Windows 8 is here, and of course Microsoft wants you and everyone you know to upgrade to its newest operating system. Heck, Microsoft's even taken some of the sting out of upgrading by putting in place several promotions, such as offering Media Center as a free download to Windows 8 Pro users until January 31, 2013. But hey, if you're of the opinion that Microsoft will have to pry the Start menu from your cold, dead installation of Windows 7, then more power to you. Just be aware that you aren't likely to see a second Service Pack, so for all intents and purposes, what you currently see with Windows 7 is what you get.
While we haven't run into issues ourselves, there has been a spattering of complaints online about systems being borked after installing Windows 7's first Service Pack. Microsoft acknowledged the problem via a Knowledge Base article (975484), in which the Redmond software giant says your computer may freeze or restart to a black screen with error message 0xc0000034 after applying SP1. Hit the jump to find out what you can do.
The wait is over, folks. If you're not a TechNet subscriber and/or wanted no part of playing around with a non-final release of Service Pack 1 for Windows 7, then today's your day. Microsoft today made good on its promise to deliver SP1 to the general public on February 22, though there's a few things you should know before you go out and grab it.
Here's something for all you early adopters who scoff at the notion of patience being a virtue. Provided you're rocking a legal copy of Windows 7, you can now download the operating system's first Service Pack in Release Candidate (RC) form.
Windows 7 SP1 includes both a roll-up of OS updates and several new goodies, including RemoteFX.
"Microsoft RemoteFX introduces a new set of remote user experience capabilities that enable a media-rich user environment for virtual and session-based desktops," Microsoft said in a statement. "RemoteFX can be deployed to a range of thick and thin client devices, enabling cost-effective, local-like access to graphics-intensive applications. RemoteFX also supports a broad array of USB peripherals to improve the productivity of users of virtual desktops."
Also included is Dynamic Memory, which enables servers running Hyper-V for server virtualization to make better use of memory.
Before you go and download the Release Candidate, there are some things you should know. The RC can't be installed over the beta of SP1, though you can install it on an evaluation version of Windows 7. Microsoft considers this a "high quality release," however once the final build of SP1 ships, you'll need to uninstall the RC version in order to upgrade.
Come late July, Microsoft will release the first Service Pack for Windows 7, the Redmond outfit announced in a blog post on Monday. However, don't expect any major performance enhancements, as was the case when the first Service Pack for Vista significantly improved the overall OS experience.
"While the new features for Windows Server 2008 R2 benefit Windows 7 by providing a richer VDI experience, SP1 will not contain any new features that are specific to Windows 7 itself," Microsoft wrote. "For Windows 7, SP1 will simply be the combination of updates already available through Windows Update and additional hotfixes based on feedback by our customers and partners. In other words, customers can feel confident about deploying Windows 7 now!"
Microsoft said that it has already sold over 100 million license of Windows 7, which is in line with most analysts' figures. And following SP1, Microsoft will likely see a spike in sales, as some businesses often wait for the first Service Pack to debut before migrating to a new OS.
Nevermind that the third Service Pack for Windows XP came out two years ago, or that XP itself is about two generations old. According to security risk and compliance management provider Qualys, out of the hundreds of thousands of PCs the company monitors, half of them are still running Windows XP SP2.
"The normal thing for IT is not to muck around with something that works," said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer for Qualys. "I would expect that come August, SP2 will be getting hard and harder to defend. I expect to see reliable exploits of unpatched vulnerabilities three or four months later."
Kandek's outlook takes into consideration that Microsoft plans to retire Windows XP SP2 on July 13, at which point users will need to upgrade to SP3 in order to continue receiving security updates.
Looking further ahead, Microsoft will retire Windows XP SP3 in April 2014.
We're not sure why anyone would choose to kick it with Vista, but if you absolutely refuse to step up to Windows 7, you're going to want to make sure you've installed one of the available Service Packs. As of yesterday, Microsoft cut off support for unpatched copies of Vista, putting the original OS out to pasture.
"Under the former service pack support policy, when a service pack reached the end of support, customers were no longer eligible to receive troubleshooting help from Microsoft Customer Service and Support, including assisted telephone support, security updates, or non-security hotfixes," Microsoft said in a blog post.
In the same blog post, Microsoft also announced that it has updated its Service Pack Support policy to provide customers with limited troubleshooting on unsupported service pack versions. This "limited troubleshooting" includes:
Break/fix support incidents will be provided through Microsoft Customer Service and Support; and through Microsoft’s managed support offerings (such as Premier Support).
There will be no option to engage Microsoft’s product development resources, and technical workarounds may be limited or not available.
If the support incident requires escalation to development for further guidance, requires a hotfix, or requires a security update, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported service pack.
On a side note, Microsoft isn't pulling the plug for support on Windows XP SP2 or all versions of Windows 2000 until July.
If you're holding out on upgrading to Windows 7 until the first Service Pack sees the light of day, you may want to reconsider. Windows 7 SP1 won't usher in huge, sweeping changes like some of the Service Packs we've seen for other Windows OSes, and instead will introduce small changes, Microsoft said.
"For Windows 7, SP1 includes only minor updates, among which are previous updates that are already delivered through Windows Update," Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows Communications Manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. "SP1 for Windows 7 will, however, deliver an updated Remote Desktop client that takes advantage of RemoteFX introduced in the server-side with SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2."
LeBlanc went on to emphasize that Windows 7 is ready for commercial deployment now and that many industry experts recommend against waiting for SP1.
"So don't wait -- go ahead and deploy...you know you want to!," LeBlanc added.
Microsoft has not yet announced a beta or release timeline for SP1 for Windows 7.
SMBs playing it cautious and waiting for Microsoft to release a Service Pack before making the leap to Windows 7 might want to get cozy. It's true that a recently discovered Registry Key would seem to indicate the OS's first update isn't too far off on the horizon, but according to The Register, don't expect one to "rock up any time soon."
Here's where a little bit of a history lesson is in order. Vista, by most accounts, came busted out of the box. And not just minor niggles, but piss-poor file transfer performance and a bunch of other performance hampering bugs, not to mention various stability woes. Despite limping out of the hyped-up gate, it was still 14 months before Vista's first Service Pack emerged.
While Microsoft has shown a desire not to make the same mistakes with Windows 7, the Redmond outfit has already succeeded in doing so, at least for the most part. Windows 7 doesn't exhibit the same problems Vista had, so it's hard to imagine Microsoft would be in any hurry to pump out a collection of updates.
"Our Partners are also excited for Windows 7, demonstrating fantastic ecosystem support. As of today, there are more than 800,000 unique apps and 238,000 unique devices that work great with Windows 7. That's more than a million reasons to choose Windows 7," said Microsoft's Brandon Le Blanc in a blog post.
So when exactly when the first Service Pack hit the Web? "There is currently no news around this at the moment," a Microsoft spokesman told The Register.
At long last, Microsoft has confirmed that Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is complete, by releasing it to select manufacturers. It even hit torrents, hours before it was officially announced on the Windows Vista Team Blog.
As for an official download, it’s not clear when Service Pack 2 will be available. They’ve stated that they will push the final version to customers through Automatic Update over the next few months, but those that aren’t ready can still use Microsoft’s service-pack blocking tool.
Along with this, Microsoft has started pushing Vista SP1 to users that had previously blocked it, in order to prime them for SP2.
For those wondering, Service Pack 2 will bring Windows Search 4.0, the Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, the ability to record data on Blu-ray natively through Windows, Windows Connect Now (a simpler WiFi tool), the addition of support for UTC timestamps in the exFAT file system, as well as various security and performance updates.