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At eWEEK’s Channel Labs, a non-descript FedEx envelope arrived today with an almost non-descript DVD that plainly claimed that it was Windows Vista SP1 (Beta). It was an interesting arrival, just to think that so much depended on that plain white DVD, so much for Microsoft and so much for a channel hungry to derive some upgrade income.

We promptly inserted the DVD into a Toshiba Portege notebook computer and were greeted by a "Welcome to Windows Vista Service Pack 1" screen, which offered a link with some sage advice: "What you should know before installing Service Pack1"! That link brought up a document which offered very little in tips and tricks, not much more than the "close your open programs" and "make sure you back up" type of warnings. Was that a prelude to the implied simplicity of the SP1 upgrade?

Of course we threw caution to the wind and dove right into this long awaited upgrade! Now why exactly did we pick that particular Toshiba for this upgrade? The reasons were few. First off, it was close by; secondly, we had been experiencing some hibernation and sleep problems with that particular unit and finally, we wanted to see if SP1 gave any kind of a performance boost to that balky little machine.

After clicking "next" and agreeing to the EULA, we crossed our fingers and waited for the magic, if any, to happen.

At 3:27 p.m. we clicked OK and waited, and waited and waited. The little green progress bar crawled across the screen, while the dialog box warned us that the installation could take an hour or more and that the computer may restart several times. An hour or more didn’t seem too bad after waiting a year or more for this batch of fixes, but one should ponder on how that hour or more could affect the corporate world rolling out SP1 to hundreds, if not thousands, of computers.

As the green bar progressed, we read up on the promises of service pack 1, and there were a lot of them! SP1 promised the following:

–          Improvements to RDP for Terminal Services

–          Improved Network Diagnostics

–          Simplified and improved VPN connectivity

–          Support for Direct3D 10.1

–          Support of UEFI hardware for improved Boot or Hibernate Performance

–          Reduced power consumption at idle for portable PCs

–          Increased hardware support with the inclusion of thousands of new drivers

–          More applications supported and improved application compatibility

–          Reduced system crashes

–          Improved wireless connectivity

–          Improved file copy and browsing performance

–          Improved resume and sleep performance

–          Improved security – Bitlocker works on all drives

–          Improved ease of use for administrator level processes

While most of those improvements will go unnoticed by the typical user, enterprise and networked users will definitely benefit.

At 3:49, the system announced that it was configuring update stage 2 of 3 and promptly rebooted. The reboot informed us that stage 3 of 3 would now commence and did a count up from 0 to 100 percent, then gave a message "Configuring updates … Do not turn off your computer."

A little circle spun round and round next to the message as we anxiously waited for the final outcome. At 3:58 p.m. we were informed that the process was at Stage 1 of 3. What happened? Since when did 1 come after 3? Is this the new Microsoft math at work?

The second hand and then the minute hand continued on its clockwise course on our wall clock, while we watched and waited. At the same time, the percent complete number slowly increased on its journey to the number 100, until a significant pause at 98 percent, and then–boom–at 4:04 p.m. we hit stage 2 of 3 and the waiting game started all over.

The promise of an hour or more for installation seemed realistic as we waited for stage 2 to complete. At 4:09 p.m., stage 2 completed with a reboot and after a wait of several minutes, our Toshiba started on stage 3 of 3.

At 4:16 p.m., the system booted again and we were presented with an "Installation was successful" message. Now it was time to get down to brass tacks; what exactly did SP1 do for our little Vista Business system?