It’s February 22, and that means that the common man is getting what those spoiled MSDN and TechNet people got last week – the ability to download the final version of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, either as a download from the Microsoft download site or from Windows Update.
We’ve said over and over (and over) again that Windows 7 SP1 doesn’t bring nearly as much to the table as some past Windows service packs, and that statement is just as true today as it was six days ago: there is almost exactly nothing to see here unless you’re running Windows Server 2008 R2 (my money says most of you aren’t), and even then it only helps you if you’re deeply invested in a Microsoft backend for your thin clients.
Instead of just repeating myself again, I wanted to give you guys a little more practical information about SP1 – knowing that it would be a pretty low-profile release, I skipped the beta and release candidate entirely, so this last week has been my first experience using the new service pack. In that time, I’ve done both clean installs and upgrade installs on 32-bit and 64-bit PCs of many different vintages and speeds, so I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on the basics.
First, install time. To install the update to your existing Windows 7 PC will generally take no less than half an hour (not including download time), and probably more on older hardware (think single-core processors) and netbooks. It doesn’t take forever, but you’ll definitely want to have a book or something handy.
A clean install from a DVD will take almost exactly the same amount of time as a clean RTM install will – on my midrange Dell Latitude E6410, the non-interactive portion of a Windows 7 SP1 install took 16 minutes and 11 seconds to run, and on the same laptop the RTM install took 15 minutes and 58 seconds. That gap is narrow enough to be statistically insignificant, and you probably wouldn’t notice unless you had your stopwatch out (as I did for this particular test).
Likewise, in daily use you won’t notice any major performance improvements, especially if you compare, say, Vista RTM to Vista SP1. I didn’t break out the stopwatch for this test, but I can assure you that the perceived speed is the same. My apps, files, and folders opened no more quickly or slowly than they did before, and none of my programs or drivers needed any updates to work properly.
So, as we’ve said and now demonstrated, Windows 7 SP1 will get you a more secure (and possibly more stable, depending on your particular circumstances) PC, but it doesn’t change things up under the hood nearly as much as did Windows XP SP2 or Vista SP1, or even XP SP3 and Vista SP2 – there’s just not much to talk about here, which is a testament to the good work Microsoft did with the RTM release.
This is the same Windows 7 I’ve been using and enjoying for the better part of two years now, and I’m pretty okay with that.