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Windows 7 SP1 rollout concerns: What you need to know

Now that Service Pack 1 has been released, many enterprise admins are ready to give Windows 7 a try. See what you need to know before making the move.

When it comes to Microsoft operating systems, administrators are traditionally advised to wait until the first service pack comes along before upgrading from one release of Windows to another. As such, many companies have continued running Windows XP, skipping Vista and waiting for Windows 7 to mature even more.

That moment has arrived -- in late February; Microsoft released the first service packs for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. And nearly three months later, the few problems that popped up in the wild have been worked out, and it's finally time to consider an upgrade path. This quick guide will break down rollout concerns and important considerations for Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

Inside Windows 7 SP1
Generally, a Microsoft service pack is a collection of hotfixes rolled up into a convenient, installable package. If enterprise systems have been receiving regular updates from Microsoft, Windows 7 SP1 doesn't offer anything organizations don't already have. To review, Windows Server 2008 R2 provides improved RemoteFX support and some other minor feature enhancements, but that's limited to the server installation. Even though the distribution file is the same, the desktop client gets no additional new features -- just previously-released updates and hotfixes.

A recent Patch Tuesday release featured a pair of updates that fixes the most glaring problems with an SP1 installation on both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2:

  • KB 2534366 -- This fixes a registry error corresponding to the number of language packs installed on a system.
  • KB 2533552 -- This repairs a bug where Windows mistakenly tries to perform operations in a specific processor queue more than once, with the second operation failing since it has already been completed.

Note that the language-pack problem is much more common in production rollouts. Regardless, even if you're not considering a service pack installation today, it's important to deploy these updates immediately in order to pave the way for a future rollout.

Remote Server Administration Tools and SP1
SP1 doesn't coexist well, at least when it comes to installation with the Remote Server Administration Toolkit (RSAT), which shares all of the administrative tools with a Windows desktop environment. If RSAT is already installed, the tools will update themselves to the correct version after the service pack installation.

If RSAT is installed on a new Windows 7 SP1 machine, however, admins should download the updated version. This version will also work on pre-SP1 machines so that IT can just replace the binary in the tool library and call it a day.

Lastly, if an enterprise has a large fleet of desktops and some homegrown applications that haven't been fully tested yet, Microsoft's Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit can be used to instruct block SP1 from being delivered through Windows Update. Once installed, the toolkit will remain active until February 22, 2012. Note that this tool only blocks a service pack installation through Windows Update -- it doesn't work when users or administrators manually download the service pack or use a CD or DVD to install SP1.

Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. His books include RADIUS, Hardening Windows and, most recently, Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.

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