How To Install Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Release Candidate

In the year since its release Windows Vista hasn't exactly secured a reputation as the stable, robust operating system Microsoft made it out to be. As a result, many people have been waiting eagerly for Service Pack 1, the first major update to Vista. While it won't be available in its final form until the new year, you can now download a Release Candidate from Microsoft. Read on to find out how.
Published: Dec 11, 2007
Author: Jordan Running
Related OS: Vista

First, let's get our terminology in order. Service pack is term used by Microsoft for a collection of bug fixes and feature enhancements. Release candidate describes software that developers think is good enough to release as a final version, but aren't sure. Release candidates are given to testers to be checked one last time for bugs, and if no major ones are found it's released as the final version.

Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) doesn't include many new features, but Microsoft does say it packs a lot of performance and reliability improvements, which you can read about at the Windows Vista Team Blog. Some highlights are improved sleep and hibernate, improved speed when copying and extracting files, better printer and graphics card compatability, and improved Internet Explorer 7 performance.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will be released in its final form in early 2008, but Microsoft has made available a Release Candidate (RC) via Windows Update for all Windows Vista users to try out. Whether or not you should is another matter. While a release candidate is very close to a final release, serious bugs may still be lurking, and in the event you encounter one, you may have trouble getting technical support for it. Installing SP1 RC is very much an at your own risk endeavor. On top of that, install SP1 can take several hours. If you still want to go through with it, let us begin. Since you'll have to reboot several times during this process, you may want to print out this article for easy reference.

Installing Vista SP1 RC

First, make sure your copy of Vista is up to date. Connect to the internet and then launch Windows Update from your Start menu and click on "Check for updates" in the upper-left corner. If any Important updates appear, install them and reboot your computer as instructed. Now, since Vista SP1 RC is but a step above beta software, it isn't available through Windows Update by default. To get it, you'll first have to download a small file from Microsoft's Download Center. When you run the file, it will unzip three files to a location of your choosing (I recommend directing it to a new folder on your Desktop). The file you're interested in is the one called SP1cppRK.cmd. This is a script that will change Windows Update's settings to allow you to install the service pack release candidate. To use it, right-click on it and choose "Run as administrator."

Run as administrator

A prompt may appear asking you to confirm the action, which you should. Then a window should appear telling you that the "Windows Vista SP1 registry key has been set successfully."

Now go to Windows Update again and click on "Check for updates" again. If none appear, it may be necessary to wait ten minutes and try again. You'll likely have to install a few updates before Service Pack 1 will appear. Install any Important updates that are shown and reboot your computer. Then start Windows Update again and do it all over again. Eventually Service Pack 1 RC will appear. This is the point of no return, and before you install it you'll want to save any documents and quit any programs you have open and click on Install updates. SP1 is pretty big, so it may take some time to download. Eventually it will begin installing (after creating a restore point, which would hopefully save you in the event of a nasty failure) and your computer will reboot (or prompt you to reboot it). The whole process may take several hours (in my case it took about an hour, including the very slow download) It may reboot itself one or two additional times before the update is complete.

Once you get your regular desktop and aren't prompted to do anything else, you're done! You won't see any dramatic differences, but if you want to make sure you're really, truly running SP1 RC, try this: Click on the Start button, type cmd and press enter. In the command prompt that pops up, type ver and press enter. If the service pack was successfully installed, it should report "Version 6.0.6001."

About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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