Vista SP1 'prerequisites' to gear up systems for auto updates

In a world, to sound like Don LaFontaine for a moment, where nothing could possibly go wrong, when something small does go wrong, it's huge. Today, Microsoft is hoping a small patch will make a huge difference to Vista's image.

The problems Microsoft had in simply rolling out early versions of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to its initial testers served to vindicate its worst critics' complaints: It didn't seem the company could even correct Vista correctly. The rollout problems were even the topic of at least one of Apple's recent anti-Vista Mac ads. But many of those problems were apparently caused by a minor issue with automatic updates; and now, Microsoft says it's publishing a patch for pre-SP1 Vista that will enable customers with Automatic Updates to apply the SP1 series of patches without fear of entering an endless reboot cycle.

The reboot cycle bug forced Microsoft to suspend its rollout of Vista SP1 via Automatic Updates, even though SP1 was being distributed to customers.

"Over the past few weeks, we've learned a lot more about the problem and have taken steps to address the issue," read a post to the Microsoft Update team blog this afternoon. "Today, we'd like to let you know that we are resuming automatic distribution of the SSU tomorrow [Tuesday, April 8] and provide more clarity on what happened."

It's the kind of problem that users of all operating systems, frankly, have seen in one form or another before: Something in the queue of "things to do" for the update process triggered a reboot. And since that reboot wasn't really called for, nothing in the same queue later on would "remember" to remove that reboot entry after it had already done its job once.

Now, Microsoft has posted a pair of "prerequisite" updates, one for Vista Enterprise and Vista Ultimate, and the second for all other versions. While they're available for manual download, they will also be distributed as part of a normal automatic update cycle, prior to the official posting of Vista SP1 through the Automatic system.

These prerequisites should not be necessary, Microsoft claims, for individuals who plan to install the complete SP1 update package manually. What these prerequisites will not address are concerns with incompatible drivers, which Microsoft is working to resolve with their components' manufacturers on a case-by-case basis.

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