Exclusive Waiting for a second Windows 7 Service Pack? Keep waiting – it doesn't sound like Microsoft will be releasing one.
Sources close to Microsoft's sustained engineering team, which builds and releases service packs, have told The Register there are no plans for a second Windows 7 SP – breaking precedent on the normal cycle of updating Windows.
Instead, Microsoft will keep updating Windows 7 using patches released each month until support for Windows 7 comes to an end. That date is currently slated for 24 months after the most current SP – that’s SP1, which was released in February 2011 – and would put end of life at January 2020.
The decision not to release a second service pack for Windows 7 comes just at the time when Microsoft would typically be preparing to release the pack.
People have been asking about SP2 since August.
SP2 for Windows XP rolled out nearly three years after the operating system’s release while the Windows Vista SP2 came just over two years later. With the Windows 7 OS having been released in October 2009, we are now at the trailing edge of the standard release window for SP2.
This means every update to Windows 7 since SP1 in February 2011 will need to be applied individually and – if you’ve been holding out – retrospectively.
Asked to comment, Microsoft said it didn’t have anything to say about Windows 7 SP2.
Service packs are a pain for Microsoft, because they divert engineers’ time and budget from building new versions of Windows. In this case, the anticipation for Windows 7’s SP2 comes around the same time as the launch of Windows 8, out later this week. Also, by ending SPs, Microsoft could be pushing customers towards the completely new Windows 8.
SPs are released to bundle up things like monthly updates and can include security and performance updates and support for new hardware. They span monthly updates released through Patch Tuesday; will wrap in fixes to apps like Office; and will impact software affecting the desktop, network and applications like the browser. A single SP means you can wrap up, test and rollout, and update – all in a single software release.
Without a SP you must manually keep up to date on monthly releases.
As Microsoft’s own Service Pack Center, here, advises: “Make sure you install the latest service pack to help keep Windows up to date.”
Aaron Suzuki, chief executive of desktop management and deployment specialist SmartDeploy, quantified the value of SPs – especially to organisations that run hundreds of thousands of desktops – saying: "The usefulness of a service pack is it lets you roll up that [updates and fixes] into a build for an operating system, so you can flip a switch and not worry about performing 50 to 80 updates that take up hundreds of megabytes.”
But IT solutions firm BDNA's chief technology officer Walker White has a different opinion, and said organisations he has spoken to are satisfied with Windows 7 and felt the Windows 7 SP1 in February solved many problems.
Certainly, the Windows 7 SP1 didn’t go smoothly for Microsoft – in spite of the theory that SPs allows Redmond to wrap up months of releases into a single, digestible bundle.
SP1 saw users take to the forums to complain that the service pack was causing machines to boot with fatal errors, was deleting restore points before installing and had unleashed a reboot looping glitch. Microsoft said it was unable to pinpoint the cause of the problem. ®