Microsoft released the release candidate for Windows Vista SP2 (Vista SP2 RC) to the public yesterday. You can now download it from the Microsoft TechNet website. However, before you install Vista SP2 RC, here are ten essential facts about the latest update to Windows Vista:
Now, let's dig into the details.
Unlike Vista SP1, Vista SP2 isn't going to make a big difference in the look and feel of Vista. In its FAQ, Microsoft admits that SP2 was "primarily developed with Windows Server 2008 in mind..." (Windows Server 2008 shares a common code base with Windows Vista). So, why install SP2 RC on your Vista SP1 system?
While you won't get sizzle, you will get steak, as SP2 RC give you a chance to preview benefits such as:
Wi-Fi connections after resuming from sleep mode
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Windows Search 4.0 isn't exactly new to Windows Vista users (it's been available as a separate download for Vista and XP users for awhile), but it's now included in SP2 RC.
What's new in 4.0? Besides a lot of management and tuning features for big corporations, you can access index results on remote PCs running Windows Search 4.0 and see remote files show up in search results - very handy if you forgot where you stashed your favorite digital photos or music downloads. It also permits users with sufficient permissions to index and search encrypted files.
Compcln.exe , a command-line utility that removes files that have been replaced by SP2 updates (Screenshot).
Two important notes:
If you want to try Compcln.exe after you install SP2 RC and don't want to reinstall Vista from scratch , make sure you make a full backup of your system first (you can use Complete PC Backup in Ultimate and Business editions, or a third-party image backup with other editions).
If you want to use Compcln to remove older files, why not find out exactly what it removes? Here's a fun experiment to try using Compcln.exe (borrowed from Windows Vista SP2 RC and Windows Server 2008 SP2 RC Test Focus Guide ; the underlined text should be entered into the command prompt window):
1. Capture the installed components state by running the following command:
Run dir “%windir%\” /b/s/a:-d>files_before.txt
2. Run compcln.exe in an elevated command prompt to remove the staged components superseded by SP install:
3. Capture the installed components state by running the following command:
Run dir “%windir%\” /b/s/a:-d>files_after.txt
The difference between files_before.txt and files_after.txt is the list of items that were removed by compcln.exe.
As with previous service packs, Vista SP2 includes lots of hotfixes: 651 (plus 39 security updates). While the security updates were previously available via Windows Update, only 34 of the hotfixes were previously available via Windows Update . Here's how they break out by category:
All - 1
Applications - 3
Base Technologies - 133
Computer Management - 34
Core Virtualization - 7
Data Services - 12
Desktop Shell - 55
Desktop Technologies - 67
Drivers - 55
Feedback/Supportability - 1
Graphics - 1
Localization - 1
Multimedia - 31
Networking - 55
OS Deployment - 8
Printing and Imaging Technology - 18
Security - 35
Server Technologies - 63
Storage - 54
Tools - 2
Windows Installer - 1
Windows Portable Devices - 1
Uncategorized - 12
Here are a few examples:
For a complete list of security and hotfixes included in Vista SP2 RC, visit Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Server 2008 SP2 RC and Windows Vista SP2 RC for a link to an Excel 2007 spreadsheet.
SP2 RC has problems with a few applications, a quirk with live TV closed captioning when Windows Media Center is running in a Window, and a problem with digital signatures in XPS documents. For details, see the Release Notes.
Vista SP2 RC is a departure from previous Microsoft Windows service packs: with SP2 RC, you must have Vista SP1 already installed; SP2 RC does not include SP1. If you're not sure if you're running Vista SP1, open the System properties sheet to find out. If it doesn't say Service Pack 1, you must install SP1 first.
If, somehow, you missed the Vista SP1 upgrade but want to try SP2 RC, you must download and install Vista SP1 first.
So, why did Microsoft decide to keep SP1 files out of SP2? From the FAQ :
Having a cumulative SP2 that includes the updates from SP1 would have made the size too large...in the consumer space the majority of customers have already installed SP1 over WU or will be doing so before SP2, so incorporating SP1 into a cumulative SP2 would take unnecessary time and bandwidth.
Because SP2 RC does not include SP1 files, you cannot install SP2 RC to a Vista SP1 system that's been streamlined with vLite .
However, you're OK if you used vLite only to simplify installation or to slipstream Vista SP1 files with original Vista . If you used vLite to remove some Vista components, you'll need to reinstall Vista (and SP1) before you can upgrade to SP2 RC.
Whether you prefer an ISO image or an .EXE file, Microsoft has you covered . If you'd like the simplicity of a single download you can install on either 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) systems, grab one of the DVD ISO images:
Separate x86 and x64 .EXE versions are also available:
Unless you're working with a slow Internet connection, you probably don't want to get SP2 RC via Windows Update. If you do, you can download a script and instructions.
Because this is a release candidate, not the final release, Microsoft is still looking for feedback to make sure all is well. If you want to help out, you can download the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista - Customer Experience Improvement Program for Device Drivers (KB958794) from the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP2 page (look for the Optional Pre-Req links at the top of the page). This program will "improve the quality of the software information that is sent to Microsoft by configuring existing Windows Server/Windows Vista Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) settings."
I installed SP2 RC from an .EXE file, and the process worked well - it took less than an hour on my rather elderly 1.5GHz single-core Turion 64 laptop. If you are running non-supported drivers or have other problems that will prevent SP2 RC from installing, you will see warnings when you attempt to install it. Follow the guidance provided to solve the problems before trying to reinstall it.
Can't get SP2 RC to install? See the Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Deployment Guide or the TechNet Vista/WinServer2008 Service Pack forum for help.
As with previous pre-release versions of Windows Vista, installing Vista SP2 RC puts an Evaluation Version watermark on your desktop (screencap) after you reboot your system a couple of times.
I don't mind this watermark (it reminds me that I'm not running the final version). But, if you can't stand it, there are ways to remove it . These typically involve modifying the user32.dll.mui file. I haven't used any of them, but if it really bothers you, have at it!
Diamonds are forever, but SP2 RC definitely is not. It's designed to stop working on June 1, 2010 . When the final release of SP2 comes out, you'll want to uninstall SP2 RC so you can install the final release.