Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP2 (Service Pack 2) is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2009. As usual, the second service pack includes all previous updates, patches and hotfixes that are been released to date for the operating system, plus numerous changes to further enhance, optimize, stabilize the system besides probably few new features.

Service packs from both 32-bit and 64-bit (x86 and x64) Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 are going to be released simultaneously together, where both same shares the same code base with differences as client and server operating system. Another interesting point to note is that, while it’s the second service pack for Windows Vista, it’s the first service pack Microsoft to release for Windows Server 2008. It’s caused by Microsoft was releasing Windows Server 2008 with SP1 already installed, which excludes Hyper-V. As such, with SP2, Hyper-V will integrate into Windows Server 2008 natively

Microsoft has published a document on notable changes in SP2 Beta for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, which details changes that focused on addressing specific reliability, performance, and compatibility issues, supporting new types of hardware, adding support for several emerging standards, and changes to make it easier for IT administrators to deploy and manage Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Below, My Digital Life readers can browse the content of the document.

Update: The notable changes article has been updated.

SUMMARY

Microsoft continuously improves the Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 operating systems by providing ongoing updates while working with software and hardware vendors to help them to deliver improved compatibility, reliability and performance. These updates are provided to customers directly by our hardware and software partners, as well as from Microsoft in the form of regularly distributed updates delivered via Windows Update. Updates to Windows are also delivered directly to some affected customers and preinstalled by PC manufacturers.

SP2 is an update to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 that addresses feedback from our customers and partners. By providing these fixes integrated into a single service pack, which will be thoroughly tested by Microsoft and by industry partners and customers during the beta cycle, Microsoft provides a single high-quality update that minimizes deployment and testing complexity for customers.

In addition to all previously released updates, SP2 will contain changes focused on addressing reliability and performance issues, supporting new types of hardware, and adding support for several emerging standards. SP2 will also continue to make it easier for IT administrators to deploy and manage large installations of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

This document describes the notable changes in SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. For a complete list of all changes in SP2, please see Knowledge Base (KB) article 948465, which is a combined version of all prior KB articles documenting updates to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Many of these updates are already publicly available and have been released via the Microsoft Download Center or Windows Update.

Organizations do not need to wait for SP2 to deploy Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008; we encourage them to begin their Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008 evaluation and deployment now.

SETUP PREREQUISITES

There are only two prerequisites for installing SP2. The first prerequisite is that your operating system, Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista, has Service Pack 1 installed. (Note: Windows Server 2008 shipped with Service Pack 1 built in). The second prerequisite is an update to the servicing stack (KB955430), which is the component that handles installation and removal of software updates, language packs, and optional windows features. This update is necessary to successfully install and uninstall the service pack; it also improves the performance and reliability of the service pack installation. This update may require reboot and is part of the standalone update package. It will be offered as a separate package on Windows Update.

SERVICE PACK 2 SIZE

In order to make the improvements detailed in this document, individual files and components have been updated. Also, the language-neutral design of Windows necessitates that the service pack be able to update any possible combination of the basic languages supported by Windows Vista with a single installer, so language files for the 36 basic languages are included in the standalone installer.

These facts result in a large stand-alone package, which is the delivery vehicle typically used by many system administrators. However, most home and small business users will receive SP2 via Windows Update, which utilizes an efficient transfer mechanism to download only the actual bytes changed, resulting in an approximately 41 megabyte (MB) download. This is similar in size to many common software and driver updates delivered by other software vendors over the internet and will not be a problem for most customers.

Table 1 SP2 delivery mechanisms

Usage Download size (x86) Download size (x64) Download size (ia64)
Standalone package
  • PCs without internet access
  • System Administrators
  • About 302 MB (5 language package)
  • About 390 MB (full 36 language package)
  • About 508 MB (5 language package)
  • About 622 MB (full 36 language package)
  • About 384 MB (5 language package)
  • About 396 MB (Full 36 language package)
Windows Update
  • Most home users
  • Many business customers
  • About 41 MB (Vista)
  • About 47 MB (Server)
  • About 60 MB (Vista)
  • About 90 MB (Server)
N/A
Integrated DVD
  • New PCs
  • Fresh Windows Installations
  • XP Upgrades
N/A N/A N/A

APPLICATION COMPATIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS

Thanks to the rich instrumentation capability of Windows we are able to understand the types of problems that our customers are experiencing while respecting their personal information and privacy preferences. We use this information to focus improvements in Windows, but we also share this information with our software vendor partners to help improve the reliability and compatibility of 3rd party applications. Two examples for SP2 are Spysweeper and ZoneAlarm now working with POP3 email accounts.

It is our goal that applications that run on Windows are written using public APIs that will continue to work as designed on SP2.

Microsoft has already released several application compatibility updates which will allow more applications to work seamlessly for the end user. These will appear in SP2, but are also available via Windows Update. For more information on previous compatibility updates, please refer to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947562/en-us. SP2 contains additional application compatibility fixes for individual applications.

HARDWARE ECOSYSTEM SUPPORT AND ENHANCEMENTS

  • Adds support for 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies, which adds the ID and vendor strings for the new VIA 64-bit CPU.
  • Integration of the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless which contains support for Bluetooth v2.1, the most recent specification for Bluetooth wireless technology, and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration.
  • Improves performance for Wi-Fi connection after resuming from sleep mode.
  • Includes updates to the RSS feeds sidebar with improved performance and responsiveness.

OS EXPERIENCE UPDATES

  • Windows Search 4.0 builds on Microsoft’s search technology with improved indexing and search relevance. It also helps find and preview documents, e-mail messages, music files, photos, and other items on the computer. The search engine in Windows Search 4.0 is a Microsoft Windows service that is also used by programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007.
  • Improvements to Windows Media Center (WMC) in Content protection for TV.

ENTERPRISE IMPROVEMENTS

  • SP2 provides the Hyper-V virtualization environment as a fully integrated feature of Windows Server 2008, including one free daughter OS with Windows Server 2008 Standard, four free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise and an unlimited number of free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.
  • An improved power management policy that is up to 10% more efficient than the original in some configurations (both on the server and the desktop), and includes the ability to manage these settings via Group Policy.
  • Improves backwards compatibility for Terminal server license keys. Windows Server 2008 changed the licensing key from 512 bytes to 2,048 bytes which caused clients using older Terminal versions to fail. SP2 allows legacy license keys on Citrix applications to work with Windows Server 2008 Terminal server.

SETUP AND DEPLOYMENT IMPROVEMENTS

  • Significant improvements have been made to the SP2 standalone installer.
    • Single installer for both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.
    • Ability to detect an incompatible driver and block service pack installation or warn users of any potential loss of functionality.
    • Better error handling and descriptive error messages where possible.
    • Better manageability through logging in system event log.
    • Secure install experience.
    • Ability to service the installer post release.
  • Provides a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe) which helps restore the hard disk space by permanently deleting the previous versions of the files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2. The Pack Clean up tool can also be run offline while creating slipstream images to reduce the size of the image.

CONCLUSION

SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server represents ongoing investments by Microsoft to constantly improve compatibility, reliability and performance for its customers. While most updates contained in SP2 are available as individual downloads, the roll-up convenience of SP2 is a major benefit for administrators. This functionality coupled with new advanced deployment features, such as the single installer and the pre-installation analyzer, means SP2 continues to provide ongoing improvements that our customers have grown to expect from Microsoft. For more detail on SP2’s contents, please see KB article 948465.

The notable changes for SP2 beta for Windows Server 2008 and Vista can also be downloaded: Notable_changes_Beta_WS08VistaSP2.doc

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