Microsoft fulfills its promise of a quick delivery of a Release Candidate for SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows 2008 Server. Unfortunately, enterprises will see few worthwhile upgrades. There are some hardware and wireless improvements, but users and administrators will see the most beneficial upgrades to the search capabilities.
Microsoft officials March 5 followed through on their February promise to
quickly deliver a Release Candidate for Service
Pack 2 for both Windows Vista and Windows 2008 Server.
Unlike Service Pack 1 for Vista, which delivered such
highly tangible benefits to the end user as streamlined UAC controls and faster
file transfer speeds, eWEEK Labs' preliminary explorations reveal Service Pack
2 delivers few significant updates to Vista users or
I installed Service Pack 2 on a pair of Windows Vista Ultimate with SP1 x86
clients-one on a physical machine (a Dell XPS m1330) and a second on a VMware
Workstation virtual instance. I found installation of the Five Language
Standalone executable took between 21 and 27 minutes on my clean instances.
When fully installed, I found that SP2 used about 1GB of hard drive space,
although Microsoft recommends that clients targeted for upgrade have a minimum
of 7GB of free hard drive space (13GB for 64-bit installations) for the update
To recover some of the hard drive space used by the service pack, Microsoft
integrated the executable compcln.exe, which removes archived versions of
operating system files replaced by SP2. In my tests, I was able to
recover about 330MB of space by running the command. However, I found that
running compcln.exe removed my ability to uninstall the service pack. As such,
administrators should only run the command on systems they are sure won't need
to be restored to a previous state.
Service Pack 2 is not a cumulative update, so administrators will need to
ensure that clients targeted for upgrade to SP2 are already running Service
Pack 1. Hotfix KB955430, a servicing stack that its documentation says "handles
installation and removal of software updates, language packs, and optional
windows features," must be installed prior to SP2 deployment. The stand-alone
executable includes this update as part of the installation, but administrators
planning to deploy SP2 via WSUS will need to pre-deploy this hotfix.
Along with the usual collection of already-released security and
functionality hotfixes included in the service pack, Microsoft delivers a
modest set of hardware enhancements-few of which will likely have much
importance for those few enterprise administrators with Vista
in their network. Among these improvements brought by SP2, Microsoft now claims
support for Via 64-bit processors and has integrated Blu-Ray recording into the
On the wireless side of things, Microsoft baked in support for Bluetooth 2.1
and delivered some incremental improvements to the operating system's
integrated wireless LAN capabilities.
Specifically, Service Pack 2 promises faster Wi-Fi reconnections when returning
the OS from a sleep state, and the integration of Windows Connect Now
capabilities into Vista. Since WCN is marketed toward
easier deployment of wireless routers and networks, the delivery of this latter
feature should have zero impact on enterprise wireless LANs.
However, administrators may find benefits from SP2's update to Vista's
built-in desktop search capabilities. While previous iterations of Windows
Vista came with Windows Search 3.0, SP2 automatically upgrades to Windows
Search 4.0. Released as a stand-alone upgrade about a year ago, Windows Search
4.0 promises improved stability and speed of the indexer, as well as faster
sorting and grouping in Windows Explorer.
Administrators should also find Windows Search 4.0 significantly enhances
the ability to control search and indexing capabilities via Group Policy.
Windows Search 4.0 delivers 30 group policy controls, up from the nine controls
delivered with previous iterations. Among the new controls is the ability to
throttle indexing of Exchange stores, prevent indexing of certain file
extensions or point clients to intranet search services.
Administrators should also find Service Pack 2 delivers more group policy
controls over power management functions.
Microsoft has yet to announce a specific time frame for release of the gold
code of the service pack.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at email@example.com.