Why you don’t want to be the first to install a Microsoft service pack

And, like most Service Pack 1 releases, it seems Windows 7 SP1 isn’t flawless. Under some circumstances, SP1 machines hang during the boot process with a C00000034 fatal error. Or sometimes it goes into a reboot loop with Error C000009A applying update operation 120782 of 367890.

Microsoft doesn’t yet know what’s causing the problems.

Microsoft does have a couple of workarounds documented at http://support.microsoft.com/KB/975484.

This isn’t a surprise, at least not to me. Microsoft does its internal testing. Then they release a beta, and the early adopter/power user crowd takes a look at it and reports their problems. Then the software gets released to the public, and that’s when another round of problems comes out. Corporate and consumer PCs often have significant differences from PCs built by enthusiasts and by Microsoft internally. One Windows service pack was rendered unbootable because of its behavior on consumer PCs, which it turned out had system images that were built so they could boot off either an Intel or an AMD chipset. That’s the kind of thing Microsoft has no need to do, and no enthusiast would ever do.

That’s why I wait to install service packs, if I have a choice, or something isn’t desperately broken.

I’ve come to prefer slipstreaming the service packs and then installing off slipstreamed media. It’s faster, and it doesn’t leave you with 1 GB of archived uninstaller files and other cruft. It’s also inherently a cleaner operation. It’s easier to install patched files than it is to install old files and then change them.

And that may be one possible fix for people experiencing the problem now, but to try it you really need a second, working computer to use to download the service pack and slipstream it, and a spare hard drive that you can temporarily install in the system giving you trouble in order to install the slipstreamed OS. And then if it works, you have to decide whether to install your apps and copy your data over to the spare and use it, or copy your data off the drive that won’t boot, then rebuild on that drive, copy the data back, and install apps. It’s not going to be a fun process.

Right now I only have one computer running Windows 7, and I’m going to leave it alone for the time being. I have two other Windows 7 licenses that I haven’t decided how I want to use just yet. Most likely I’ll slipstream SP1 and all the post-SP1 hotfixes and install them that way. But by the time I decide how I want to use my two remaining licenses, chances are the issue will be resolved. I say that because it could be a while.

When I was having my mysterious problems with Windows 7 not liking my video and only letting me print once, I was willing to try anything, including installing a service pack. But now that I’ve found another way to resolve those problems, I’m reluctant to risk introducing two new, known problems that don’t have a known resolution yet.

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