Windows Vista/Server 2008 SP2 Released: Update Precautions, Troubleshooting

After a long period of exclusive availability to TechNet and MSDN subscribers, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 SP2 has finally been released to the general public. The new release includes:

  • Windows Search 4.0: “improved indexing and search relevance; helps find and preview documents, e-mail (including signed e-mail messages), music files, photos, and other items on the computer.”
  • support for the 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies
  • support for Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration
  • ability to record data to Blu-Ray Disc media

The new release is available through Windows Update or via the following download (standalone) links:

Unfortunately, many users are likely to encounter a variety issues, such as startup problems, application crashes, performance hiccups and more, after the update. Here’s a run-down of the best methods for preventing these issues and making your update experience a smooth one:

Backup First and foremost, a full backup should be performed prior to any major system update. Your best bet is to use a tool that can create a complete, bootable backup of your primary volume. If major problems ensue post-update, you will have working copy of your current applications and documents that can be put into use immediately. Acronis True Image is one such tool. Alternatively, you can use Windows Vista’s built-in backup tools.

Check for spyware Next, eliminate any spyware or malware that might interfere with the update process or create conflicts after your system is updated. Various free or inexpensive tools, including Ad-Aware and Spybot are available for this purpose.

Kill any unnecessary startup processes Eliminating any unnecessary startup processes, or removing all third-party startup processes, can reduce compatibility headaches that often follow major system updates. Launch the System Configuration utility by clicking “Windows” then entering “System Configuration” in the search bar and pressing return. Click on the “Startup” tab and remove any unnecessary items, then restart.

Disable antivirus/spyware software during installation Directly prior to installation of Windows Vista SP2, disable all antivirus/anti-spyware software, then re-enable it after the update is complete. These programs can interfere with proper installation of the update and cause other problems.

Update drivers Check manufacturers’ websites for the latest driver editions for any third-party devices that are connected to your system. Many manufacturers have already updated their drivers for basic compatibility with Vista SP2.

Disconnect any unnecessary devices Aside from your keyboard, mouse, monitor and network connectivity, virtually all external device should be disconnected from your system right before you install Vista SP2. Disconnecting these devices can preclude a variety of issues. Once the update is applied, you can reconnect the devices one by one and check for compatibility issues.

Uninstall any pre-release Vista updates If you installed the Vista SP2 release candidate or a prior beta, uninstall it right before running the final Vista SP2 update. Open Control Panel, click Programs, then click “View Installed Updates.” Look for the Microsoft Windows list, then right-click the beta or pre-release service pack and select uninstall.

Use the standalone updater Users have reported fewer problems when using full standalone Vista service pack updates instead of obtaining the updates through Windows Update.

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