Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) is set to be released as a public beta today. Many will be asking "Should I upgrade to Vista SP2?".

However, it's a fairly significant upgrade and is not for everyone. Here's what you need to know before making the upgrade.

SP2 beta is, as the name suggests, a product still under development. Microsoft is recommending only "technology enthusiasts, developers, and IT pros" willing to test the software take on the upgrade.

General users are advised to wait until the final release, which is set for the first half of 2009. Some unofficial reports indicate it is being targeted for an April completion.

Windows Vista SP2 includes numerous changes to the Vista operating system. Here are some of the highlights of what it'll do for you if you upgrade to Vista SP2:

  • Let you record data onto Blu-ray discs
  • Add into your system Vista Feature Pack For Wireless, which provides support for the latest Bluetooth technology - Bluetooth v2.1 - as well as for the Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi protocol
  • Give you better Wi-Fi performance when you're exiting Vista's sleep mode
  • Make your RSS feeds sidebar gadget work faster and better
  • Give you the latest desktop search engine, Windows Search 4
  • Cut down the resources it takes to run your various sidebar gadgets
  • It'll give your OS an overall tune-up, too.

The Vista Service Pack 2 upgrade will also deliver some under-the-hood improvements, which will:

  • Give your computer support for VIA Technologies' new 64-bit CPU
  • Let your system support exFAT, which can handle larger files and can also use UTC timestamps so you can synchronise files across different time zones
  • Boost your power management efficiency by as much as 10 percent

Additionally, a slew of system bugs will be corrected in the update, including some slow shutdown problems and other crash-causing issues.

Like most Microsoft Service Packs, the SP2 upgrade won't work on your system if you haven't already installed SP1. If you're thinking about trying the SP2 upgrade, you'll have to hit SP1 first. Things may not be totally smooth at first.

Windows Vista SP1 review

Microsoft has had some history with glitches seemingly caused by its Windows Service Pack updates. It sometimes takes several hotfixes for these kinks to be worked out. That's precisely why it's often best to wait for the full release, at the very least, before jumping on the upgrade.

Microsoft did take some steps to make this Service Pack function a bit better than past upgrades. It is the first Windows Service Pack to work for both the client (Vista) and server (Windows 2008) editions of the operating system in a single update.

SP2 also includes what Microsoft is calling a 'Service Pack Clean-up Tool'. This will permanently delete old versions of files SP2 is updating, helping you reduce clutter and get rid of outdated system files that'd otherwise just take up space.

Windows Vista review

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