Ask the Doctor - Vista SP1


My wife and son have identical Dell Dimension E521 PCs that came with Vista. Neither one will recognize that the SP1 update exists. I have tried to update, but every time I check for one, it still tells me that no updates are available. Can you please help me get them updated to SP1?

—Jack Orkin

Vista SP1 might not appear in your Windows Update for a number of reasons. First, check to make sure that your OS hasn’t already installed SP1. Click your Windows button and type winver in the search box. After you hit Enter, a screen will pop up. If SP1 is already installed, it’ll say so right next to the version number that appears below “Microsoft Windows.”

Make sure you have the most updated drivers for your machine, as SP1 will not appear unless you’re running modern drivers for your videocard and integrated audio. Also, make sure you haven’t hidden any mission-critical updates from Microsoft: Restore these by opening your Control Panel, clicking Windows Update, and selecting the Restore Hidden Updates option. Finally, make sure you’ve installed all the updates that Microsoft suggests you install, including any optional updates that aren’t listed as “critical.”

If you have done this and still don’t see Vista SP1 as a potential upgrade via Windows Update, you can install the service pack yourself. Go to to download the package, then run it. The Doctor recommends this as the last possible solution because an SP1 installation might muck up your machine if Microsoft, through its Windows Update omissions, is suggesting that your system isn’t ready. You should run a full backup of your system prior to installing SP1 manually.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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