Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Beta
World's Shortest Overview of the Simplest Upgrade Ever
I've gotten a lot of email about the recently released Window 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Beta, which is interesting because this update doesn't add a single meaningful new end user feature to Microsoft's popular new Windows version. Due in Q1 2011, Windows 7 SP1 is essentially just an update rollup, one that doesn't change the system's user experience at all. Here's what the install process is like.
To download the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Beta, visit the TechNet Evaluation Center on Microsoft.com. You'll need to logon with your Windows Live ID and, potentially, lie to Microsoft in order to get the download. (Hint: Yes, you're a developer.) Eventually, you'll arrive at the download page, where you must choose between four options: Download using Windows Update (32-bit), Download using Windows Update (64-bit), Download the Standalone ISO (32-bit), and Download the Standalone ISO (64-bit).
You'll need the correct architecture version (32-bit or 64-bit), and if you're not sure what you have, please stop reading now and forget about beta testing this software. (Seriously.)
The Windows Update options will make the upgrade appear as would any other Windows Update. These downloads are very small (~400KB) files, but will require Windows Update to download and install a prerequisite, and then later download whatever other files are needed.
The second option downloads a very large (~500 MB) EXE file that automatically extracts and runs the Setup routine. It includes all of the updates that shipped before or as part of SP1, whether you need them or not. (During install, it will only install the ones you need.)
Hint: Even if you do not use Internet Explorer as your primary browser, I strongly recommend using IE to download the SP1 Beta because Microsoft offers the downloads via a very handy, but IE-only, download manager.
If you opted for the simple Windows Update installer, you'll download a small executable file and run that. This adds an entry for the service pack beta prerequisite(s) within Windows Update, which appear as an important update. After that's installed--no reboot is required--you'll see an entry in Windows Update for the actual Service Pack 1 Beta. (Also an important update.) This update will require a 45 MB to 530 MB download, depending on which post-RTM updates you've already installed. (On my up-to-date test laptop, it was about 50 MB.)
After this runs for a while, you'll be prompted to reboot. During the reboot process, Windows will configure the service pack, apply updates, and then let you logon again. There are two reboots, but it's a surprisingly quick process, taking just under 5 minutes on my test laptop.
If you choose instead to use the standalone installer, the process is equally straightforward. After the longer initial download, you simply run the executable, step through the installer, and let it do its thing. This type of install actually took about 40 minutes on my primary desktop PC, which has running the RTM version of Windows 7 since it was first issued.
Hint: Be sure to manually run Windows Update after the Service Pack Beta is installed. Microsoft has already released a security update for the SP1 Beta and could have released other SP1-specific updates by the time you read this. (This update also requires a restart.)
New features in Windows 7 Service Pack 1
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Microsoft originally intended to deliver Windows 7 Service Pack 1 by the end of 2010, and the public Beta in time for TechEd, which was back in June. Thanks to a compatibility bug in the Windows Server 2008 R2 portion of the service pack--SP1 applies to both Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2--Microsoft had to delay both the Beta and final releases. The company now expects to deliver SP1 by the end of the first quarter of 2011.
Well, I promised there wasn't much going on here. Of course, Service Pack 1 is a much bigger deal on the Server side, adding two major features that will make Windows Server 2008 R2 much more capable. But on the client-side, with Windows 7, SP1 is a simple rollup of existing, and SP1-specific, software updates. None impact the end user experience at all, and you won't see any major differences in performance, reliability, compatibility, or any other commonly measured metrics.