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Microsoft: Vista SP1 ready for download

The software maker says the first major update to Windows Vista can now be downloaded via Windows Update or from Microsoft's Web site. However, Microsoft is programming machines to postpone the update if they spot incompatible drivers.

Well, Amazon was at least half right. As the retailer predicted, Microsoft did make Windows Vista Service Pack 1 available for download on Tuesday via Windows Update and on its Web site.

Still unclear is when it will start being available on retail shelves. Amazon said it will start shipping boxed copies with SP1 included on Wednesday, while Microsoft said it will be at retailers "as soon as April." I've asked for further clarification on the disparity, but have yet to hear back.

Meanwhile, in a posting on the Windows Vista blog, Microsoft also went into a little more detail on a previously disclosed driver problem that may prevent some drivers that work in Windows Vista from working with Service Pack 1. Microsoft also posted a list of potentially problematic drivers.

Microsoft said some drivers have already been updated to fix the incompatibility.

"We're working with the providers of the remaining devices to get updated versions of the drivers to our customers as well," Microsoft product manager Nick White said on the Vista blog. "In the meantime, Windows Update will recognize PCs with drivers that may be problematic and postpone offering SP1 to those PCs until it has installed corrected drivers or other applicable updates. Either way, Windows Update works to detect whether or not your system is ready for SP1 and not offer it to you until the time is right."

So, you may or may not be able to get SP1 starting today. For those whose systems are able to get SP1, the update is available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese.

As for other means of getting SP1, Microsoft plans to start pushing out Service Pack 1 next month to Vista users who have automatic updates turned on. As for when new PCs will start carrying it, that is still a bit unclear, with Microsoft noting that it takes time for PC makers to update their assembly lines, but also saying they can use the new code "when they are ready." Microsoft finalized Vista Service Pack 1 back in February.