Windows Vista SP2 ‘Candidate’ Goes Public

Microsoft announced Wednesday that the general public can now download and test the next-to-final Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Late last week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) made what it calls the SP2 “release candidate,” or RC, available to Microsoft TechNet and MSDN subscribers.

Now, the release — a single package for both OSes — is ready for public testing, Microsoft said.

An RC is just what it’s name implies: a candidate to be the final released version of a software product. If testers try out the RC and do not find any major bugs, then the code is finalized and becomes the “Released to Manufacturing” version — the last step before a product actually ships.

“Today, we’re making [the RC] available to anyone interested in testing SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 prior to final release,” said a post by Brandon LeBlanc, Windows communications manager on the Windows client communications team, on the Windows Vista Team blog.

While many users are waiting for SP2 for Windows Server 2008, however, that may not be true of SP2 for Vista. Since its launch as the long-awaited replacement for the now almost eight-year-old Windows XP, Vista instead fizzled with customers.

In fact, even after two years on the market, most IT shops continue to hold back on deploying Vista while they wait for Windows 7, which is due out later this year. A survey conducted last fall by Information Technology Intelligence Corp., found that almost half of IT shops had decided to skip Vista and wait for the release of Windows 7 later this year.

At this time last year, Microsoft debuted SP1 for Vista along with Windows Server 2008, which shipped with SP1 preinstalled. Despite a rocky first week of availability due to minor glitches, SP1 has proven very stable, according to most observers.

However, while conventional wisdom has it that many IT managers wait until the first Service Pack release before adopting a new Windows version, SP1 evidently didn’t get many off the fence, according to Information Technology Intelligence.

SP2 contains all the bug fixes and application compatibility updates since the release of SP1. In order to install SP2, SP1 must already be installed.

Other updates coming in SP2 include support for VIA Technologies new VIA 64-bit CPU, as well as the addition of Windows Search 4. It also adds a single, standalone installer for both Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft’s LeBlanc had one caveat, however, for testers who have been working with the previously released SP2 beta, which the company began testing publicly n early December.

“If you have the SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Beta installed, you will need to uninstall that first before installing the RC,” he said.

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