Microsoft today made the launch of Vista service pack 1 official by announcing its general availability via its Windows Update program.

This means that anyone who is running a duly activated copy of Windows Vista and wants to upgrade to SP1 can do so manually via Microsoft’s Update page at [Note, you need to be running Internet Explorer 6 or higher to access this page.]

Click here to read our review of Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

Anyone who prefers to receive their hotfixes, security patches and software updates automatically can expect to receive their Vista Service Pack 1 update in mid-April. From that point, Microsoft will push out Vista SP1 as an automatic update meaning that whenever a Vista PC is set for seek and accept updates (usually weekly) it will upgrade to SP1.

A blog posting by Nick White at the Windows Vista site states: “For those of you happy to wait - sit tight because SP1 will start downloading to PCs automatically beginning in mid-April.”

White’s posting goes on to say: “Remember, this happens only if you have your Windows Update configured to automatically download updates and SP1 will automatically download but not automatically install.”

The blog posting goes on to state that Vista SP1 is now available only for those using an English, Japanese, French, German, Spanish and Italian installation of Vista.

Users of other language versions of Vista will have to wait a while for their SP1 version to be made available. By our reckoning, Vista is available in around 130 languages, meaning there’s an awful lot of coding to be done.

When Microsoft launched Vista at the end of 2006 (in the US) and to the rest of the world in January 2007, it came in for criticism about the lack of drivers that had been written to support it.

While much has been done in the meantime to address this issue and to ensure compatibility of both hardware and software, Microsoft still warns of outstanding driver issues for anyone keen to perform the SP1 update.

The Windows Vista blog warns that: “Windows Update will detect drivers that we know may be problematic when updating to SP1 and will not offer the service pack until an update has been installed.”

This, says the site, is to ensure all those who do try and update have a smooth experience.

Microsoft also says it has spent the past few weeks specifically addressing hardware driver issues so as many Vista users as possible can make the transition to SP1.

Windows Vista blog page

The Windows Vista blog page where SP1 details are listed