26
Feb 11

Before You Install Windows 7 Service Pack 1

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Microsoft is now offering Windows 7 users “Service Pack 1,” a bundle of security updates and minor feature improvements. If you’re thinking about installing this update, read on for a few caveats and tips that may change your mind.

First off, this service pack is mainly a bundle of previously-released security updates. If you are staying up-to-date in security patches, you are not going to gain much by installing this service pack, which contains a few uber-geeky feature improvements that are mostly a bonus for users of Windows Server 2008 R2 — not Windows 7.

My take? I’d say that the main benefit of this service pack for Windows 7 users would be if you were considering re-installing the operating system for some reason. In that case, Service Pack 1 would streamline the process quite a bit. Otherwise, I would urge Windows 7 users who are up-to-date to ignore this offering, at least for now.

If you decide to go forward with this Service Pack, there are several important considerations, particularly if your system has certain hotfixes installed (hotfixes are small patches designed to address specific — not necessarily security — issues). For example, Microsoft says that systems with hotfixes (2406705, 979350 or 983534) will block the installation of the service pack and may experience problems as a result.

Microsoft doesn’t exactly make it easy for you to figure out which hotfixes you have installed. If you mosey over to the Windows Update panel in Windows 7 (click start and type “Windows Update”), you should be able to get a list of installed updates by clicking the “View Update History” link in the left side menu. But paging through these updates and looking for obscure knowledgebase (KB) numbers is mind-numbing. There is probably an easier way to do this, but I wanted a text file listing all the updates installed, so I clicked Start, then in the text box typed “Cmd”. In the resulting command prompt, I typed “wmic qfe list full > patchlist.txt” without the quotes, and it quickly spat out a list of installed updates into a text file called “patchlist.txt”. A quick keyword search through this file (Ctrl-F) will tell you whether any of those three hotfixes is installed.

If you do have any of the above hotfixes installed, you will need to follow Microsoft’s instructions here if you want to install this service pack with a minimum of potential complications. Also, do not ignore Microsoft’s admonition to backup your system and your data before proceeding with this Service Pack. Better safe than sorry.

Microsoft’s own Technet forum post on this service pack includes a number of cautionary tales from users who have installed this update. Also, the SANS Internet Storm Center is keeping a running tally of issues and conflicts that users have reported. For example, some users are reporting that certain types of third party firewalls and disk encryption software may be affected by the service pack. If you decide to proceed with this service pack, please consider having a look at these two resources.

As always, please drop a note in the comments area below if you have any personal experience with this service pack that you’d like to share.

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82 comments

  1. Installed it on the first day on a pc and netbook, other than placing the unremovable libraries folder on the desktop, no problems.

  2. Hi Brian, thanks for the info – I’m going to hold off per your advice.

    While I prefer your method for getting the list of installed updates , just as an FYI i noticed that via the control panel interface you can search through the installed updates BUT it doesn’t work unless you precede each number with ‘kb’. So, 2406705 yields nothing regardless of whether or not you have it installed but searching on ‘kb2406705′ should bring it up if its there. I don’t have it installed but verified it works b/c the result list gets refined upon on each keypress.

    One other thing — on my machine at least, I noticed I had one hotfix listed among my ‘Installed Programs’ that was not in the list of installed updates nor was it in the file generated by the wmic command. The point is: it’s probably a good idea to check both the wmic output file and your list of installed programs (aka the list “Programs and Features” in windows 7 parlance). Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the tip. You mentioned that SP1 is best for people just installing Win7 or reinstalling it clean. I’ll add to this that I find it useful to periodically do a reformat/reinstall of Windows to rid oneself of all the junk that Windows and applications accumulate. That proprietary is more opaque to the user makes it more difficult to prevent this problem on my Windows box compared to Linux/BSD systems. So, I just backup the data and reinstall every few months. Desktop virtualization makes this easy to do on a more frequent basis in a business setting.

    A clean install is also a good way to remove any rootkits. However, if someone is doing this for security purposes, I recommend moving the files from the PC to a external HD using a Linux LiveCD. Most rootkits infect software residing on the HD. Using a LiveCD to move one’s data gives the typical rootkit no chance to boot and subvert the files being moved. This is not to say it hasn’t subverted any files. This strategy just reduces risk in that area. One can also reformat the hard drive or use dd to erase it from within the LiveCD, if they so choose.

  4. Query—RE: “hotfix numbers”

    In the past, I’ve used a general ‘Search’ function,
    for the number,
    to determine whether or not a particular hotfix, patch,
    or update has been installed.

    Not to minimize the ‘patchlist.txt’ cmd,
    but for when we only need to check for a few patches,
    wouldn’t the general search turn up those numbers?

    • Which search function are you talking about? If you just use the search that comes from the start menu, it won’t turn up individual hotfitx that are installed — at least it didn’t when I tried and searched by KB numbers that WU says are already installed.

      • Did you click “See more results” then Search again in Computer?

        I haven’t tried each and every one listed in WU but every one I did search popped right up.

    • It doesn’t work for me either, even after clicking through to See more results… and trying to search “Computer”. It offered to index the C: drive though which might be why it didn’t work. I’m not really sure.

      However, the other method of going to Control Panel –> Programs and Features –>View Installed Updates and searching beginning with kb works for me.

  5. OK, since the hotfixes are all Microsoft-written, what is so darn tough about writing the SP1 install files to search for all pertinent hotfixes, and if any are found, call up the appropriate “hot un-fix”, and remove the now un-needed hotfix, and then go on and run the darn install?????? Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!!!!!!!!

    Frankly, I appreciate the hotfixes, but MS needs to automate the cleanup when necessary. The Feb patch Tuesday updates would not all install because of exactly this problem, and it cost me hours I did not need to lose. Any update needs to have similar code to determine if a pertinent hotfix has been installed and deal with the matter.

  6. So a two-step process is difficult these days?
    Pathetic.

  7. I usually stop by here every day, but did not since Friday. I installed the SP1 Friday night but would have held off if I had read your comments prior.

    I had no problems with the SP update. The only thing that happened was that the pc froze up near the end of the process and did not automatically restart like it should have. I had to kill the power and then when power was resumed, it finished without any further problems. I’ve used the pc a bit (my primary computer is a MacBook Air laptop) since the update and everything seems fine so far. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! No good deed goes unpunished!!!!!!!

    Shame on me for not reading your blog EVERY day!!!!!! :-)

  8. I didn’t have any problems with its installation on a laptop running Win7 Ultimate.

  9. Installed it the first day it came out.No trouble so far.I had 3 apps open at the same time on the weekend all of them non-microsoft oriented, java up and running ,and a voice chat system,trying to knock out win 7 but it held up well.

  10. Two computers’ Windows Media Centers after installing SP1 failed to play back TV programs.

    Updated two Windows 7 64 bit computers that I am just using for Windows Media Center off the air TV DVRs. Both machines are using different TV tuners. Played around with them for a while, then the possible obvious (SP1) came to mind as I then checking the antenna system — did not want to believe it was the software. Since both machines have little other software installed, I formatted the hard drive and reinstalled the operating system, omitting any updates. It’s all working now. Suggest doing an image of the system before installing SP1. I will continue updating the machines but with a backup first.

  11. start > run > type “cmd” click ok > type “systeminfo” > patchlist.txt will get similar results with some extras.

  12. On my Win 7 Home Premium 64 bit laptop – not a problem.

    On my Win 7 Ultimate laptop – I finally had to stop:
    – Immunet (I uninstalled it),
    – Norton Internet Security and
    – Win Defender
    because that bloody SP1 would not install – just kept continuing to fail installing. On NIS, I had to stop the services for it and disable Defender.
    I was sick and tired of trying to figure out which one it was – if it was one those items. Let alone trying to determine which Hotfix – I didn’t think one or more of the blinkin’ Microsoft Hotfixes was going to cause me headaches.

    Thanks for posting that info Brian, though it did not help me, I’m sure it helped many others. Keep it up.

  13. Installed in three netbooks and desktops with no complaints.
    In my notebook I received an error of Security Essentials and cannot install it.
    I removed AVG and nothing.
    Cleaned the Registry and nothing.
    I’m frustrated.
    Any help?
    Thanks in advance.
    @rs65

    • RS65,
      you can try what I did, bring up task manager, click on Services tab and stop the AV or other security services there.

      If you cannot stop it there, then click on Services at lower right of task manager. Stop your security services there.

      It was what finally worked for me – even though I had disabled and/or ended the security software every where else, Norton Security would just not stop until I did this.
      Also check if Win Defender is running…

      But you might want to first check out the hotfix issue that Brian mentioned in his article.

      Good luck

    • If you’re having a problem installing any Windows 7 update the first thing you to try is running the Windows Troubleshooter. It’s worked for me.

      Click Control Panel/System and Security/Find and fix Problems/Fix Problems with Windows Update.

      • Please forgive my failure to proofread that post; that should read “the first thing for you to try.”

      • Good point CloudLiam.

        I neglected to mention, I ran the troubleshooter as well.
        – The first time through it did not catch anything.
        – The second time (at a later point I decided to try it again) – it did fix something.
        === However, it did not help.

        So I downloaded from Microsoft and ran the 300 MB file, the SURT (system update readiness tool) – it still did not help overall.

        Stopping the services of security apps is what finally helped, I believe???
        Again, I did not know about the hotfixes being a possible issue until I Brian’s post.

  14. Brian – nice attribution on vanity fair stuxnet article. Congrats!

  15. I got the update and it messed my laptop big time… I didnt have access to internet anymore and my virus software went bananas.

  16. Heres some more information that might be helpful,

    Windows 7 – Cannot Install Service Pack 1

    Pete
    PeteNetLive

  17. After I installed SP1 (for WIndows 7 64-bit Home Premium) on two machines both showed this problem:

    Latest Nvidia driver failed to load on boot about 25% of time (around 1 out of 4 boots, it failed to load, 3 out of 4 boots it was fine.) I uninstalled the Nvidia drivers and reinstalled and same thing happened (Nvidia drivers failed to load about 25% of time.)

    I reinstalled Windows 7 and ignored SP1 but updated all other important updates offered by Windows Update and reinstalled all the same software and drivers and the problem is gone, so it seems to be on SP1.

  18. i installed it and had to re install the computer(laptop)
    1) it did destroy all restore points so i could not restore to before sp1
    2) the realtek hd audio did no longer work
    3) the system was running so slow i could not even type
    4) it so i had to reinstall from the recovery partition
    and now i have a stuttering sound when i play any audio mp3 streaming audio cd etc and cant get rid of it and drives me nuts i say stay away from it it does more harm then good

  19. MrUnFixit-Maybe

    Observations from customer updates:
    1: windows\winsxs – 10,000 files and over 10Gb preserved during a Vista -> win7 -> SP1 all in one session update! Roll on the cleanup tool to fix this horrible spaghetti. Just how many copies of C++ runtime do you need on your system, and shouldn’t they be backward compatible? DLLHell or WinSxsHell? (Did I spell that WinSux properly?)

    2: Worse still, all the task files were corrupt. Yes, even vital system ones. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2305420 for the fix – OK to do on one or two corrupt files, but not on dozens of them. Somebody should be made to type that knowledge base article a hundred times without using cut-and-paste to make them appreciate what they are asking unsuspecting users to do to fix what should be an automated process.

    Sloppy, very sloppy.

  20. Frustration to the maximum degree, I am not able to sucessfully download and install Win 7 SP1 after 6 attempts, I have read enough blogs to try several different approaches to solving this dilemma to no avail. I ended up hiding the update and deciding whether to use my computer as an object for target practice, why hasn’t MS issued any fixes for this problem with this faction of users. I have Win 7 Pro 64 bit that was upgraded from Vista to Win 7 home and then to Win 7 Pro with no bells and tech whistles, only a back up external hard drive and Norton 2011 security and firewall.

    • Numerous things you can do.First back up anything you want to keep.
      You can download the update seperately.
      Disconnect from the internet.
      Run the update and observe any errors and write them down if there are any.
      Send an email to microsoft tech support with any error codes you have.
      There numerous free apps in the wild that are pretty good and cleaning up your system and registry but thats for advanced users.
      Lastly you can do a clean install from scratch if all else fails.

      These are my best recommendations.Nothing special, standard stuff.

  21. Installed SP1 on a Win 7 Pro PC and it broke Internet Explorer 8:

    Computer is a new Dell Optiplex 380, Win 7 Pro 32-bit, 4GB ram, Intel Core 2 Duo. Computer is basically blank except for Trend Micro OfficeScan 10.5 (latest). I need to configure XP mode in Win 7 for an old app. One of the steps involves either installing an update or SP1. I chose to do SP1, because the PC is new, not being used, and low risk if it didn’t work.

    Well, it didn’t work. I installed SP1 using Windows Update because I was only doing one machine. It installed without a hitch, but when I pulled up IE8 it won’t load any pages. I get the “Compatibility Mode” warning for any URL I type in. Maybe a graphic or 1/10th of the page will show up, then nothing. Right clicking on the page does not give a context menu. Choosing Help/About… gives a small, blank, white window. Basically, IE8 is fubar.

    Resetting IE8 in the Advanced preferences does nothing. It was already in the default state anyway, since the computer is unused. Safe Mode with Networking gives the same result. IE8 loads, but only a tiny bit — if anything — of any site displays. Every site generates the Compatibility Mode notice.

    I uninstalled SP1, and IE8 worked again. I then downloaded the full SP1 update from MS, reinstalled it, and the problem is back.

    Followup: Ultimately I was able to get SP1 installed by first removing it, then rolling back all 90 of the Windows Updates that had previously been installed, then reinstallng SP1. Since SP1 includes the vast majority of the previous updates, you do not have to install them again after SP1.

    Anyway, this was a brand new machine with basically nothing installed on it (it had antivirus, but I’d disabled and later removed it while trying to get SP1 installed initially). Not a good sign.

    • Jorge de Cardenas

      I had similar results trying to install SP1 on Windows 7 on a Dell Optiplex 980. Finally I uninstalled the service pack. We have 50 of these machines (a public library), I may try doing what you did and uninstall all the updates later before installing SP1.

  22. Koob, Thanks for your suggestion, unfortunately I have already gone down that path. I even used a registry cleaner to clean up the registry, made a folder in the C drive into a folder I called SP1, downloaded the correct 64bit full version from MS into that folder, disabled everything, unplugged ethernet and attempted to install, everything went fine until it booted after 99% and then reported failure. Every time it reports the same unspecified error E_ FAIL=0×80004005 after every failure. I installed SP1 onto my laptop without incident not even a glitch. I may resort to a clean install as you suggest.

  23. Belarc Advisor (http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html) includes a detailed list of installed Microsoft Hotfixes in its report

  24. BK, Powershell might have a feature that can peal the Hot fixes back from a simple command string.. Just a thought… I’ll have to look an see. Powershell is integrated into all win7′s

  25. If you have any language packs installed and you try to update to SP1 you are almost guaranteed a blue screen. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows7/error-C000009A-installing-windows-7-sp1
    I happen to know this issue caused major havoc today with all of the student computer labs that were running Windows 7 today at a major US University. It occurred today because SP1 was just released to WSUS yesterday. They did not have enough staff to get all of the machines restored and back running and work will have to continue tomorrow and possible the next day.

    • I was just curious as to the final result of your SP1 dilemma, did you you get the problems resolved.

  26. Hi, everybody.

    After read all posts here, since the launch of the service pack 1, I decided to make this update on my Tohiba Satellite L650 notebook, with Portuguese Windows 7 64bit installed and all other stuff. But first, I made a chkdsk to the hard drive, a scan with the anti-virus (Microsoft Security Essentials), defragmentation and a complete backup and image drive with the included tools on Windows 7 – just in case…

    Update started through Windows Update (with anti-virus enabled), here and there download progress bar paused, but with intensive hardisk activity (checking configurations and packages, I think), two or three reboots and, about 45 minutes later Windows restarted, all updated, without any error and perfectly stable. Later I´ve noticed that boot and shutdown is the same, but at work, it’s noticeable faster on all operations – I didn’t expected that… Also, every previous restore points didn’t disappeared.

    I’m the lucky one, I think! Or, my system is perfect!

    Ps: I don’t work to M$… ;)

  27. Is there an easy way to uninstall the service pack?