On Tuesday morning, Microsoft quietly released the first major update to Windows Vista to the public, via both its Windows Update service and its Web-based Download Center. Windows Vista Service Pack (SP1) offers numerous improvements to the compatibility, reliability, and performance of Vista, and will be the version of Vista that Microsoft sells to customers going forward.

Microsoft finalized Vista SP1 in early February but announced at the time that it would not be making the upgrade available to customers until at least mid-March. The reason for the availability delay was that Microsoft had identified some hardware device drivers that might behave erratically after the upgrade to SP1, but at the time the company was vague about these issues. This week, Microsoft revealed that the number of affected drivers and severity of the issues are, in fact, quite low. But in keeping with its desire to impact customers as minimally as possible, Microsoft has worked with hardware makers to ensure that the issues are fixed before delivering SP1 to users.

To facilitate this process, Microsoft has altered its Windows Update service to ensure that customer machines utilizing affected devices will automatically receive updated drivers before being offered SP1. This offering started yesterday, so customers running the English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese should start seeing SP1 as an optional update on Windows Update immediately. (SP1 will ship in 31 other languages in mid-April, Microsoft says.) Those that don't see SP1 will likely need to download driver updates first. These driver updates are also optionally, but will be changed to "important" updates over the next few weeks, ensuring that millions of PCs silently download and install them automatically. Once that happens, SP1 will be offered to those PCs automatically.

Unlike the driver downloads, however, SP1 will not be installed automatically. Instead, the update will be downloaded automatically, after which time the user will be prompted for the install. Only after explicitly agreeing to the install will SP1 be applied to the system.

I've written a lot about SP1 on the SuperSite for Windows. If you're interested in more information, you should consider reading my review of this important update and an article I posted yesterday that includes more information about the driver issues and schedule.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Review
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/reviews/windows-vista-service-pack-1-review.aspx

It's Here! Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Arrives
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/showcase/its-here-windows-vista-service-pack-1-a.aspx