The first beta version of Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) is now in the hands of testers, after Microsoft released the update to subscribers of its Technet and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) services.

The Windows Vista SP2 beta will be made available to the general public on Thursday, with the final release expected in the first half of 2009.

Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management, said any Vista user interested in trying out the update will be able to do so through a Customer Preview Program (CPP) on Microsoft's TechNet website, however he urged most users to wait until the final release of the service pack before updating.

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windows vista sp2"The CPP is intended for technology enthusiasts, developers, and IT pros who would like to test Service Pack 2 in their environments and with their applications prior to final release," said Nash. "For most customers, our best advice would be to wait until the final release prior to installing this service pack."

As well as previously released fixes, Vista SP2 will include a couple of new features, including Windows Search 4.0 for improved search, the most recent Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, the ability to record data on Blu-Ray media natively, Windows Connect Now for easier Wi-Fi configuration, and support for UTC timestamps for file synchronisation across time zones.

The 32-bit version of Vista SP2 is a 41MB download, while the 64-bit equivalent is about 60MB, according to Microsoft.