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About a year after its release, Microsoft Windows Vista will receive its first service pack update in March. Microsoft says the service pack (SP1) will offer better compatibility with third-party hardware, increased reliability, tighter security, and better performance.

Overall the SP1 release is largely a code update, lacking of any new eye candy, and very light on “must-have” features for basic home users. Most of the features publicized by Microsoft are for the Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate Vista editions of the operating system.

The good: Windows Vista SP1 improves the overall upgrade process, fixes hundreds of small problems, and makes it easier for third-party vendors to write stable code for the o/s.

The bad: Vista SP1 lacks any real convincing “must haves,” and, in most cases, doesn’t significantly improve overall performance.

The ugly: It seems many businesses are sticking with Windows XP for as long as possible. And it’s possible some may bypass Vista altogether and wait for Windows 7, a Vista successor that’s due out in 2010 with rumors of an even earlier release.

The bottom line: It is always good to install the latest code for any operating system however installing the Vista SP1 update may require an investment in time with little visible improvements to your systems.