Microsoft Gives Some Early Access to Vista SP1

Volume licensing customers will get earlier access to the English version of Vista Service Pack 1.

Microsoft has made Windows Vista Service Pack 1 available to its TechBeta customers, and will release the English version of the service pack to its volume licensing customers Feb. 15.

MSDN and TechNet subscribers will get access to the service pack later in February, while general availability is still planned for mid-March, Mike Nash, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows product management, said in a post on the Vista team blog Feb. 11.

When Microsoft released the final code for Windows Vista SP1 to manufacturing Feb. 4, Nash said the final product would be made available to volume licensing customers in March.

The reason for the delay was largely because there were still issues involving a small set of drivers that needed to be reinstalled once SP1 was loaded onto a machine, he said.

That meant that when SP1 was made available via Windows Update, and if the update system determined that the machine had one of the drivers Microsoft knew to be problematic, then Windows Update would not offer SP1, Nash said.

"But, as some customers may want to update to SP1 anyhow, the download center will allow anyone who wants to install SP1 to do so from mid-March," Nash said at that time.

In his post Feb. 11, Nash said there was an issue with the way the device drivers were re-installed during the SP1 update process and not with the drivers themselves. "This type of issue can be addressed by our more technical customers since they are comfortable reinstalling drivers," he said, pointing out that the driver issue would not affect new PCs with Windows Vista SP1 pre-installed.

Microsoft is working with the device manufacturers to get these drivers and their install programs updated, as well as on other solutions to ensure a smooth customer experience when updating to SP1 over Windows Update, he said.

Nash also made clear that Microsoft had no intention of making any changes to the final Vista SP1 code before it is made publicly available, despite the driver issue.

"Windows Vista SP1 is final. It has been fully released to manufacturing and we do not plan to make any changes to the SP1 code prior to public availability. ... Our goal here is to address the needs of our customers while delivering the best experience," he said.

SP1 brings improvements in the reliability and performance of Vista, as well as changes such as speeding up everyday processes like copying or moving files around a PC, home or corporate network.

Many business are hopeful that Vista SP1 will deliver the improvements Microsoft has been promising.