Microsoft has updated the list of notable changes that are applied by the Service Pack 2 (SP2) RC to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, which have changed slightly when comparing the changes made during SP2 Beta. The SP2 includes all previously released hotfixes and security updates, and also changes to support new types of hardware and several emerging standards, in addition to further streamline deployment and management of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 for IT administrators.

Here’s a list of notable changes in the release candidate release of SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, as published on TechNet.

Update: the changelog for Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP2 has been updated with the release of SP2 RTM.

Setup prerequisites

There are only two prerequisites for installing SP2:

  • Your operating system, Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista must have Service Pack 1 installed.

    Note: Windows Server 2008 shipped with Service Pack 1 built in.

  • Users updating through Windows Update/WSUS must install an update to the servicing stack (described in knowledge base article 955430) 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 a reboot and is part of the standalone update package. It will be offered as a separate package on Windows Update. Users installing SP2 in standalone format will have this update built-in.

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 features result in a large stand-alone package, which is the delivery vehicle typically used by system administrators. However, most home and small business users will receive SP2 through Windows Update, which utilizes an efficient transfer mechanism to download only the actual bytes that are changed, resulting in an approximately 43 megabyte (MB) download. This is similar in size to many common software and driver updates that are delivered by other software vendors over the internet, and therefore should not cause issues for most customers.

Usage Download size (x86) Download size (x64) Download size (ia64)
Standalone package
  • Computers without internet access
  • System administrators
  • About 302 MB (Five language package)
  • About 390 MB (Available in seven languages)
  • About 508 MB (Five language package)
  • About 622 MB (Full 36 language package)
  • About 384 MB (Five language package)
  • About 396 MB (Full 36 language package)
Windows Update
  • Most home users
  • Many business customers
  • About 43 MB (Windows Vista)
  • About 47 MB (Windows Server 2008)
  • About 60 MB (Windows Vista)
  • About 90 MB (Windows Server 2008)
N/A
Integrated DVD
  • New PCs
  • Fresh Windows installations
  • XP upgrades
N/A N/A N/A

Table 1 Delivery mechanisms for SP2

Application compatibility improvements

Thanks to the rich instrumentation capability of Windows operating systems, we are able to understand the types of issues that our customers experience 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 non-Microsoft applications. For example, in SP2, Spysweeper and ZoneAlarm, now work with POP3 e-mail accounts.

Our goal for SP2 is that applications that are written using public APIs and that run on the Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 operating systems will continue to work as designed.

Microsoft has already released several application compatibility updates which allow more applications to work seamlessly for the end user. These appear in SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, but they are also available through Windows Update. Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2 contain additional application compatibility fixes for individual applications.

For more information about previously released compatibility updates, refer to article 947562 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=128900.

Hardware ecosystem support and enhancements

  • SP2 adds support for the 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies, which adds the ID and vendor strings for the new VIA 64-bit CPU.
  • SP2 integrates the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless, which contains support for Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration. Bluetooth v2.1 is the most recent specification for Bluetooth wireless technology.
  • SP2 improves performance for Wi-Fi connections after resuming from sleep mode.
  • SP2 includes updates to the RSS feeds sidebar for improved performance and responsiveness.
  • SP2 includes ability to record data to Blu-Ray Disc media.

Operating system experience updates

  • SP2 includes Windows Search 4.0, which builds on Microsoft’s search technology with improved indexing and search relevance. It also helps find and preview documents, e-mail (including signed email 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. Autotuning Diagnostics in SP2 now interprets current network conditions when implementing Windows scaling. This feature includes full netsh support.
  • SP2 improves Windows Media Center (WMC) in the area of content protection for TV.
  • SP2 adds a registry key that enables modification of the maximum number of open TCP connections to increase application compatibility. A bit vague on this, but if it’s about outgoing half-open TCP connection, user no longer has to patch the open TCP connections limit with tools such as TCP-Z.

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.
  • SP2 increases the authentication options for WebDAV redirector, enabling Microsoft Office users greater flexibility when authenticating custom applications using the WebDAV redirector.
  • SP2 provides an improved power management (both on the server and the desktop), which includes the ability to manage these settings via Group Policy.
  • SP2 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 Server versions to fail. SP2 allows legacy license keys on Citrix applications to work with Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server.

Setup and deployment improvements

The SP2 standalone installer:

  • Provides a single installer for both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.
  • Includes the ability to detect an incompatible driver and either block service pack installation or warn users of any potential loss of functionality.
  • Provides better error handling and descriptive error messages where possible.
  • Improves manageability through logging in the system event log.
  • Provides a secure install experience.
  • Includes the ability to service the installer post release.

SP2 also includes a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe) which helps recover the hard disk space by permanently deleting previous versions of files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2. The Service Pack Clean up tool can also be run offline while creating slipstream images to reduce the size of the image.

For list of hotfixes and security updates that are included in SP2 RC, and functionalities that are been fixed, visit technet.microsoft.com.

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