first few days, you lose startup performance because all of your SuperFetch data, which is used to speed up performance, is cleared from your system. That eventually comes back. Other performance parameters, such as file transfers, launches and installs don't seem affected that much. Based on my testing, I couldn't make a generalization one way or the other about overall system performance.

No Major Improvement
Other new features include the ability to change the search tool to an alternative. You can also have BitLocker and the drive defragmenter choose a specific volume to work on.

Without extensive testing, it's difficult to get a feel for driver support, but my sense was to not expect too much in this area. My decade-old Lexmark printer didn't work with the original release of Vista. It still doesn't work with SP1.

It's not a major improvement like Windows XP SP2, but there's no apparent reason to not install it. If you don't see performance improvements, at least you'll have a bit more flexibility in how you make use of some of Vista's features.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Windows Vista SP1 now in 36 Languages

It has been almost a month since we released Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update in 5 languages. To date: millions of people have successfully installed Windows Vista SP1 on their PCs. So we're happy to announce the next step for Windows Vista SP1 availability.We are excited to report that today we are making Windows Vista SP1 available to folks running Windows Vista in any of the supported languages. Starting today, users will be able to choose to manually install Windows Vista SP1 via Windows Update or download the standalone installer from the Microsoft Download Center (x86 and x64) for any of the 36 supported languages, not just English, Spanish, German, French, and Japanese. For now, it is available for users who visit Windows Update or the Microsoft Download Center. We encourage most users to get Windows Vista SP1 via Windows Update-which will provide the best update experience.

Now, Windows Vista PCs of any supported language can update to SP1. You may be aware we also make DVD images of Windows Vista with SP1 available to certain groups like TechNet Plus subscribers, MSDN subscribers, and Volume License (VL) customers. TechNet Plus and MSDN subscribers can download these DVD images in some languages today. The remaining languages will be made available in 2 additional groups over the next few weeks

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Upgrade Your PC from XP Home Premium to Vista Home Premium

For most users who have Windows XP Home, the most logical upgrade path to Windows Vista is via the Home Premium version. And, the simplest way to get upgraded is to install the upgraded version of Vista Home Premium over your existing version of Win-XP Home.

Upgrade Preparations

Upgrading your computer’s operating system requires some preparation, so take these simple steps, and your upgrade path should be smooth. We’ll assume your computer will run Vista Home Premium with no problems.

Before you install Vista, make sure all your drivers are up-to-date with the latest Vista-compatible versions, and remember to back up all of your important files. Most OS upgrades go without a hitch, but every now and then a botched installation results in data loss.

At the beginning of the installation, you have the option to have Windows check for compatibility.

In fact, if you are sweating the transfer of commonly used datasuch as user accounts, email messages, Windows and Internet settings, etc.from one computer to another, the Windows Easy Transfer wizard can help. This is a free wizard-based tool that lets you seamlessly transfer files and settings, but not programs, from one computer to another using an easy transfer cable, a home or business network, a removable hard drive, or removable media

Starting The Installation

To begin the upgrade process, insert your Vista installation DVD into your computer’s DVD drive. The Install Windows setup screen will appear automatically once your disc is read by your DVD drive.

The first step in the installation routine presents two choices: Check For Compatibility Online or Install Now. Click Install Now to begin the installation, unless you wish to check your system for Vista compatibility one more time.

Next, Windows takes a few minutes to prepare for the installation. The next screen offers you the opportunity to download the latest updates before beginning the installation by clicking the Go Online To Get The Latest Updates For Installation link.

Keep in mind, however, that once you start using Vista, if you have set it up to automatically download updates, all the latest updates will automatically install. So if you want to install Vista without further ado, click the Do Not Get The Latest Updates For Installation link to proceed.

When you enter your product key, you can also tell Vista to automatically activate Windows when you go online.

At the next screen, enter the product key found inside your Windows package into the Product Key text-box. You also have the choice not to enter the product key at this time. But unless you have some compelling reason not to, it’s best to enter the product key when requested by the installation program.

Next, the installation routine presents you with the license agreement for Vista; click the I Accept The License Terms checkbox and then click Next to continue.

In the next screen, the Vista installation program asks you to choose between an Upgrade installation or a Custom (Advanced) installation. An Upgrade install keeps all your files, settings, and programs and simply upgrades Windows.

The Custom installation allows you to install a clean copy of Windows by giving you the option to erase the existing partition of data and install Windows to it. You can also select the partition where you want to install Windows or make changes to your disks and/or partitions. To upgrade from WinXP Home to Vista without the clean install, click the Upgrade link.

The next step generates a Compatibility Report, the final check for potential problems before installation begins. If issues are found, the installation program displays a warning advising you of the fact, along with a link for more information. If you want to find more information about the compatibility report, simply click the Click Here For More Information link, and Windows displays a list of hardware devices or applications that may not work properly once Vista starts.

If you see a lot of items on this list, you may want to consider aborting the installation, resolving the issues, and restarting the installation once updates to your system are complete. If you wish to proceed, click Next to continue with the installation.

Let The Upgrade Begin

Now the Vista installation begins in earnest. This is the slowest step of the process as the installation program performs five steps: Copying Windows Files, Gathering Files, Expanding Files, Installing Features And Updates, and Completing Upgrade.

A progress bar keeps you apprised of the installation’s progress as Windows is upgraded.

Once the install routine finishes the Installing Updates step, the system will reboot. You see a screen that tells you to, “Please wait a moment while Windows prepares to start for the first time.” Once the system restarts, you are returned to the installation program where Vista tells you it is Completing Upgrade. This step may take a while to complete, so be patient and let it run its course. When this step is finished, Windows reboots.

The next step in the installation process requests that you create an administrator account for Vista, complete with your choice of available icons to identify your account. Click Next to continue; in the next screen, you’ll enter a name for your computer and choose a background for your Desktop. Provide a name and then click Next to move on to the Help Protect Windows Automatically screen where you are given three choices: Use Recommended Settings, Install Important Updates Only, and Ask Me Later. To fully automate your computer’s security and automatic updates protections, choose the Use Recommended Settings option.

In the next few screens, you'll choose your time and date settings and select your computer's location. (The choices are Home, Work, or Public Location.) Eventually, you will come to a Thank You screen, where you click the Start button to launch Vista for the first time. At this time, the install program performs one final system check and launches the login screen. Once you log in to your account, a welcome screen appears followed by another screen informing you that Windows is preparing your Desktop. After a few minutes, your Desktop appears. (Get ready to wait just a bit longer as Windows prepares some personalized settings.)

Once your Desktop appears, Windows will briefly download updates and launch the Welcome Center, where you can view details about your computer, add new user accounts, learn more about Vista, and more. You’re now ready to go.