Windows 7 SP1 painless update

Earlier this week, Microsoft publicly released the first service pack for Windows 7. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that such a software release didn’t capture much attention outside the tech community, unlike the huge attention Microsoft used to get with its software releases and announcements.

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I updated all the computers in our household yesterday, all of which run Windows 7, including the home office machines. We have a mix of PC types: desktop systems, laptops and netbooks. It still amazes me that with such a variety of computers from different manufacturers – we have Dell, Acer and Asus machines – each with its distinct configuration, used for different purposes so with different programs installed, uniformly updating the operating system actually works as seamlessly as it does.

I recall some previous such experiences where things went really badly during an OS update or upgrade from an installed previous version – remember Windows Me? – where often the culprit for a failed update was a device driver of one type or another, typically video, audio or network.

But all went very smoothly yesterday with not a single error on any machine. As we have a handful of machines as opposed to an enterprise-type set up with many PCs, I let Windows Update do the update to SP1 on each machine.

As always with doing any significant changes to a computer, I made sure that all files – documents, images, movies, music, etc – were backed up. As we run a network with all machines connected to it and with auto-backups to our server, that’s a simple and quick process.

In fact, the preparations I followed for the update on each computer were quite simple:

  1. Backup all files to your server or external storage device (eg, USB-connected hard drive).
  2. Check device drivers (Control Panel -> Device Manager) and update if necessary.
  3. Double-check that there are no pending critical or important updates offered by Windows Update other than the SP1 update: if there are, install those first, rebooting your PC as required (actually, I’d reboot it anyway before doing the SP1 update if you have installed or updated anything if Windows doesn’t offer to reboot it).
  4. Run a virus and malware scan on your machine.
  5. Reboot the computer and temporarily disable the anti-virus software (which Microsoft recommends), choosing the option to have it re-enable at next boot-up.
  6. Go to Windows Update in your Control Panel and select the SP1 update.

(See also Microsoft’s recommendations for preparing your PC before updating it to SP1.)

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About 30 minutes later, you should have an updated PC.

What’s new in Sp1? Quite a bit actually but mostly behind the scenes. I haven’t noticed anything different other than, on one computer, the update fixed a Bluetooth device driver that always showed up in Device Manager as not working. And as with all software updates like this, the computers seem to be faster. Maybe that’s just an "expectation perception."

In any event, Windows 7 SP1 is an update you definitely should do if you run Windows 7. And simple preparations like I did plus Windows Update makes it all so easy – and painless.