How to Install Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2)

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Windows Vista, Now With SP2

Serious businessman working at computer in office
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Many people roundly dismissed Windows Vista when it first rolled out in 2007, but the truth is there's still a lot of Vista in the operating systems that have followed. Windows 7 especially, which borrowed a lot of Vista's strengths while toning down the more annoying aspects like the User Account Control (UAC) feature

Even though Vista isn't everyone's favorite, the operating system got a lot better as time went on, especially in 2009 when Service Pack 2 (SP2) rolled out. That update to Vista added several key new features including the ability to record data to Blu-ray discs, improved Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, better desktop search, and better power efficiency. 

If you are re-loading Vista onto an older machine using pre-Service Pack 2 discs you'll definitely want to download and install Vista SP2. Here's how to do it.

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Back Up, Back Up, and Then Back Up Some More

Windows Vista Backup and Restore Center
Windows Vista's Backup and Restore Center.

Screenshot by Tony Bradley

Pop quiz: What's the first thing you should do before installing a major update to any version of Windows?

If you said, "backup your personal files." You are absolutely correct. There is nothing worse than dealing with a bad update that destroys your files due to a corrupted file, power or mechanical failure. If your PC goes on the fritz during an update — and let's be honest with an old Vista machine that's very, very possible —don't let it take your photos, videos, and documents with it. 

Vista has a built-in backup utility that is probably your most reliable bet given the age of the OS. For a step-by-step breakdown check About's tutorial on how to use Vista's built-in backup utility.

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Perform Pre-Installation Checks

Windows Vista SP1
Windows Vista SP1 is required before installing SP2.


Now that you're all backed up it's go time. Before you install the Vista SP2 upgrade,however, let's perform the following checks.

Make sure that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) is installed before you try to install Vista SP2.

SP1 is a pre-requisite for installing its successor. To find out more about SP1, check out Microsoft’s site. If you're not sure if you've got SP1 just keep using Windows Update to search for new updates by going to Start > Control PanelThen type Windows Update into the Control Panel search box. Once you land on Windows Update click Check for updates and then install any required ones. 

The great thing about Windows Update is that it won't let you install updates without installing their pre-requisites first. 

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Final Checks

Windows Vista


The rest of our pre-upgrade checks are pretty easy. Here's what you need to do. 

Be sure:

  • There is a constant power supply so the computer does not shut off during the upgrade process.
  • There is enough hard drive space. Vista SP2 can use up to 2 GB of space.
  • To do one last check to make sure all important files are backed up before the upgrade
  • That your antivirus software is disabled and all programs are closed before beginning the upgrade.

Once the upgrade begins you will not be able to use your computer. It may take up to an hour or two for the installation to complete.

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Install the Vista SP2 Upgrade

install vista sp2 upgrade


Now it's time to get serious. Let's get upgrading. If you're just using Windows Update to upgrade to SP2 then the instructions below don't apply. If, however, you downloaded Vista SP2 directly from Microsoft's Download Center to install it manually, here's what you need to do.

1. Start the Vista SP2 upgrade by double-clicking on the installation file.

2. When the Welcome to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 window appears, click Next.

Now just follow the instructions on your screen. Your computer might restart several times as part of the installation. Do not unplug or shut down your computer during the installation. When the installation of SP2 is complete, a message will appear on your screen informing you that, "Windows Vista SP2 is now running".

3. If you disabled antivirus software prior to installing Vista SP2, re-enable it.

If you have problems with the installation you'll have to visit your local computer repair shop as Microsoft no longer provides free support for Windows Vista Service Pack issues.

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