Microsoft today announced plans for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 betas. I received this last night under embargo until today so here’s an extract of what I know.
What is Windows Vista Service Pack 1?
Windows Vista SP1 is an update to Windows Vista that, along with improvements delivered to users via Windows Update, addresses feedback from our customers. While SP1 contains valuable updates to Windows, organizations don’t need to wait to deploy and can experience the improved security, management and deployment benefits of Windows Vista today.
In addition to previously released updates, SP1 will contain changes focused on addressing specific reliability and performance issues, supporting new types of hardware, and adding support for several emerging standards. SP1 also continues to improve upon the IT administration experience. SP1 is not intended to be a vehicle for releasing new features; however some existing components do gain enhanced functionality in SP1.
Windows Vista SP1 is designed to not significantly change the UI or to cause regressions in application compatibility.1
What improvements are there to reliability in SP1?
Windows Vista SP1 improves the reliability of Windows Vista in many areas. Thanks to the rich instrumentation capability of Windows Vista, we are able to understand the type of problems that our customers are experiencing (while respecting their personal information and privacy preferences).
Many of these crashes and blue screens stem from problems with 3rd party applications and drivers, so we are working with our partners to solve these problems together. Other problems occur entirely in Windows code so we are aggressively working to solve as many of these as possible too.
Some of these improvements are made available before SP1 in the August updates available via Windows Update and the Download Center.
What are some examples of additions to the service pack in the “Support for emerging technologies and standards” category?
Throughout the lifetime of Windows, new hardware innovations occur and standards enter the marketplace. SP1 includes support for some of these new innovations, which are expected to become increasingly important in the coming years. For example:
- With SP1, Windows Vista can boot via EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) on an x64 machine
- SP1 supports ExFAT, a new file format that will be used in flash memory storage and consumer devices
- Support for SD Advanced DMA Support to improve transfer performance and decrease CPU utilization is part of SP1
- SP1 includes a series of new API’s and software features to enable 3D application and game developers to make more complete and efficient use of the upcoming generation of graphics Direct3D 10.1 hardware
- Windows Vista SP1 includes SSTP (Secure Sockets Tunnel Protocol), a remote access VPN tunneling protocol that will be part of Microsoft’s RRAS (Routing and Remote Access Service) platform. SSTP helps provide full-network VPN remote access connections without some of the challenges that other VPN tunnels face traversing NAT, web proxies, and firewalls
What are some examples of additions to the service pack in the “Improve management experience” category?
SP1 improves the administration experience. For example:
- With Windows Vista SP1, BitLocker Drive Encryption has been enhanced to not only fully encrypt the entire Windows Vista volume but also any or all additional locally created data volumes. (Customers can now not only fully encrypt C: but also D: and E:)
- SP1 Improves printer management by addressing problems associated with printing to a local printer from within a Terminal Server session
- Network Diagnostics in Windows Vista SP1 will help users with the most common file sharing problems, in addition to basic problems already supported
SP1 includes an update to Disk Defragmenter so administrators can control which volumes the disk defragmenter runs on
Additionally, the tools used to manage Group Policy for Windows Vista will change with the installation of Windows Vista Service Pack 1. GPMC will be uninstalled with Service Pack 1 and GPEdit will default to Local Group Policy editing. Following these changes, SP1 users can download an updated version of GPMC that contains much requested functionality including the ability to add comments to GPOs or individual settings, to search for specific GP settings, and to use Starter GPOs which encapsulate best practices.
What languages will Windows Vista SP1 include?
SP1 is going to be released in two waves. The initial release of SP1 will include 5 languages (English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese). A Service Pack containing all 36 of the languages (including the original 5) will be released about 3 months later.
What drivers are new in SP1?
Windows Vista SP1 does not include new drivers. Rather, new drivers are delivered to users via Windows Update or directly from the driver vendor. There are two benefits to doing it this way:
- Drivers can be delivered when they are available, and not just with the service pack
Via WU, drivers are only delivered to PCs which need those drivers, which help keep the size of the service pack from growing.
When will Windows Vista SP1 be released?
- We currently expect to deliver SP1 during the first quarter of 2008, but we will collect customer feedback from our upcoming beta process before setting a final date. Quality is our most important factor when determining availability.
- The beta will be released to approximately 10-15K private testers that will not include TechNet subscribers, but MSDN and Technet subscribers will be able to participate in testing when the RC of Windows Vista SP1 is available. The timing of the RC will be based on feedback from the beta testers, and we’ll share more info as we have it.
How large will the Service Pack 1 be?
The Beta of Windows Vista SP1 will be approximately 50 MB when delivered over Windows Update (to 32-bit PCs). We expect that will be the experience for the majority of our users. For IT Departments in large organizations, we also provide the “Standalone Package”. It will be significantly larger in size (about 1 GB for 32-bit), as it includes more just the changed files between Windows Vista Gold and Windows Vista SP1 as well as all 36 languages.
There are three changes to how the standalone Service Pack is built in Windows Vista which are responsible for its larger size. However, these changes also bring benefits to IT professionals.
- For the first time ever, the “standalone” package includes every language that Windows is released in. This increases the size but adds the benefit that the same package can be used to apply SP1 on any Windows Vista computer in an organization, regardless of language.
Additionally, updating in Windows Vista is now “component based.” This means that if a file is changed, the entire component, including some files that may not been changed, is included in the standalone pack. This is a departure from previous versions of Windows, where the basic unit of updating was a file, not a component. A component is made up of multiple files.
There are a number of benefits gained with the new component based servicing model. For instance:
More reliable out of order uninstall
Uninstalling packages in a different reverse order than they were installed in could result in an inconsistent system state. Now packages can be uninstalled in any order more reliably
Automatic Language Updates
When an update is installed, the MUI files for all installed languages can be updated simultaneously, since they are in the component store
- Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 have been built from the same fundamental source code base since the beginning. Many of the core files are identical between the two products, although each product has unique features, specific individual files and functional behaviors that are appropriate for the intended customer uses for the specific product. For example, Windows Media Center only appears in Windows Vista, while Active Directory or Windows Clustering only appears in Windows Server 2008. Examples of common files shared between the two operating systems are the kernel and core OS files, the networking stack, file sharing. In the past year since the Vista public release, the common files in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 have been continually improved based on customer beta feedback, customer deployments, and Microsoft internal testing.
Because these are common files, any changes to the code for Windows Server 2008 will result in corresponding changes in the files in Vista SP1. Some of these changes may increase the reliability of Vista SP1, while others may be in server-only codepaths that do not directly affect Windows Vista customers. However, in order to keep the code common for future servicing and management, the changes have to be included in the common version of the files. While many of these files have been updated for Server scenarios, most of these changes do not change the features or functionality of Windows Vista, but they are included in the service pack.
Who will receive the Beta of Windows Vista SP1?
There are approximately 10,000 customers and partners that will be participating in this beta. We rely on this group to help us test our software on a broader range of hardware and over diverse usage scenarios as well as to ensure that the larger partner ecosystem has had sufficient time to test their products on Windows Vista SP1.
Microsoft has created deployment guidance, available to beta testers on Microsoft Connect. The Application Compatibility Toolkit and Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) will be updated to help customers prepare for and deploy for SP1.
What about MSDN and TechNet subscribers access the Beta?
Currently the beta is restricted to about 10,000 participants, which represent a sampling of our user base. MSDN and TechNet members will gain access to a later milestone beta of SP1, to be announced later during the beta cycle.
On 8/28/07 we will also be announcing plans for Windows XP SP3 as a roll up of all the hot fixes and patches including security updates, out of band releases and hotfixes. This is a standard practice to release a service pack as a release nears end-of-life that rolls up all hot fixes and patches, for the convenience of our customers and partners. There are no new features in Windows XP SP3, with the exception of Network Access Protection, a capability in Windows Vista that is also being made available on Windows XP SP3 and will require Windows Server 2008.
When will Windows XP SP3 be available?
We are targeting 1H 2008 for the release of Windows XP SP3, though our timing will always be based on quality as a first priority.