Following the furore surrounding the release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, I gave it a very wide berth for about half a year before eventually installing it. Those issues largely surrounded the introduction of Windows Firewall (turned on by default in SP2) and in hindsight I came to respect the developers’ view which can be summed up as “enabling the firewall is inevitably going to break some things, so let’s make sure we break everything at once and then it’s done.” By the time I installed SP2 the process was pretty seamless and updates to my firewall software (still Norton back then) provided a quick solution to immediately switch off Windows Firewall and continue as before.

A cursory glance over the contents of the first Service Pack for Windows Vista shows nothing major at all for those who have kept their systems up-to-date. Since it largely deals with under-the-hood speed and stability issues I figured it would be safe enough to install at Windows Update’s suggestion, particularly since a public beta test had already occurred. Apparently I was wrong. After two attempts to install it, I’ve given up and will instead leave it well alone until either I hear the widespread issues have been resolved or it is actually forced upon us by Windows Update. What was my experience? One attempted installation caused a blue screen, failing halfway through. The second installation ran fine, taking about 40 minutes and reaching 100% in each of the 3 stages. After which, inexplicably, a message appeared stating “Service pack not installed” and rolled back again, which took it about half an hour. No error messages, nothing to explain why or even what on earth it was doing in those 3 stages if that didn’t constitute a full installation. The internet is now flooded with similar experiences, with one suggestion being that it may be caused the by the (very common) Realtek integrated audio chipset. I need to by a sound card to install an OS service pack!? The short version is really the common sense approach I should have followed: avoid Vista SP1 for as long as possible until all the kinks get sorted out.

UPDATE: Microsoft’s official advice is now to leave SP1 until mid-April, though Windows Update is still suggesting it.