Vista Service Pack 1 appears to be available through BitTorrent and several other Web sites on which users directly share with each other digital files containing software programs, video games, and other forms of content.
Computer users apparently can't wait for Microsoft to make Vista SP1 officially available. The patch contains more than 300 hot fixes designed to improve everything from how Vista handles multimedia displays to security.
Microsoft on Monday announced that the service pack has been "released to manufacturing." However, the company is withholding its release until it can fix some compatibility problems with drivers for peripheral devices like mice, keyboards, and printers.
Microsoft now says that Vista SP1 won't be available as a manual download until mid-March on the Windows Update service. Even then, installation will be rejected on PCs with the problematic drivers. Affected users who want to access the software regardless will be able to download it from Microsoft.com.
Microsoft will automatically push Vista SP1 to customers who have signed for automated downloads from Windows Update starting in mid-April. Again, however, PCs that are using the incompatible drivers will be blocked from receiving the update.
Microsoft has thus far refused to specify which drivers are affected by the glitch.
Windows Update will automatically install new drivers that fix the issue "as they become available." Only then will Vista SP1 be installed, according to a blog post Monday by Windows product manager Mike Nash.
The driver hitch also means that it may be months before Windows Vista SP1 is available as pre-installed software on new PCs or as packaged software in stores. "Both will be available in stores for new Windows Vista customers in the coming months," Nash wrote.
Until then, users can always -- at their own risk, of course -- turn to the file-sharing sites. Whether or not it's illegal to download the software from a P2P site prior to its official release is illegal a tricky question. The update is free, but Microsoft hasn't formally signed off on it.