I've been running the final version of SP1 for several months now, for the most part very successfully. With it now available for use, I thought I would share why I like it and when you should install it. As you know, the first service pack is what IT typically waits for before deploying anything and there is little point to any vendor trying to change that behavior. The issues with Windows Vista, which was actually designed not to need a service pack, simply reinforced this behavior and the practice of waiting for the first point release remains well advised.
Windows SP1 Experiences
Generally, my experience with SP1 in its final form has been flawless. The issues I have had with cutting-edge high-performance desktop hardware have had to do with "sleep" and appear related to BIOS patches that have yet to be done or driver issues that haven't been corrected yet by their respective vendors, not from Microsoft oversight.
In fact, in watching the forums, the sustaining problems with SP1 have to do with vendor support issues that came out of the lack of confidence many vendors had with Microsoft, which constantly appeared unable, during the Vista development period, to hit promised milestones.
I've seen a solid improvement in system performance. In systems that were unstable, this stability problem appears corrected after SP1 is installed, and earlier issues with SP1 installation problems appear to have mostly been corrected (with the exception of some of the hardware support issues mentioned above).
One of the biggest improvements has to do with the granularity of remote management, which ranges from diagnostics, to templates, to disk defragmentation, to NAP client configuration, to BitLocker granularity, to provide a few examples. This last actually makes BitLocker vastly more useful and potentially safer because you can now write scripts to auto-lock protected volumes more aggressively. With SP1, your BitLocker is no longer all-or-nothing and now can be applied to individual volumes.
Most of the overall improvements in SP1, and you could guess this from the prior paragraph, target IT needs, making Vista vastly easier, and arguably safer, to remote manage if proper security policies are used and enforced in the IT desktop management departments.
If you are using Vista, one of the things you'll particularly like is the reduction in user prompts, which can get really annoying after awhile.
Next page: When to Deploy
When and How You Should Deploy
According to the latest survey I've seen, the vast majority of you are going to do this right and bring Vista in on new hardware only. I am personally not a big fan, particularly in high PC count environments, of either putting an old OS on new hardware or a new OS on old hardware because it tends to create the potential for massive endemic non-hardware vendor supported problems. While many of these problems to individuals may be annoying, when spread across 10,000 or more machines with a limited IT staff, they can literally tie up that staff for months.
For individuals, unless you have a critical need for this patch now, I'd wait until the patch is pushed to you either by Microsoft or by your IT organization. There is still enough hardware that doesn't work right with it to suggest caution. This should all be fixed about this time next month when the patch is scheduled to be pushed out, and if it isn't, the push part of this patch update will likely be delayed until it is.
If you are currently on XP and happy, why mess with that? Wait until you need a new PC and then move to Vista with it. If you do decide to try to upgrade, do a clean installation and use this opportunity to get all of the crapware, viruses and other malware off of your system. If you have problems, it likely will be because of something you carry over; getting rid of all of that will make for a better experience. Personally, I'd use this as a good opportunity to toss out your old hard drive and get a newer, faster, higher-capacity one (currently one of the cheapest ways to get a good performance boost).
Finally, if you haven't heard this before, Vista likes 2 gigabytes of memory. While it may be actually faster in some of these systems (for instance, those that use Redi-Boost or Turbo Memory) after SP1 with one gigabyte, two is still the recommendation. That should probably factor into your initial system configuration choice (most folks do this by default, but Sony and a few others are exceptions, so watch this).
In short, SP1 is a good service pack for most and will remove that barrier to deployment for many, but prudent practices should still apply whether you are doing this for yourself or your firm.