On Tuesday March 18th, Microsoft finally released Vista SP1 in its final form. SP1 contains a year of updates and improves on some of Vista's features the public has complained about. At the moment it is available through both Windows Update as an optional download or through the Microsoft Download Center as a standalone download. In the middle of April it will become a mandatory automatic download from Windows Update. There are a couple of issues with the download and installation that have been discovered since release, so if you want to wait until the download bugs are gone, best wait until April.
The download issues that have been found, include a problem with the updated hardware (device) drivers that Vista SP1 needs (the software that makes each hardware device work). Windows Update is set up to identify those specific hardware devices that require an updated driver, and it then downloads and installs most of those updates to your computer, prior to installing SP1. However, you may have hardware that does not have an update yet or does not have an update available for Vista. In this case SP1 will not appear in the option list for Windows Update until April. Here is a list of hardware that may not have an updated driver yet. Some of your hardware may stop working after SP1 is installed and to determine if one of your hardware devices is affected you can open the device manager and look for one or more yellow exclamation marks. (to open device manager, right click on 'My Computer' on your desktop with your mouse, choose 'properties', then the 'hardware' tab and click the button for 'device manager'). More information is available in KB948187.
There is a list of prerequisite updates that are needed on your PC before SP1 will download and install in KB937287. After you review the installed updates on your PC in Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs and find you are still unable to download and install Vista SP1, please refer to KB948343, for possible causes and solutions. There was an issue with a February update for Windows installation
software. This is one of the prerequisite updates for installing Vista SP1
and may still remain an issue for a few people. Check your list of
installed updates to make sure you have KB937287 installed and if not, please go to the manual installation instructions at the bottom of the page.
Another issue with the installation of Vista SP1 occurs when there are inconsistencies in the registry of that particular system. If your installation of SP1 fails then there is a small program you can download called CheckSur which will fix most issues. Before Windows Update downloads and installs Vista SP1 it will check for inconsistencies in the registry will download and run CheckSur, if it finds any. If your installation fails and CheckSur is not automatically downloaded you can find instructions for a manual download and install of CheckSur at the bottom of the page.
You may be surprised to find that after Vista SP1 is installed, you are asked to re-activate Windows Vista. This does not happen to everyone. Among those affected are those who have made hardware changes, or have updated their software device drivers, prior to installing SP1. For added security, Vista is very sensitive to any hardware change and if the above circumstances occur, you will be asked to re-activate Windows Vista after SP1 is installed. This is expected behaviour of Vista. Some people have found that when they install SP1 they are unable to re-activate Windows Vista over the internet, but must phone the activation center. This also is expected behaviour under some circumstances. Please refer to the information in KB947519. There is also a discussion of this topic in the MS Genuine Advantage Forum.
It happened with previous OS's and now again with Vista, when a service pack was installed. Existing third-party programs conflict with the service pack, resulting in a reduction in function. You will find a list in KB935796. As I said above, there is no need to install SP1 yet because it will become an automatic download in April. Some of the conflicts and installation issues may be solved by then giving you a smoother installation process. If you want to add the service pack now then please note the above information and read the associated KB articles before installing it.