Microsoft fixing Vista SP1 flaw, release moved to mid-March

While RTM was announced, service pack won’t be generally available until mid-March

Microsoft Monday said Vista SP1 will not be available until mid-March because the company is working out issues with some device drivers that lose functionality when the service pack is installed.

The company said Monday that Vista SP1 had hit its release-to-manufacturing milestone meaning the software is ready to be packaged for distribution.

The device driver issue was uncovered by beta testers who found that after installing the service pack certain drivers lost functionality and the corresponding devices would not operate. The issue is not one of compatibility, according to Microsoft, but the fact that the drivers do not follow driver installation guidelines. The problem can be solved by simply uninstalling and then re-installing the affected device once SP1 is loaded.

But Microsoft is working to clear up the problem for good before the bits ship in early March to volume licensing customers and is posted to Windows Update for manual download in mid-March.

Microsoft, however, won't release the SP1 bits for download via Automatic Update until mid-April, according to Zipkin.

Microsoft officials did not say how many devices are affected or which ones they are.

"We are not talking numbers right now, we are reaching out to our hardware partners," says David Zipkin, senior product manager in the Windows client division. He did say it was not an extensive list of devices. Microsoft says those partners will update their drivers.

As hardware manufacturers update their drivers, Microsoft will make them available via Windows Update so users can download them before downloading and installing SP1.

Regardless if 100 per cent of the drivers are updated or not, in mid-March Vista SP1 will be available via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center. Users will have to pro-actively go to those sites and download the service pack. Savvy users who experience problems can just re-install drivers that may be corrupted by the SP1 install, according to Zipkin.

"Our first goal is to make sure no one has a negative experience," he says.

Zipkin says machines with drivers that are changed by SP1 will not be able to download SP1 until those drivers are upgraded. He says given that Windows Update is based on hardware configuration that it can detect the presence of the effected drivers. If one of the drivers is detected, Windows Update will block the machine from updating to SP1.

Zipkin called the problem a "small issue" and said there were many more positives to report since Vista first shipped in November 2006.

While SP1 is mostly a collection of bug fixes, it does include improvements to file copy commands along with management and deployment enhancements.

Vista also now has 2,500 applications with either the "Works with" or "Certified for" Vista logo, a nearly 10 fold increase over the 254 logo applications that were available in Nov. 2006. In addition, Microsoft has solved issues with more than 150 enterprise applications, including anti-virus and VPN software, that it says were dealing customer rollouts.

Vista also now has 78,000 devices and components it works with, up from 34,000 when the software first shipped.

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