Starting today, Microsoft will, or already has, started pushing out Service Pack 1 to Windows 7 customers. The first service pack has been made mandatory for all customers as the end of date for Windows 7 RTM looms closer. Previously users could install SP1 through Windows Update, but the task required manually adding that request to the installation list. Windows 7 SP1 has been available since February 2011 but there are still many users who haven’t upgraded their operating system. Now customers who have Windows Update enabled but avoiding installation of SP1, for whatever reasons, will no longer have choice in this matter.
IT customers need not get alarmed as the update only applies to consumer PCs. Machines that are managed by a Microsoft management tool such as Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or WSUS Server will be able to skip SP1 as before.
SP1 is a must-have upgrade as it includes many security enhancements and general bug fixes for the OS, such as improved reliability when connecting to HDMI audio devices, printing using the XPS Viewer, and restoring previous folders in Windows Explorer after restarting, among others.
The update requires 750 MB of free space for 32-bit systems and 1050 MB on 64-bit Windows 7 machines.
SP1 is a necessary upgrade as Windows 7 RTM (with no service pack) will no longer be supported as of April 9th, 2013, following the standard Windows support lifecycle specifying that support ends 24 months after the release of a new service pack.
Windows 7 with SP1 will continue to be fully supported for a long time, with mainstream support continuing until January 13, 2015, and extended support continuing until January 14, 2020.