Windows client users have a lot to look forward to in 2008. Both Windows Vista and Windows XP have major service packs at the release candidate (RC) stage. As always, I hear from people who want to run out and install these service pack RCs, and I have to caution users against doing so in production environments, though this rarely stops those who really must have the latest and greatest running on their computers.

Before you decide to download Vista SP1 RC1, you should first take a look at the overview document, which outlines what is in the service pack, at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=090DEAF6-2EAA-4AAA-8B3B-2E199DB4A97D&displaylang=en.

Vista SP1 RC1 can be downloaded from http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/bb898842.aspx.

You can find the overview document for XP SP3 RC1 at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=68c48dad-bc34-40be-8d85-6bb4f56f5110&displaylang=en.

XP SP3 RC1 can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=75ed934c-8423-4386-ad98-36b124a720aa&displaylang=en.

My computer that’s running XP SP3 has continued to function properly and while I haven’t noticed anything, some readers report that their XP systems are running noticeably better with this SP installation. Because it’s a release candidate, widespread distribution isn’t recommended, and when the final version ships you’ll need to uninstall the RC to install the final version.

Things have not been so sanguine with my Vista SP1 RC1 installation. I chose to do the Windows Update version of the installation, which also installs two required updates prior to the service pack that are necessary to make changes in the update mechanism to allow the successful installation of the SP1 candidate. This gets you the SP1 RC1 installation over a period of a few days. Unfortunately, this method didn’t work well for me. While the Vista SP1 installation was being done, the system was also updated with Office 2007 SP1. Between the two installations, my system was almost unusable. The Windows shell would lock up for no apparent reason, Microsoft Outlook would go into repeated crash/reboot cycles, and I was unable to get any work done or access any files on the computer. If I tried to copy any data, the machine would lock up and the shell would reboot during the copy attempt.

I was able to get the system back to a functional level by figuring out a way to get the Vista SP1 RC to uninstall (basically I disabled everything that ran at boot time and immediately launched the uninstaller).

With SP1 gone, the system went back to its normal behavior. I’ve since installed Vista SP1 on another system that’s completely clean. It has no application or anything not included in the base OS installed. I’ll continue to experiment with this installation by installing additional applications and looking for changes in behavior.

But this is what I do for a living; if you need your computer to simply work, I would advise against installing Vista SP1 RC1 at this time.

Tip – Since we’re at the start of a new year, you probably have dozens of reasons you need a calendar. If you’re running Microsoft Office, this link, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT101425391033.aspx ,takes you to over 100 calendar templates that you can use with various Office applications. You can modify any of the templates to fit your calendaring needs.