Recently I had someone call me up and asked if I could help her install Vista Service Pack 1. She explained that the normal way of using Windows Update did not work. I was trying to be helpful, so I suggested she try the standalone installer. She did and it didn’t work. But there were two problems. The failure of the standalone installer left the computer unable to get back into Windows. That wasn’t the biggest problem.

The biggest problem was Dell, in their infinite stupidity, decided it was not a good idea to installer the standard Vista recovery console. The problem is fixable with the Vista DVD. But why didn’t Dell give the computer a way to repair automatically like Vista allows?

Anyway, this person called me late Friday, I couldn’t get to her until Monday. In the meantime, she called Dell. Big mistake. All over-the-phone tech support people know how to do is read down a list. The problem was with Vista and its quirk and with Dell and their stupidity at the time. But, in my experience with tech supports, if their list doesn’t know how to fix the problem, it must be your fault or someone else’s fault. A common trait in too many businesses now.

Dell put the blame on me. I have the Vista DVD. I could have fixed the problem. Granted, it will take a very long time, but it is fixable. Dell made out like it wasn’t fixable. A lie or an act of ignorance. Either way, this person bought a new computer from Dell and then fussed me out.

Okay, now that the story is over, here is the lesson. If a Service Pack does not install with Windows Update, do not use the standalone installer. Instead, do an in-place upgrade first. An in-place upgrade is Microsoft way of saying a repair installation where Windows is rebuilt from scratch. The process works like you are upgrading Windows. In other words, in this instance you are upgrading Vista to Vista. The in-place upgrade must be for the same version and service pack of Windows. You cannot use an in-place upgrade to go Vista SP1 to Vista SP2. After the in-place upgrade finishes, then you can install the service packs.

Another lesson, don’t ever give advice on what to do with Windows Vista over the phone.