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Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is available. I'll look at when, and why, and how soon Windows 7 SP1 makes sense. I'll also look at the best ways to get it.

I've heard that Windows 7 SP1 is out. Is it safe to install? Should I?

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is now available.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you should just immediately install it, though.

Windows 7 SP1 isn't really all that exciting. The point of SP1 is simply to roll-up bug fixes and patches made so far. It probably also includes some less critical bug fixes that haven't yet made it out to the average Windows 7 machine.

It shouldn't significantly impact your machine's operation - well, other than making it more stable and secure.

I emphasize "shouldn't" because it comes with a small amount of risk, as do all major updates. I have heard of a very small number of people who are having problems with it.

You can probably guess how I'll suggest you start.

Backup First

When installing stuff on my machines, I tend to not always follow my own advice, but not when it comes to a service pack. Immediately before installing it on my laptop, I've taken a full backup of the machine. If anything goes wrong, I know that I can always revert to this pre-SP1 backup image with no harm done, other than time wasted.

I strongly recommend you do something similar.

Getting Windows 7 SP1

Microsoft has made SP1 available via Windows Update uncharacteristically early.

Windows 7 SP1 in Windows Update

What's interesting to note about the listing in Windows update is that the size is specified as a range: 73.6MB - 892.6MB. That means that depending on your machine, it could be as small as 73.6 megabytes, or as much as nearly 900 megabytes - that's over one CD's worth of data. And, of course, you won't know how much you need until the service pack begins installation.

Windows 7 SP1 on DVD

That's a lot of data that might need to be downloaded.

Fortunately, there's an alternative. You can order a DVD with SP1. U.S. and Canada can order here. (Other regions: Asia, Europe and Africa, South America). Note that these links only seemed to work in Internet Explorer when I tried.

The disc is free, but there is a shipping charge. Mine was $5.99 and the disc arrived in less than a week.

Regardless of whether you get it via Windows Update or via a DVD, the net result should be the same.

Preventing Windows 7 SP1 from Installing

If you do see SP1 in Windows Update, and you elect to hold off on it for a while (which I'll discuss below), right-click on the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 line in Windows Update and click on Hide:

Windows 7 SP1 in Windows Update showing Hide option

You'll no longer see it in the offered updates. You can either install SP1 via a DVD, thus avoiding the lengthy download, or when you're ready to take the update later, unhide it by clicking the Restore hidden updates on the Windows Update main page.

Windows Update restore hidden updates link

Installing SP1

Installing SP1 via Windows Update should be no different than any other Windows Update, other than perhaps the length of time that it might take to download.

Honestly, if you have more than one machine, I'd be seriously tempted to get the DVD. Each machine you install it on will need its own download. In my case, I have six machines that run Windows 7, so that would mean six potentially large downloads. The DVD just makes a lot more sense.

To install from the DVD, insert it, and if Autoplay doesn't ask you what to do, open Windows Explorer on the DVD drive and double-click on Setup.

Windows 7 SP1 Installation

Follow the instructions and shortly you'll see that your installation is underway:

Windows Service Pack 1 Installation Underway

As you can see, the installation might take some time and the machine may reboot several times.

When to Install SP1

Windows 7 Service Pack 1

One piece of advice that I heard that I agree with is simple: if you've just received a new machine and it does not yet have SP1 on it, install that first. You'll get a number of updates all at once and avoid a potentially more piecemeal approach if Windows Update tries to give you the updates individually.

Similarly, if ,you're reinstalling Windows 7 for any reason, install SP1 right away as well.

For everyone else, I'd probably wait a few months, say June, 2011 or so. This is just to let others experience any problems that might be part of the update, and to either allow SP1 to be fixed as needed or, for support sites and the Microsoft Knowledgebase to accumulate any workarounds to problems that people have experienced.

I'm not saying that a problem is likely, not at all. But the reality is that a few people will experience issues with the update, and it'd be best to let others blaze the trail, just in case you happen to be one of those few.

As with prior service packs, machines which have malware are the most likely to experience issues, so make sure your machine is as clean as you can get it.

For the vast majority of people, the SP1 update should not be an issue. I do recommend that you install it eventually.

You just don't need to be in a rush.

(This is an update to an article originally published July 14, 2010.)

Article C4371 - March 10, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

19 Comments
Mark Jacobs
July 15, 2010 3:20 PM

As more and more patches get installed computers tend to get sluggish. Does installing a service pack improve the speed or does it simply compile all the changes in one package mostly for the benefit of new installations?

To answer your question: the service pack is just a roll-up of existing patches with some additional patches.

A comment: patches, in my opinion, are not a major source of sluggishness. Patches, by definition are typically just small changes to fix specific problems. Sluggishness I've noted comes from two sources: installing (and running) more and more software over time, and malware.
Leo
16-Jul-2010

Vikas Ajit Medhekar
July 18, 2010 7:48 AM

It will not good to neglect installing the latest service packs, when we think, major appearance changes are not involved. Because, installing latest service packs is a best option for getting maximum security.

Carl R. Goodwin
July 20, 2010 8:24 AM

One of the BIG fixes that I can't wait for in SP1 is the fix to the menu bar in Windows Media Player, and bringing all the menu choices to the full view version not just the aero view.

PeteLong
March 3, 2011 6:37 AM

Heres some more information that might be helpful,

Windows 7 - Cannot Install Service Pack 1

Pete
PeteNetLive

Peter Simmering
March 15, 2011 8:38 AM

Two of my colleagues have experienced serious problems with installing SP1; a screen saying it was busy with update 2 of 5 took forever (from 3 PM till 2.30 AM); cancelling the process crashed the system. They had to reinstall or restore from backup.

Reid
March 15, 2011 8:51 AM

For what it's worth, I've installed SP1 to two 64-bit and one 32-bit Win7 PCs and all is well here. Each PC is loaded with other software. No problems thus far.

PeterM42
March 15, 2011 10:09 AM

Do as Leo says - WAIT!! and read this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/14/microsoft_windows_7_sp1_fatal_error/

Perhaps more importantly that underscores the need to back up first, if you do feel the desire to try SP1.
Leo
16-Mar-2011

Paul McKee
March 15, 2011 10:42 AM

If you have more than one computer to update, it looks like SP1 is available as a single fixed-size download from the Microsoft Download Center:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=c3202ce6-4056-4059-8a1b-3a9b77cdfdda

You can get either an ISO of the DVD Leo mentioned or an executable updater for 32- or 64-bit systems.

Richard
March 15, 2011 12:49 PM

Leo,
I appreciate your advice on this topic.

Possibly your readers would be interested in my experience with SP1. I installed SP1 on my Win 7 Pro 64-bit machine last week, but subsequently reverted back to a pre-installation image that fortunately, I had on hand. Reason: I had previously disabled all traces of Win 7 Libraries via the registry. I absolutely hated this feature in Win7. And please, spare me the usual rhetoric on how useful Libraries can be, etc., etc., if I only understood them. I do understand them, and they are not for me! The fact that MS has made it so difficult for well organized single users like myself to opt out of this functionality, is just infuriating! But I digress...

The deal was that SP1 did not like the fact that I had disabled those features, and subsequently broke certain functions within the OS. For example, I could no longer create a new folder and subsequently rename it, without an error messages saying that I couldn't do this, (something like"The file or folder does not exist"). I'm relatively certain that I would have encountered additional anomalies down the road. But I didn't stick around to find out. I immediately reverted back to a pre-SP1 state. I suppose I'll have to re-visit this scene again at some point. But hopefully someone will introduce a viable workaround by then. Hey Microsoft, here's an idea. In SP2 offer users an opt-out from that annoying Libraries feature.

Regards,
Richard

I have a hard time understanding how libraries are annoying. I don't use them, so I don't pay any attention to them. Heck, I didn't even realize that they were something different until a week or two ago. In my opinion hacking around in the registry to disable them is asking for trouble.
Leo
16-Mar-2011

James Hillier
March 15, 2011 12:54 PM

If everyone followed the wait and see advice, then there would be nobody else left to test SP1 out. :)

Except for people like me, who try it for you, and the (apparently many) people who can't resist. Smile
Leo
16-Mar-2011

Frank Golden
March 15, 2011 2:15 PM

I'm an early adopter.
I installed a leaked version of the SP on Jan 14 a full month before the official release.
A link to the files was provided by Mike at Win 7 Forums and the thread generate a lot of discussion and speculation regarding the validity of the files.
Because I trust Mike and his forum I installed the files with no issues.

Trust only goes so far so hedged my bets by making an image backup before applying the SP.

When the files became officially available in Feb. a MD5 check showed the leaked files to be identical to the official files.

Of possible interest is the fact, based on the build number, that the SP was complete and digitally signed by MS way back in November 2010.

I even slipstreamed the leaked SP to my Home Premium DVD using info provided by Mike in his initial post.

Lonny Johnson
March 15, 2011 3:43 PM

A friend of mine in the UK says he had 8 customers bring him computers with Fatal Error C34 that were completely unusable after attempting to install SP1. Some media in the UK were reporting a failure rate of 80% on roll out. What's your take?

Backup first. Or wait.
Leo
16-Mar-2011

Jon Frank
March 15, 2011 4:55 PM

Hi Leo:

I installed SP1 on a Win 7 64 bit machine. Took a half hour just to download the 800 MB (their server, not my connection), then another hour to install. At times the install progress bar appeared to stop, although I could still see the disk churning away. The install ran through several reboots and at one point after a reboot the bios told me that something in the system had changed and asked me if I wanted to revert to the original bios setting, which I did. After the last reboot the install changed 111,000 files according to the screen message.

It did all work out fine and I made a new rescue disk and image backup right afterwards. I've done numerous sytem upgrades going back to Windows 3.1, but never like this. I think perhaps the SP should have been broken in to smaller pieces.

Phillip
March 16, 2011 6:35 AM

Another option for users of multiple machines is the full SP1 download - could be useful if you do not want to wait for the DVD.

John V
March 16, 2011 10:17 AM

Hi Leo,

I received the update notice here in Ireland strangly 2 days before the rest of you guys across the pond. Feeling reckless ( having backed up previous day) I decided to go for it. Download took 30 mins (20meg speed) and about 30 to install. During installation, a blue screen happen with a message that it was a "mini-dump" and was reporting to Microsoft, then it restarted in Safe Mode and I let it restart "normal" and the machine then continued to complete the normal installation (including the "don't turn off your computer until windows has configured the changes"). Finally it restarted again and I logged on, with my heart in my mouth! It worked! Now a month later, it is still working! I am grateful but a "blue screen" and "windows has not shut down properly" seems to me a strange way for an update to work ! My thoughts are the same as Joe Frank's above. SP in smaller pieces would be better for the users.

LARRY HULETT
March 17, 2011 3:57 PM

i also downloaded sp1 when it came out on two differant laptops. several things started happing including blue screen several times. also there was a problem with both of my laptops not being able to access my external hardrive. thank goodness i had just done a backup on both. restored back to earlier date and have had no problems. have hidden the update. thanks.

Good on you for backing up. It's the closest thing to a silver bullet for saving you from just about any computer problem you might have - particularly issues with major updates.
Leo
18-Mar-2011

Eddie
March 20, 2011 7:56 PM

Just curious about Microsoft's policy about the SP1 upgrade disk. Since it's provided free (except for shipping cost), is it legal or not to make copies of the disk, or to lend the disk to a friend to use? Seems like that would be a big time-saver as opposed to the download route.

You know - I don't know. I can't see why they'r prosecute anyone for what you describe, though. I'd certain feel free loaning the disk. Microsoft might object to making copies, since that's what a malicious person could do - and then insert some malware into their copies.
Leo
21-Mar-2011

Mary
March 20, 2011 10:01 PM

SP1 and IE9 were released within a few weeks of each other. For those of us who decided to wait before installing either, does it make any difference to system stability which one is installed first?

I don't believe so.
Leo
22-Mar-2011

Justin
March 27, 2011 6:37 AM

When I go to windows update, it says "Windows is up to date".. BUT, I haven't downloaded Windows 7 SP1 and IE9 yet since they are not shown under windows update?! I think I can go manually download them, but what is preventing SP1 & IE9 not shown in windows update? Thanks

They're considered "optional" updates at this time, so they don't affect the "up to date" status.
Leo
27-Mar-2011

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