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Notable Changes in Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista

Microsoft® continuously improves the Windows Vista® and Windows Server® 2008 operating systems by providing ongoing updates while working with software and hardware vendors to help them deliver improved compatibility, reliability, and performance. These updates are provided to customers by Microsoft’s hardware and software partners, as well as directly from Microsoft in the form of regularly distributed updates delivered via Windows Update. Updates to Windows are also delivered directly to some affected customers and preinstalled by computer manufacturers.

Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2 are updates to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 that address feedback from our customers and partners. By providing these fixes integrated into a single service pack, which will be thoroughly tested by Microsoft and by industry partners and customers during the pre-release cycle, Microsoft provides a single high-quality update that minimizes deployment and testing complexity for customers.

In addition to all previously released updates, SP2 will contain changes focused on supporting new types of hardware and adding support for several emerging standards. SP2 will also continue to make it easier for IT administrators to deploy and manage large installations of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

This document describes the notable changes in the Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2 release. For a complete list of all the hotfixes and security updates in SP2, see Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2. Note that many of the updates listed are already publically available and have been released via the Microsoft Download Center or Windows Update.

Organizations do not need to wait for SP2 to deploy Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008; we encourage them to begin their Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008 evaluation and deployment now.

Setup prerequisites

There are only two prerequisites for installing SP2:

  • Your operating system, Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista must have Service Pack 1 installed.


Windows Server 2008 shipped with Service Pack 1 built in.

  • Users updating through Windows Update/WSUS must install an update to the servicing stack (described in knowledge base article 955430) that handles installation and removal of software updates, language packs, and optional Windows features. This update is necessary to successfully install and uninstall the service pack; it also improves the performance and reliability of the service pack installation. This update may require a reboot and is part of the standalone update package. It will be offered as a separate package on Windows Update. Users installing SP2 in standalone format will have this update built-in

Service Pack 2 size

In order to make the improvements detailed in this document, individual files and components have been updated. Also, the language-neutral design of Windows necessitates that the service pack be able to update any possible combination of the basic languages supported by Windows Vista with a single installer, so language files for the 36 basic languages are included in the standalone installer.

These features result in a large stand-alone package, which is the delivery vehicle typically used by system administrators. However, most home and small business users will receive SP2 through Windows Update, which utilizes an efficient transfer mechanism to download only the actual bytes that are changed, resulting in an approximately 43 megabyte (MB) download. This is similar in size to many common software and driver updates that are delivered by other software vendors over the internet, and therefore should not cause issues for most customers.


Download size (x86)

Download size (x64)

Download size (ia64)

Standalone package

  • Computers without internet access

  • System administrators

  • About 302 MB (Five language package)

  • About 390 MB (Available in seven languages)

  • About 508 MB (Five language package)

  • About 622 MB (Full 36 language package)

  • About 384 MB (Five language package)

  • About 396 MB (Full 36 language package)

Windows Update

  • Most home users

  • Many business customers

  • About 43 MB (Windows Vista)

  • About 47 MB (Windows Server 2008)

  • About 60 MB (Windows Vista)

  • About 90 MB (Windows Server 2008)


Integrated DVD

  • New PCs

  • Fresh Windows installations

  • XP upgrades




Table 1   Delivery mechanisms for SP2

Application compatibility improvements

Thanks to the rich instrumentation capability of Windows operating systems, we are able to understand the types of issues that our customers experience while respecting their personal information and privacy preferences. We use this information to focus improvements in Windows, but we also share this information with our software vendor partners to help improve the reliability and compatibility of non-Microsoft applications. For example, in SP2, Spysweeper and ZoneAlarm, now work with POP3 e-mail accounts.

Our goal for SP2 is that applications that are written using public APIs and that run on the Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 operating systems will continue to work as designed.

Microsoft has already released several application compatibility updates which allow more applications to work seamlessly for the end user. These appear in SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, but they are also available through Windows Update. Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2 contain additional application compatibility fixes for individual applications.

For more information about previously released compatibility updates, refer to article 947562 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base

Hardware ecosystem support and enhancements

  • SP2 adds support for the 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies, which adds the ID and vendor strings for the new VIA 64-bit CPU.

  • SP2 integrates the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless, which contains support for Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration. Bluetooth v2.1 is the most recent specification for Bluetooth wireless technology.

  • SP2 improves performance for Wi-Fi connections after resuming from sleep mode.

  • SP2 includes updates to the RSS feeds sidebar for improved performance and responsiveness.

  • SP2 includes ability to record data to Blu-Ray Disc media.

Operating system experience updates

  • SP2 includes Windows Search 4.0, which builds on Microsoft’s search technology with improved indexing and search relevance. It also helps find and preview documents, e-mail (including signed e-mail messages), music files, photos, and other items on the computer. The search engine in Windows Search 4.0 is a Microsoft Windows® service that is also used by programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote® 2007. Autotuning Diagnostics in SP2 now interprets current network conditions when implementing Windows scaling. This feature includes full netsh support.

  • SP2 improves Windows Media Center (WMC) in the area of content protection for TV.

  • SP2 removes the limit of 10 half open outbound TCP connections. By default, SP2 has no limit on the number of half open outbound TCP connections.

Enterprise improvements

  • SP2 provides the Hyper-V virtualization environment as a fully integrated feature of Windows Server 2008, including one free instance with Windows Server 2008 Standard, four free instances with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise and an unlimited number of free instances with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.

  • SP2 increases the authentication options for WebDAV redirector, enabling Microsoft Office users greater flexibility when authenticating custom applications using the WebDAV redirector.

  • SP2 provides an improved power management (both on the server and the desktop), which includes the ability to manage these settings via Group Policy.

  • SP2 improves backwards compatibility for Terminal Server license keys. Windows Server 2008 changed the licensing key from 512 bytes to 2,048 bytes which caused clients using older Terminal Server versions to fail. SP2 allows legacy license keys on Citrix applications to work with Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server.

Setup and deployment improvements

The SP2 standalone installer:

  • Provides a single installer for both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

  • Includes the ability to detect an incompatible driver and either block service pack installation or warn users of any potential loss of functionality.

  • Provides better error handling and descriptive error messages where possible.

  • Improves manageability through logging in the system event log.

  • Provides a secure install experience.

  • Includes the ability to service the installer post release.

SP2 also includes a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe) which helps recover the hard disk space by permanently deleting previous versions of files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2. The Service Pack Clean up tool can also be run offline while creating slipstream images to reduce the size of the image.

Known issues for updating from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2008 SP2


SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 represents Microsoft’s continuing commitment to quality. While most updates contained in SP2 are available as individual downloads, the roll-up convenience of SP2 is a major benefit for administrators. This functionality coupled with new advanced deployment features, such as the single installer and the pre-installation analyzer, means SP2 continues to provide ongoing improvements that our customers have grown to expect from Microsoft. For more detail on SP2’s contents, see Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2.

See Also


Windows Vista Service Pack 2

Other Resources

Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 RC