Oops! Microsoft posts 64-bit Vista SP1 to Windows Update

It was 'inadvertently made available' says company; some users grabbed it

Microsoft accidentally added the final 64-bit version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to Windows Update Thursday, even though it's repeatedly said that most users won't be offered the upgrade for weeks.

Some users of the 64-bit edition of Vista were able to download and install SP1 Thursday. By Friday, Microsoft had pulled the service pack from Windows Update (WU), according to reports posted to a support newsgroup.

Talk of Vista SP1 appearing on WU began Thursday morning. "This morning (02/21/2008), I used Microsoft Update on my Vista Ultimate (x64) machine and found one Important Update," recounted a user named David Lessnau on a Microsoft support forum.

Lessnau pasted text from WU into his newsgroup message. "Windows Vista Service Pack 1 for x64-based Systems (KB936330)," it read. "Download size: 120.0 MB - 711.6 MB; Update type: Important."

After trading messages much of Thursday, other 64-bit Vista users who also reported receiving the notice decided that what they'd downloaded and installed was the final, or RTM (release to manufacturing) version of the upgrade. "Based on [other] posts, I let this thing install. All went well," said Lessnau. "That registry key contains '6001.18000.amd64fre.longhorn_rtm.080118-1840,' which seems to indicate the version off of Microsoft Update is the RTM.

Late Thursday, Microsoft confirmed the mix-up. "Today, a build of SP1 was posted to Windows Update and it was inadvertently made available to a broad group," a spokeswoman said. "The build was intended only for our more technically advanced testers, and was meant to only be offered to those with a specific registry key set on their PC."

By Friday morning, 64-bit Vista users who left messages on the support newsgroup said that SP1 had disappeared from the list offered by WU.

So far, Microsoft has released SP1 -- the first major update to its newest operating system since Vista debuted more than a year ago -- only to about 15,000 beta testers, customers of its Volume Licensing programs and subscribers to TechNet Plus and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). Subscribers to TechNet and MSDN were provided SP1 only after they raised a stink over being shut out; IT professionals and developers pay hundreds of dollars annually to subscribe to the services, which are supposed to give them early access to Microsoft products for testing and development purposes.

"For general availability, we are still planning to make SP1 broadly available in the mid-March timeframe," the company spokeswoman reconfirmed.

Since it announced Vista SP1's completion on February 4, Microsoft has been adamant that it wouldn't release the update to WU until the middle of next month, and then only as an optional download. It cited problems with an unspecified number of hardware device drivers as the reason for the delay.

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Gregg Keizer

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