How-To Geek

What Can You Really Expect from Windows Vista Service Pack 1?

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
(Links may not work, downloads have not been recently tested for safety)

You’ve already heard the news: Microsoft released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 yesterday. So what does that mean for me, and how do I install it again?

What are the Major Changes?

Most of the changes in SP1 are under the hood, but you should notice these changes right away:

  • File Copying speed is improved.
  • There aren’t as many UAC prompts when making changes to folders that require admin rights.
  • Search button is removed from the start menu.
  • A “non-genuine” version of Windows is no longer completely deactivated, but only displays an annoying message.

There are a great number of fixes and improvements in Service Pack 1, and I absolutely recommend that you upgrade to it. For more details on exactly what has been changed, see this Microsoft article.

Installing Vista Service Pack 1

Vista SP1 will be distributed through Windows Update as well as offered as a download, but it won’t be immediately available for everybody.

To see if it’s available for you to install, open up Windows update and click on the View available updates.


You should see Windows Vista SP1 in the list, and you can just click the Install button to continue.


First the installation process will be downloaded.


You’ll be prompted to start the installation, and then to accept the agreement.


The install process takes a while… it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the speed of your computer, and it will reboot your system a number of times during the process.


You can also download the Vista SP as an ISO file from the Microsoft Download center:

  • Windows Vista Service Pack 1 x86
  • Windows Vista Service Pack 1 x64

Using automatic updates will result in a much smaller download, and it’s much easier to deal with.

Why Isn’t Vista Service Pack 1 Available for Me?

If you don’t see Service Pack 1 in the list, it could be for a number of reasons, but most likely is one of these:

  • You have not installed all the prior updates. You need to make sure that you’ve installed all available updates to this point, and then you should see SP1 in the list. (This includes optional updates for Vista Ultimate users)
  • You are using language not supported yet in SP1.
  • You are using hardware that isn’t supported at this point.
  • You used vLite for a custom build.
  • You have the beta SP1 installed. You need to remove the beta before you can install the final version.

For more information on the details of why it’s not available, see this post from the excellent Ed Bott.

Performance Might Be Slower for a Few Days

The Vista installation will purge your SuperFetch cache, which means for the next day (and especially the next few reboots) Vista will be rebuilding the prefetch data, which will make things a little slower for a while.

Start Menu Search Button is Gone

As a result of a lawsuit with Google, Microsoft decided to just completely remove the Search button from the start menu, which seems like an overreaction.


You can still open the advanced search dialog by clicking on the start menu and using the F3 key, or using the F3 key while using any explorer window.

Your Custom Themes Will Break

If you’ve used one of the theme patching utilities such as VistaGlazz to patch your uxtheme file, the Vista SP1 update will overwrite the patched file. You’ll have best luck switching back to the Vista default theme before installing SP1.

You can still manually patch your theme with the uxtheme patch from here. I won’t explain in great detail, but the manual method involves these steps:

  • Take ownership of uxtheme.dll, shsvcs.dll and themeui.dll in the System32 directory and then rename them to something else.
  • Copy the patched files from the download into the System32 directory and reboot.

Note: This should not affect Stardock Windowblinds, as verified by Spencer from Stardock.

Custom Resource Hacks will Break

If you’ve manually patched different files such as the boot logo, you’ll probably find that it’s been reverted, and as of now there’s no workaround that I’m aware of.

Stardock LogonStudio Might Not Work

I had a few problems with Stardock’s LogonStudio application, which lets you change the logon screen. Note that I’m not certain that you’ll encounter the same problem, these instructions are just in case.

A workaround that seemed to fix the issue for me was to set the application to run in Compatibility mode by right-clicking on the shortcut and choosing properties, and then Windows Server 2003 in the Compatibility tab.


After changing this and running it the first time, I was able to take off the compatibility mode and the application worked just fine. Note that you might not even run into this problem. [update: According to Lex in the comments, simply reinstalling LogonStudio fixes the problem.]

Hacked Versions of Vista De-Activated

If you are running a hacked version of Vista, you’ll most likely find that they are no longer activated, and you’ll get the black screen that says you are running an invalid copy.

Memory Reported is Physical Memory, Not Memory in Use

If you go into the System section of Control panel, you’ll see the amount of memory in the system, but this will show the amount of physical memory installed, not the amount that Windows actually sees.


If you have more than 3.2 GB of RAM and you are running 32-bit Vista, it’s still not going to use that additional memory, but it will report 4GB here.


I’ve been running Vista SP1 for a few weeks now and haven’t had any problems at all. My system has been running perfectly, and the reduced number of UAC prompts is great for a system tweaker. I highly recommend updating whenever you have some free time.

I’ll be interested to hear your experiences in the comments, and if you need help we’ve got skilled geeks on our forum, or you can check out Microsoft’s SP1 support page.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/19/08

Comments (35)

  1. tim

    The update wasn’t available for me because I hadn’t installed the optional Bitlocker and dreamscene components. I didn’t realize the optional updates were necessary until I read this.

    Now service pack 1 is installing so thanks! will report back any findings

  2. The Geek


    I’m not certain the optional updates are actually “required”, but on my system SP1 didn’t show up until I installed everything and click “check for updates” again. Glad to hear it helped you!

  3. Lex Y. Li

    When I tried Vista SP1 RC, I found the same issue of Logon Studio Vista. A reinstall of Logon Studio Vista solves the issue. I did not try SP1 Final yet, so do not if a reinstall can fix.

  4. Barron

    No LogonStudio problems here (32-bit Vista Business). Thanks for the nice write-up of the changes. I’m thinking of re-enabling the UAC to see how it has changed…

  5. John

    I have a hacked version of ultimate 64, and when I installed SP1, it told me that my trail would expire in 14 days. I used VistaActivator again, and rebooted, and I am still genuine. Activator is much easier than the paradox version because it does everything for you. The Paradox version no longer works. Also, all though I haven’t tried it, I have heard the date locker fix doesn’t work anymore.

  6. Chris

    I hav Vista Home Basic, I installed sp1 2day and still have the search bar on my start menu (i mean)

  7. Wil

    I installed then unisstalled last night because of the whole Vista Glazz thing. The folks from vista glazz suggest that you unpatch your system prior to installing SP1. I will most likely re-install and do the manual patch. Man I hope some one finds a way to fix the start menu search…I used it all the time to seach through all programs.

  8. ph15h

    If I install SP1, but then decide I want to reinitialize my computer, can I redownload it? I know it sounds stupid, but HP is pissing me off with its conflicting drivers with the WIndows Update Drivers and I want to test SP1 before I start over.

  9. Toby Adams

    im a real fanboy of updates to all things, but this one is particularly major. maybe i have been at work too long, but my sound seems to have improved, hd sound drivers kicked in maybe?

    AWESOME article as always. Im a teacher and continue to use your pages in lessons when relating to vendor stuff. this article will be all over my year 9’s tomorrow morning.

    thanks howtogeek!

  10. jd2066

    @The Geek: Good article though I have a couple small corrections:
    1. From what I’ve read Google just complained that the Windows Vista search was anti-competitive and there was no lawsuit filed.
    Of which I would agree as there were a bunch of entry points in Vista that only opened the default Vista search and couldn’t be changed to another desktop search product.
    In SP1 Microsoft added a search handler that could be changed to any program the user wants with the Default Programs in Control Panel.
    The search menu item on the Start Menu and the folder right click search item could have easily been changed to use the new search handler added to launch the search program.
    I have no idea why Microsoft decided to just remove those items.
    2. The “but only displays an annoying message.” is not entirely true.
    The activation also waits 15 seconds before letting someone use the computer and resets the wallpaper to solid black every hour.
    Still a lot less of a problem for people who accidentally get their systems deactivated like a few months ago when Microsoft’s activation servers went down.

  11. The Geek

    You are technically correct, they actually filed an anti-trust complaint with the Justice department… although it’s very similar to a lawsuit for anti-trust matters:

  12. jd2066

    Ok. I did not know that Google actually filed a complaint with the Justice department.
    Thanks for the link.

  13. Spencer

    There shouldn’t be any problems with WindowBlinds or LogonStudio Vista, and SP1.


  14. The Geek


    Thanks for the followup on that. I did have some issues with LogonStudio, but they were easily solved. Glad to know somebody from Stardock is reading the site =)

  15. Ghidorah68

    Working great here for me. My PC seems much faster.

  16. Jon

    I still have a start menu search. Is this because I am in the UK?

  17. The Geek


    The start menu search box wasn’t removed, the search button underneath Computer on the right-hand side of the start menu was removed. I’m not sure about UK… it’s possible they didn’t remove it from that edition.

  18. tim

    Reporting back… the download took forever, but it finally installed and everything seems to be working well.

  19. Spencer

    @The Geek

    No problem. Always feel free to let me know of any problems or suggestions. :)

  20. steve

    I have a hp dv9235nr laptop. os is vista home is the os that came with the laptop. no sp1 beta was installed. language is english. downloaded and installed all the microsoft updates and all that i needed from hp. all drivers that vista sp1 has a problem with have been upgraded. when i go to windows update the sp1 update is still not listed. any ideas??

  21. Ju1c3

    took forever, but overall its good stuff. these are the things i noticed:

    1. my graphics driver wouldnt allow me to hibernate anymore. had to go through the whole jazz about getting a non hp driver to install on my hp laptop. got a driver, and its cool now.
    2. no more prompts in mstsc.
    3. comes out/goes into hibernation faster
    4. winamp goes crazy at times now
    5. firefox freezes a lot

    i prolly have more, but i cant think of them now.

  22. Santo


    check this..

    If you have any one of the drivers that are not updated as listed in the above MS article you will not have SP1. Pls wait and watch.

  23. steve


    Thanks for the info. All problem drivers listed in the MS article have been updated on my computer. Still no sp1 listed in windows update.With all the problems caused by sp1 update listed in many forums, maybe it not being listed is a blessing!! steve

  24. steve


    found this post. tried it and vista sp1 was now listed. installed and working. no problems so far.

    I think I may have fixed the Conexant High Definition Audio driver issue . I got the driver from windows update and i still could not see SP1. I then just read beanboy89’s post and I decided to see what was going on in my C:\WINDOWS\System32\drivers folder. I noticed that there were 2 Conexant files (CHDART.sys and CHDRT32.sys). CHDART.sys seems to be the same file mentioned in the causes for SP1 not showing up, but CHDRT32.sys is not mentioned anywhere. So, I looked at the versions of both files and i found something interesting. CHDART.sys had a version (same version from HP website) and CHDRT32.sys had a version of (version form windows update). So i backed up these 2 files and deleted CHDART.sys from the drivers folder. I then renamed CHDRT32.sys to CHDART.sys and copied the backed up CHDRT32.sys here. After that, I went to windows update and saw SP1 on my 2nd try . It seems to me that the problem is actually with the way windows update checks the driver files for SP1. By the way, my notebook is an HP Pavilion dv9230us. Also when I installed the conexant driver from windows update, I received an error code of 800705B4 which was unknown to me. I then clicked Try Again and it gave me another error that said that this driver was already installed. I checked device manager and it showed the new driver version under Conexant High Definition Audio and i checked for updates in windows update and I didn’t receive this driver again in my choices so I’m guessing it installed completely.
    I also noticed that in device manager CHDART.sys isn’t used in Conexant High Definition Audio, but CHDRT32.sys is. I think the problem is that Windows Update checks CHDART.sys instead of CHDRT32.sys which is what the real driver is.

  25. Daniel

    After installing SP1 the search doesn’t work anymore,indexing is just fine,need your help please because i was on the phone with microsoft tech for about 3 hours and he couldn’t do nothing.The second technician remotley access my laptop and sayed that the sp1 damaged somehow the search in the registry i’m still waiting to hear from him.The problems are: Start menu search box-when i try to type anything it says “search failed to initialize” or if i go to search everywhere it opens a window but when i type something nothing happend.I’m hopeing that you and your team can help me with that issue.Thanks in advance,please if its not too much troubles for you write to my e-mail this way i can leave you my phone number if you have any cuestions.

  26. shaun

    Helped us with vista x64 machines with problems relating to sd card reader and flash disk driver issues. Very glad we using it an all machines no probs.

  27. Dave

    I have a new Acer 5920 laptop with 3 gig of Ram. One of the mandatory windows update files that downloaded and installed caused my laptop to freeze temporarily for about 10 seconds on startup then it would take off and finish booting up. After getting SP1 startup was and still is fast as can be. I’ve had no problems with the performance of either my laptop or desktop pc’s since installing SP1. Everything works great!

  28. Annonymous

    Test shown that some cracks has bypass SP1
    The PC is cracked before update to SP1,
    After update to SP1,it is still activated!

  29. Decimo

    Hey everybody.
    I have vista ultimate, not cracked, original and i guess besides less permision pop-ups nothing really changed. Search bar still there, 1 prob though, before sp1 my router in network was visible and now he is not.

  30. Kevin

    I have a hacked version of vista ultimate…When i try to download the Zune software, it says I must update to finish the download..What will happen if I update??

  31. Spacegold

    I have SP1, and I also have a search button in the start menu.

  32. Aly

    I have HP Pavilion 6000 with vista home edition os. When I updated to SP1, My sound card driver was not recognized, it is conexant high definition driver v 4.15. so I went to device manager, checked the driver properties and updated the driver and it automatically installed the newer driver v4.33. Solved my problem.

  33. Phil

    i have this but i installed it like 3 times bc i didnt take the disk out but it says my computer is unvalidated help me

  34. idfc

    Vista SP2 is already out.

    Btw The Geek, u hav a tablet pc?

  35. Brad

    I just installed the service pack and it DRAMATICALLY slowed my computer down!!!! especially with online gaming..theres a HUGE lag now … I am goin to try to uninstall it…I dont see what it improves…it just slowed everything down on my pc

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