If you're a Vista user still looking to iron out some of the operating system's niggles, perhaps you'd like the chance to test drive Service Pack 2?

According to Information Week, Microsoft has made a pre-release beta of the next lot of fixes for the company's flagship operating system available for public download. The same package will also update Windows Server 2008 installations, which use the same base technologies as Vista.

The update – which weighs in at a not-inconsiderable 388MB for the 32-bit edition or a whopping 614MB if you're running 64-bit code – is available for immediate public download on the Microsoft Download Center in a 'five language' installer which covers English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Interestingly, the service pack requires that users are already running Service Pack 1 before installation, so if you were hoping that SP2 offered an easy way to update your system to the latest and greatest you might want to keep hold of your existing update downloads for a while yet.

Besides rolling up all the security and bug fixes released between Service Pack 1 and the code freeze data of October 2008, SP2 offers users improved power management features alongside Windows Search 4 and additional facilities to support Blu-ray recording within the operating system. Users hoping to benefit from the updates should remember, however, that it is a beta – and Microsoft has a tendency to make updating from a beta Service Pack to the final release a bit of a pain.

If you're still desperate to try it and want to cut down on the amount of data you'll need to download, Computer World has a tip on enabling Windows Update to download the SP2 beta for you – which can result in a download as small as 41MB if your system is already fairly up-to-date. Be warned that the tip is not for the faint of heart – and that the update process can take as long as an hour to complete.

With no official word on the release to manufacturing deadline for SP2 – although April 2009 is the odds-on favourite according to rumours – the beta could well be the only way to get the advanced features working for a good few months.

Tempted to try out Vista now SP2 is – sort of – available, or are you still holding back for Windows 7? Perhaps you're already a Vista user looking to enhance the experience still further? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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