My Day at the Windows Vista SP1 Install Fair

On Saturday October 27th, I had the chance to visit the Microsoft campus and join various others in installing the Windows Vista SP1 Beta. Now it has been a while since I visited the main campus so I drove around for a bit before I went over to the conference center.

After taking in the sights and wishing that the company I worked for had a soccer field next door, I headed over to the conference center, laptop in hand. When I first got there, all of the doors were locked and I couldn't see anything through most of the windows. I finally got someone's attention after awhile (perhaps I looked suspicious, trying to peek in any way I could) and was escorted inside over to the registration table for the Vista SP1 install fair.

After I registered my name and vehicle, I was handed three items: The Windows Vista SP1 Install Fair Tool Kit CD, documentation on the steps I needed to take for the installation, and a nice patch cable for hooking up my laptop to their network. I was then told to find a seat in the next room and get installing.

Upon entering the next room, I concluded Microsoft was ready for a huge turnout. The room was quite large and there were likely around 50 desktop stations that had a monitor, keyboard, and mouse sitting there for the user to connect their desktop to. The rest of the open space was for us laptop users.

What was the turnout like? Nothing like I'm sure Microsoft expected. The entire right half section of the room was close to empty. A good portion of those there during my time seemed to be from a senior citizen SIG group, as they all seemed to know each other and I was one of the few in the younger age bracket.

Unfortunately, none of my pictures of this room turned out well, but below is the best shot out of the ones I took.

Once I had my laptop, a Core 2 Duo with 2GB of memory, hooked up to power and connected to their network, it was time to begin the installation of the Vista SP1 beta. This was quite an interesting and enlightening experience for me. Below you will find my notes during the install, all time stamped:

[8:50A] Starting "Step 1" - This was a script on the Tool Kit CD that gathered pre-installation information of the system and allowed for installation of Vista SP1 through Windows Update. The main portion of the script basically took a screenshot of the system files before SP1 was installed. This step completed at 9:19A, after which I stepped away for a few minutes to get some breakfast and something to drink.

[9:24A] I had old "Important" updates still waiting to be installed, and SP1 would not install (or even show up in Windows Update) until this was completed, per their documentation.

[9:29A] Began the installation of KB937287 Build 6001.17030

One thing I notice while I'm here are the various shirts I see the Microsoft employees wearing. Quite a few have a "Windows Vista Rocks!" shirt on while this one guy has one that says "msft: microsoft sponsored free t-shirt".

[9:39A] Began the installation of KB938371

[9:49A] Downloading Vista SP1 Beta, Build 6001.10730 (Currently reported as 51MB)

The actual download of SP1 Beta took quite a bit of time. From start to end, it was nearly an hour before the download completed. During the download time my file size changed from 51MB to 71.2MB and jumped once more to 71.3MB before finally finishing. I spoke to a Microsoft employee about this length of time to download, and they said this can and will happen for the download, because the system is determining what updates your computer needs as it downloads and the more data you have on your computer, the longer it can take (my system had about 50GB of data on it). I told them that it would be nice if it mentioned that while it was downloading, because it honestly looked like the download server was getting hammered and the average user wouldn't know any better.

[10:32A] Download finally completes, and the system is creating a restore point. Windows Update then begins to install the Vista SP1 Beta, build 6001.17030.

[10:54A] The installation completes and the computer begins to restart. Based on what I've seen around the room, this upcoming part tends to take the longest. The person in front of me sat at this upcoming portion for a good hour and a half.

[11:00A] Computer is back up (took a while to shut down) and is at the screen "Configuring Updates..."

While I was waiting at this step, I overhead some talk from a Microsoft employee about SP1 bringing in some new features and BitLocker updates. This, of course, is common knowledge on the Internet. I also saw another user having issues with installing SP1: every time he got to the part I am at (Configuring Updates...), it would jump right past it and go back to his desktop, with no SP1 installation ever done. This guy was actually still there after I left, with Microsoft employees hovering around his computer.

It was also mentioned during this time that when SP1 goes post-beta, you can still expect it to take quite a long time to install and your system to reboot a few times.

[11:21A] The computer is restarting again

[11:24A] Back at the "Configuring Updates..." screen again

[11:32A] Now at a screen that says "Welcome" -- looks like we're about to be logged in and sent to the desktop

One would assume that when your computer says "Welcome", it's about to send you to the desktop and hand control over to you. In this case, not so much. I sat at this portion for a good half hour with nothing happening. Microsoft employees took interest at this point, not quite sure what would get it to stall at the welcome screen. They are going to have someone come over and take a look at it in a minute.

[12:10P] A Microsoft employee comes over with a copy of VistaPE (if I heard the name correctly) and started investigating the log files to determine what caused it to stop the desktop from loading.

[12:16P] So apparently the install of SP1 was finished around 40 minutes ago, but something caused it to become stuck at the welcome screen. The Microsoft employee is going to restart the computer to determine if it will happen again.

[12:19P] The rebooting of the computer worked, and it is back at the desktop. The Microsoft employee is back in the logs, reviewing them some more.

[12:26P] Microsoft staff has finished looking at the log files and determined that there was an issue with a driver loading that caused it to hang for so long. They now hand the computer back over to me.

[12:28P] Starting the file called "Step 2" on their Took Kit CD. This takes a snapshot of the system files, post-SP1 install. This step is quick and finishes in just a few minutes.

While I am waiting for a Microsoft employee to come over and collect the log file data, I notice that Vista is now marked as an "Evaluation Copy" and expires 6/30/2008. I asked one of the Microsoft guys about this, and they said don't worry about it, just uninstall the SP1 beta when the final release comes out and that will go away.

[12:39P] Microsoft staff come over and collect the log files. I then complete the SP1 install survey on the sheet of papers they gave me when I first arrived, and I make note of the entire installation time frame, as they were really interested in why some steps took so long on my computer.

I then collect my things and head back to the registration area. I hand them my documentation, CD, and patch cable. They then offer me the choice between two parting gifts: A USB speaker that has a motorized door that reveals the speakers, or a USB tool set that has a microphone, USB A/M -> USB A/F, USB A/M -> USB Mini 5P, RJ-45 cable, a USB hub, and a USB mouse. I picked the tool set.

What do I think of the tool set? I tried to use the USB A/M -> Mini 5P to grab images of my digital camera, but the computer wouldn't talk to it. I had to go grab my normal cable out of the car.

Now I haven't had much time to play with Vista, but my impression thus far is that it is snappier than it was a few days ago. I'm also aware that there are also some updates to the Security Center, but I haven't looked into that yet. From my short use of it, SP1 tends to be a very good update that all Windows Vista users will want to look into, once it's released early next year.

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