What are the five best things about Vista SP2?
Sorry. I couldn't resist.
That joke out of the way, have you wondered why there's been almost no reviews of Vista SP2? Well, one reason for that is that Microsoft would really just as soon have you forget about Vista and think about Windows 7 instead. The other is that there's really not that much new in SP2.
What Vista SP2 really is, when you get right down to it, is all the many fixes and patches that have been made to Vista since SP2. If you've been keeping your Vista system up to date, you won't need to update it.
That said, I tried Vista SP2 on two PCs to see what really was new and improved. The first PC was my tried and true Vista test box, a HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n PC with 2.8 GHz Pentium D 920 dual-core processor, and 2 GB of DDR (double-data-rate) RAM and a 300-GB SATA hard drive. In addition, I ran it on my Gateway DX4710 desktop PC with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor, 6GBs of RAM, and a 640GB hard drive, which I usually use for Windows 7.
What I found was that Vista is, still, Vista. XP SP3 is still faster. Windows 7, even as a release candidate, is better. With that out of the way, here are the five reasons you might consider moving to Vista SP2.
1) Most of us don't have Blu-Ray write drives, but if you do, Vista SP2 supports it. I used a OWC Mercury Pro Blu-ray drive. This drive is usually used by Mac video-heads, but it worked fine with Vista SP2 as well.
2) Vista SP2 also now supports Bluetooth v2.1 and has more stable Wi-Fi protocol. In particular, this shows up, I found, that Vista is much better are resuming a Wi-Fi connection after going to sleep. If you're having Wi-Fi trouble with your Vista laptop, this is reason enough to give SP2 a try.
3) Service Pack Clean-up Tool. This is a new program that you can use to automatically delete old versions of system files. Since I've known any number of Window system glitches over the year to be traced back to out-of-date DLLs (Dynamic Link Library) and the like, I think this addition makes a lot of sense.
But, and this is a big but, I've also known Windows programs to fail because they needed some of those old system files to work correctly. So, before cleaning up your old files, make sure you have a complete back-up of your system. After all, who cares how up-to-date your system is if your favorite program is dead in the water?
4) Extended FAT File System. This is a proprietary file system. It's designed for Flash memory, and it's most noteworthy features are that it can handle extremely large files and, compared to Windows' usual NTFS, it takes up very little disk overhead. If you're using SSD (solid state drives), it may be worth a try.
5) More efficient system resource use. In general, I found that Windows SP2 used less system resources and seemed to run a tad faster. That's as fine as far as it goes, but Vista is still a resource hog when compared to either Windows 7 or XP and it's also still slower than both. If, for some reason, you really want to use Vista instead of Microsoft's other Windows offerings, you'll appreciate these improvements.
So, in short, Vista SP2 is not a great improvement over what has come before. Still, if you're locked into Vista, you'll find upgrading to SP2 worth your time. I just wouldn't be in any hurry to do it though; SP2's improvements aren't that great.
This story, "What Are the Five Best Things About Vista SP2?" was originally published by Computerworld.