MS Rolls out Win7 Service Pack 1; Backups Strongly Recommended
As of February 22nd, 2011, Microsoft is officially in the process of rolling out Windows 7 Service Pack 1 to all Windows 7 users via the Windows Update (automatic) feature, as well as through Microsoft's website.
Why a Windows Service Pack is Imperative
In general, a Windows Service Pack is a method of bringing together multiple changes to the operating system. Windows 7 Service Pack 1 ("SP1") is a single download (also available on DVD) that includes all major and minor security and bug fixes since the original release of Windows 7, up to the last software update made available from Microsoft.
Most bug fixes after the release of a Service Pack are cumulative. Thus, many of the future bug fixes released by Microsoft will only be applicable to users that chose to install Service Pack 1. If you choose not to install SP1, you'll not only be "out of the loop", but you'll also be at a much higher risk of being exploited and infected by malware.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Few Features Documented
Traditionally, a new Service Pack also brings a swath of exciting new features. In this release of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, however, some critics are blasting Microsoft for failing to list all the important changes made to the operating system.
"Win 7 SP1 is a big deal. It's just apparently not big enough for Microsoft to document properly," says Rob Pagorero of the Washington Post.
Among some of the new features include better support for more modern hard drives, Windows Shell tweaks (including reopening folders), and fixes for audio devices including HDMI. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
Lack of Fixes, Features a Good Thing?
The lack of new features isn't necessarily a bad thing, however -- Microsoft would argue it's a sign that it got Windows 7 right from the start.
The main purpose of a Service Pack today is more about making sure everyone is up-to-date on the security side, even those who don't bother with the automatic security updates. Those people will face a hefty download at just over 500MB on the 32-bit version of Windows, and over 900MB for the 64-bit edition. (Source: cnet.com)
For those who already use Windows Update regularly, the new changes should have already arrived in a 44MB-74MB update.
Reports of Failed SP1 Installations
Already (and as expected), users are reporting failed installations of Windows 7.
"Windows Update took about 30 minutes to install SP1, after which the computer spent another 24 minutes in a post-reboot 'configuring' session. I hope that your Win 7 SP1 install has been as drama-free as mine," said Rob Pagorero.
It's at the post-reboot configuring stage that the Service Pack will either succeed or fail. In the result of a failure, the changes are usually irreversible -- and if you're lucky, you may be able to do a system restore, but you'll inevitably lose information and changes to your system since the last system restore backup.
"My install failed. Had to go to System Restore. Wasted whole lot of time. Not to mention the angst," noted one Washington Post user. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
Microsoft Recommends Backing Up Before SP1 Install
Microsoft recommends you back up your PC before applying Service Pack1 (this warning is presented before a Service Pack is installed).
Note that most simple backup programs *do not* backup the operating system. In this case: if the Service Pack fails to install, there's an incredibly good chance you won't be able to boot back into Windows. For a proper backup of all your files (including operating system), you'll need a disk imaging program, such as Acronis True Image.
Proper Backup Software for Pre-SP1 Install
Acronis True Image can back up the entire PC, including MS Windows. If Service Pack 1 fails to install, you'll still be able to revert your PC, including the operating system (Windows) to a previous, healthy state with no loss of data.
Note that in light of the Windows 7 Service Pack release, Acronis has temporarily reinstated their 30-50% discount for True Image 2011 for our readers. Please do take advantage of this fine offer and _please_ backup your PC before installing SP1. Full details here:
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