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Windows Vista SP-1 released - some driver problems reported

On Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Microsoft released the first service pack, SP-1, for general dispersion, via Windows Updates. Microsoft describes the improvements contained in this service pack, as follows:

"In addition to all previously released updates, SP1 contains changes focused on addressing specific reliability and performance issues, supporting new types of hardware, and adding support for several emerging standards. SP1 also continues to make it easier for IT administrators to deploy and manage Windows Vista. Service Packs are not intended to be a vehicle for releasing significant new features or functionality; however some existing components do gain slightly enhanced functionality in SP1 to support industry standards and new requirements."

For most users the update to Vista SP-1 has been going smoothly, but there are others who are not so fortunate. Those folks are experiencing driver failures after rebooting from the upgrade process. Let's look into what is going wrong and what can be done to either prevent, or correct this problem.

Microsoft has been testing SP-1 for quite a while now and already knows about which hardware device drivers will experience trouble after the upgrade. For this reason Microsoft has been releasing its own driver updates for some of the most widely deployed chipsets which are at risk of failing during the upgrade to SP-1. Among those chipsets and drivers is the widely used Realtek AC97 audio device. Also listed as needing updated drivers are the following: SigmaTel, Creative Audigy and Conexant HD Audio. An Intel display driver also needs to be updated. I recommend visiting the Microsoft Support page describing these affected devices. On that page you are urged to visit the manufacturer's websites to search for updated drivers. This is always your best first option regarding device drivers. However, in the case of the Realtek drivers, Microsoft has written and made available its own upgraded driver and is making it available via Microsoft Updates.

When you run Microsoft Updates it will first check your installed hardware to see if any devices are on the list of affected hardware. If so, you will be offered an optional hardware update to fix that driver, in preparation for the installation of SP-1. Note, that these devices may be functionally perfectly under the initial release of Windows Vista. However, until you update the affected drivers you will not be offered the update to service pack 1. This is to protect your computer from device failures upon installing SP-1 and rebooting. Some of you may be tempted to go to the Microsoft download site and install the service pack manually. If you haven't taken care of the driver compatibility issues you will experience problems, such as are described on this Microsoft Support page. The following is a quote from the Microsoft Vista SP-1 Support page titled "Things to know before you download."

"Some Windows Vista users may encounter an issue with a small set of hardware devices that may not function properly after updating a Windows Vista PC to Windows Vista SP1. This is an issue with the way the device drivers were re-installed during the Windows Vista SP1 update process, not with the drivers themselves—these drivers worked on Windows Vista RTM and they work on Windows Vista SP1. This problem is typically corrected by simply uninstalling and reinstalling the driver. We are working with the manufacturers of these devices to get the known problematic drivers and their install programs updated, and also on other solutions we can use to ensure a smooth customer experience when updating to Windows Vista SP1 using Windows Update. For new PCs provisioned with Windows Vista SP1, this is not an issue."

There are bound to be improvements in the interaction of various applications and Windows Vista, as a result of the changes made in Vista Service Pack 1. One improvement I just learned about involves Acronis True Image, which was reportedly failing to lock certain disk volumes for making backups and were causing NTFS 137 errors, in the "default transaction resource manager." Microsoft worked with the Acronis team and discovered that there was a bug in the Vista code, causing this error. That bug has been fixed in Service Pack 1. I have a web page with information about the current version of Acronis True Image and download links to buy it at a special discounted price.

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Wiz FeinbergWiz's Blog is written by Bob "Wiz" Feinberg, an experienced freelance computer consultant, troubleshooter and webmaster. Wiz's specialty is in computer and website security and combating spam. Wizcrafts Computer Services was established in 1996.

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