The Release Candidate (RC) of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is available for download and we're using it already. But it's almost as if Microsoft doesn't want you to find it. The update is buried so deep within the Microsoft Downloads site the in-built search tool must be straining under the load. We do want you to find it though, so here's a link (opens in new tab).
You don't download SP1, per se - the link simply gives you access to a small sub-400k executable and some release notes. Run the executable as an administrator and it will change some registry keys that then drip down via Windows Update. You can leave these to install bit-by-bit automatically, but we obviously wanted to force the issue.
On our machine - which was up-to-date prior to yesterday - Windows Update showed that 11 important updates were available with a size of 276.6MB. Now, this isn't all due to Vista SP1, it's Office 2007 SP1 (opens in new tab) which was also released yesterday (we have it installed) as well as the seven updates from yesterday's Patch Tuesday which strangely hadn't reached our Vista machine yet.
And the other updates? There are several pre-requisite updates before Windows Update will even think about downloading and installing SP1.
There are more details about these in the release notes (opens in new tab). And if you don't have them and want to force an SP1 update, you'll have to manually check for updates and restart several times before you'll get to the final stage of having SP1 on your machine. This process is tedious and Windows Update annoyingly won't necessarily find each update on the first attempt after a restart.
What's more, downloading the updates was very slow, probably due to demand.
Better performance and reliability
Microsoft released a further Windows Vista "reliability and performance" update yesterday as well. It fixes issues with some machines where you previously experienced a nice BSOD when resuming from hibernation or sleep. The update also removes one of people's biggest niggles with Vista - the speed of copying and deleting files. Microsoft says this 'disk I/O' update improves performance by up to 15 per cent.
As for the Office 2007 Service Pack, Microsoft says it has improved stability of the software as well as its security. There's also some performance improvement, apparently.