The software maker remains on track to release the first Windows Vista service pack in the first quarter of 2008.
Microsoft made the release candidate for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 available through Microsoft Connect Dec. 5 for testing by the 15,000 people who already are kicking the tires on earlier beta releases.
However, the release candidate will also be made available to all MSDN and TechNet subscribers Dec. 6, along with a deployment guide, and will be made generally available to the broader public sometime the following week via Microsoft's download center, David Zipkin, senior product manager for Windows client, told eWEEK.
"We feel very good about the fact that our current set of testers is a good distribution of different kinds of users and partners. But given the amazing variety of usage by a diverse group of people, hardware and software, we really wanted to go broader to make sure that people have a chance to test it out and give our other partners the chance to test their software and hardware on there if they haven't already done that," Zipkin said.
But Zipkin said that while the software will be widely available for testing the week of Dec. 10, it is intended for those comfortable with installing pre-release software, given the risks involved.
To read more about Windows Vista SP1, click here.
However, Microsoft does plan to set up a newsgroup for the public, which it will monitor, where people can file their experiences and issues with the release candidate, he said.
The feedback Microsoft receives from testers on this release candidate will determine the future testing direction, Zipkin said, adding that Microsoft is still on track to release the service pack in the first quarter of 2008, "although quality is the ultimate determinant there."
The release candidate includes all the previously released updates since Vista was released to manufacturing, as well as BitLocker support encrypting for multiple volumes, performance and reliability improvements in core scenarios such as file copy, network browsing, and improved response time when resuming from sleep.
It also incorporates some changes made as a result of feedback from the existing testers, much of which related to the setup experience.
To read about why McAfee lauded the Vista SP1 security overhaul, click here.
"So, we have reduced the size of the stand-alone installer, the executable that will install SP1 on any PC running Windows Vista. For the 32-bit platform, the five-language version has decreased in size by 37 percent to 435MB, while the 36-language version has been reduced in size by almost 60 percent to 550MB," he said.
The engineering team has also changed the updating experience to give users a lot more feedback, so that they understand where they are in the process and what the problems are, he said.
For example, if a PC does not have enough hard drive space, the user will be told this at the start of the process and given detailed guidance on what needs to be done to fix it.
The amount of hardware space required to install SP1 has also been reduced. A 32-bit version of the beta had required 7GB of space. That is now down to about 4.5GB, depending on the system configuration, which is the level of hardware space Zipkin said he expects the final SP1 release to need.
Windows Vista SP1 will disable activation exploits. Click here to read more.
But the release candidate code does not include the changes made to disable the two most widely used exploits of the operating system's activation process, nor the changes to the Windows Genuine Advantage Program to replace the reduced functionality mode with a notification system for those systems that are not validated or not genuine, he said.
"Those changes require specialized testing and so we chose not to distribute it broadly at this point, but we do plan to have it tested externally at some later stage," Zipkin said.
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