On October 26, Microsoft made the Release Candidate (RC) of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 available. At the same time, the company confirmed that the final version of SP1 will be out in Q1 2011. If you want to try the RC out, we’ve got all of the details!
What does the RC of SP1 entail?
The RC version of Windows 7 SP1 includes more than 600 updates. Some have been published via Windows Update (such as security updates), while others have only been sent to specific customers in the form of hotfixes.
For the consumer, SP1 has next to no new functionalities. Don’t expect any new gadgets, groundbreaking features, or interesting visual styles because the days of revolutionary SPs (remember Windows XP SP2?!) are over.
If you’ve got Windows 7, this is just a roundup of all of the previously released and unreleased patches. It fixes an extensive amount of bugs and increases reliability; SP1 also solves many standby issues. A full list of all the patches is available as an Excel file: “Documentation for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate (KB976932)“.
On the server side, however, this SP brings some interesting new capabilities to Windows Server 2008, which shares the same code base as Windows 7. One of the new features is called RemoteFX, which enables rich media experiences, such as 3D interfaces or videos, via remote desktops. The other notable feature, Dynamic Memory, enables Hyper-V servers to manage memory more efficiently.
Should I wait for the final version of SP1?
For about 99% of all users, I’d have to say: YES! Despite the fact that Microsoft marked this as an RC, software and hardware testing is not 100% complete. In addition, when SP1 is finally released in Q1 2011, you will need to uninstall the RC and install the final bits.
If your system is running fine, don’t touch it with the RC of SP1. There are only two reasons when evaluating SP1 makes sense: you’re either a developer or an IT administrator and need to evaluate it, or you have a very specific problem that only SP1 can fix.
Personally, I needed Windows 7 SP1 RC to correct one of the most annoying issues on one of my machines. After I resumed power on one of my PCs on standby, the Wi-Fi would stop working after a couple of minutes. There was literally no way to fix this without manually disconnecting and then reconnecting to my home Wi-Fi. After installing the RC of SP1, the bug has now finally been corrected.
For all of you curious Windows 7 SP1 soon-to-be evaluators, we’ve got you covered with detailed instructions and information on this latest Microsoft update.
Preparing for Windows 7 SP1
Do you want to evaluate Windows 7 SP1? Let’s review some basic preparation steps. The following are not just valid for the RC; we recommend taking these steps before installing any Windows service packs.
- Uninstall all previous versions of Windows 7 SP1, such as the last public beta. Just click on the Start orb, and go to “Control Panel” and “Uninstall a program”. Switch to the “View installed updates” section, and highlight “Service Pack for Microsoft Windows (KB976932)”. Hit “Uninstall”.
- Get the “System Update Readiness Tool” (the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version). This fixes some Windows Update issues that prevent updates or SPs from being installed. In my case, SP1 RC failed to install and gave me a cryptic error code that I couldn’t find any information about (not even from Microsoft or on the Internet). Having installed the update, the SP1 setup went more smoothly.
- Create a system image. The moment you install Windows 7 SP1, a System Restore point will be created. To be 100% on the safe side, we recommend creating an image, and saving it to an external USB hard disk or another partition or burning it on DVD. You’ll find the very own back up feature in your “Control Panel” under “System and Security”.
Hit “Back up your computer”, and open up the “Create a system image” assistant. Follow the advice to create a 1:1 backup of your entire Windows partition.
- If problems persist, disable your anti-virus protection and cut the Internet connection. Some anti-virus programs cause problems during the installation of SPs; they see changes in some basic operating system files and try to prevent them. If you’re experiencing problems, disconnect the Internet connection (to be on the safe side) and temporarily turn off anti-virus software. Remember to turn it back on after SP1 is installed—in case that doesn’t happen automatically after restarting your PC.
Installing Windows 7 SP1 RC via Windows Update
Microsoft offers two different ways of installing SP1. The first is to download it via Windows Update, which will probably save you a lot of time. Windows Update automatically detects which updates and hotfixes have already been applied to your system and just installs the ones that are missing. On one of my machines, that amounted to about 90 Mbytes; on another machine, it was only 38 Mbytes—instead of the full 850 Mbytes SP1 weighs in for x64 machines!
However, you need to tell Windows Update to download the RC; obviously, that’s not enabled by default! There’s a little file that does that for you, just go to the official download site, and get the “WUSignUpTool_x64.exe” (on a 64-bit machine) or the “WUSignUpTool_x86.exe” (on a 32-bit machine). Click “Download”, and hit “Run” to execute it.
Select “I accept the license terms”, hit “Finish”, and wait for the window to close. That’s it. Now restart your machine, and open up Windows Update (you’ll find that in your Start Menu in the “All Programs” section). Click on “Check for updates”. An entry for “Update for Windows 7 (KB9769023)” will show up.
This is a prerequisite update for SP1. After that’s installed, hit “Check for updates” again. This will bring up the SP.
You can go right ahead and install the SP. Note: This will require you to reboot your PC.
Downloading and installing the full SP1 RC package
If you’ve got several machines to test, downloading the full Windows 7 SP1 RC package makes more sense. Go to the Windows 7 SP1 RC website.
Here you can either choose to download an entire DVD image, which contains both the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of SP1 as well as some documentation. You can also either burn it or use a tool like Virtual CloneDrive 5 to mount the DVD image in your Windows Explorer as a drive—inside this drive, you’ll find both SP files.
Or you can grab the SP files directly from the download site mentioned above; these are called windows6.1-KB976932-X64.exe (for 64-bit PCs) or windows6.1-KB976932-X86.exe (for 32-bit PCs).
In either case, just double-click on the respective file, and hit “Run”.
In either case, just double-click on the respective file, and hit “Run”.
After a short amount of time, the SP1 setup assistant will show up. And that’s it—just follow the assistant by clicking “Next” and accepting the license agreements. Hit “Install”, and wait for SP1 to finish.
This will take about 15–30 minutes depending on your PC’s performance, and will also require you to reboot.
SP1 – Conclusion
Again, SP1 RC is only for the bleeding-edge tech enthusiasts out there who need to evaluate this slightly revised version of Windows 7. The fact that there are no new major features and no huge performance improvements (like as seen with Windows Vista SP1) tells me one thing:Windows 7 is very mature. Don’t let the huge number of fixes fool you; many of these don’t really apply in typical computer scenarios. A huge chunk of SP1 fixes issues that affect developers or highly technical Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 usage scenarios. Here are some bug examples that Microsoft fixes in this release.
- “The ‘DwmEnableBlurBehindWindow’ function does not work correctly for a non-rectangular window in Windows 7 and in Windows Server 2008 R2.”
- “All remote PowerShell operations fail together with the ‘E_ACCESSDENIED’ error message when you use the CredSSP in a remote PowerShell session in Windows 7 or in Windows Server 2008 R2.”
Nevertheless, there are also a couple of fixes that apply to consumers, such as my standby problem mentioned. In any case, we’ll keep you up-to-date on further developments and will edit this post when SP1 hits its “Gold” status.
Have you tried SP1 RC yet? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section!