What to expect from Vista SP1

When Vista SP1 is delivered to your PC, there's good news and potentially bad news. The good news is the death of the so-called Kill Switch, and more stability and security. The bad news is potentially slower file copying, and possible wireless networking glitches.

As I explain in my hands-on review, SP1 is really a glorified set of patches rolled into one. It leaves just about all of the operating system's features intact and targets performance, reliability and security.

One nice change is the death of the Kill Switch (which Microsoft prefers to call "reduced functionality mode"). In pre-SP1 Vista, if you don't activate a retail version of Vista after 30 days, or if you ignore a three-day grace period you're given after making so many hardware changes that Windows is no longer considered valid, your desktop turns black, the Start menu and desktop icons disappear, and you can only copy your data files, but you can't open them. In addition, after you use Internet Explorer for an hour, you're logged off.

In SP1, the Kill Switch becomes a Nudge Switch. You'll be frequently reminded that you need to activate Windows and the desktop background will turn black. Try to change it to another background, and an hour later Windows will turn it black again. In addition, you won't be able to download signed drivers and optional updates via Windows Updates, although you'll still be able to get critical security updates. And you'll still be able to use Vista.

When you first install SP1, your PC may actually seem to slow down. That's because all of your SuperFetch information is cleared from your system. Over time, as SuperFetch begins to work, speed should improve.

Microsoft targeted performance in SP1, including file copying. But on my machine tests show that Vista SP1 can be as much as 20% slower than pre-SP1 when it comes to copying files. I found that copying a large file -- 2.49 GB -- to a local folder under SP1 Vista was 20% slower than performing the same operation in pre-SP1 Vista. Copying that same file to a network folder took essentially the same amount of time in pre-SP1 and SP1 Vista. And copying a 256 MB folder full of files to a local disk and to a network folder took essentially the same amount of time in each as well. Other people, though, have found that SP1 speeds up file copying.

For more details, including charts, check out my blog Slowing down Vista with SP1.

SP1 also causes problems on my home network. I have a Linksys WRT54GX4 wireless router, with several Vista and XP PCs connected to it. With SP1, I can't make connections from a Vista SP1 PC to another Vista PC (SP1 or otherwise) wirelessly.

When I connect from the laptop to the network wirelessly, I can see all the PCs on my network, but I can only browse to the XP ones, not the Vista one. So, for example, when I double-click the icon of a Vista PC on my network in my network folder, or from the Network Map, I get the error message "Windows cannot access (name of the PC I'm trying to access)".

For more details, and to win free books if you can fix the problem for me, check out my blog Final SP1 network woes: Fix them and win free books.

I'm planning on posting more blog entries about SP1, based on the experiences of all my blog readers. So post comments below, and I'll include them.

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