Microsoft has warned that several prominent anti-virus programmes – including products from BitDefender, Trend Micro and Check Point - must be updated before they will work with the soon-to-be-released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1).
In an updated list of third-party software that doesn't work with Vista SP1, the major update expected to reach most users in about three weeks, Microsoft noted that a number of security suites will be barred from launching once the service pack is installed.
"The programs in the following table have known compatibility problems with Windows Vista SP1. For reliability reasons, Microsoft blocks these programs from starting after you install Windows Vista SP1," the company said in a support document.
The list included BitDefender AV and BitDefender Internet Security, version 10; Trend Micro Internet Security 2008; Zone Alarm Security Suite, version 7.1.078; and Jiangmin KV Antivirus, versions 10 and 2008.
All six packages have been updated, according to Microsoft, by their vendors; Vista SP1-compliant versions can be downloaded or created by updating existing editions supported by Vista.
At least one of the security developers, however, wasn't taking any chances. In an email, a spokeswoman for Check Point reiterated the information on Microsoft's list. "The current version of [ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite], 7.1.218, is compatible with Vista SP1 and is not blocked," said Heather Haas. "Earlier versions, 7.1.105 and below, did not work with SP1, thus leading Microsoft to report that SP1 blocks ZAISS 7.1."
Microsoft's Vista SP1 incompatibility list also fingered a handful of non-security programs, including the New York Times Reader, a program that downloads the complete newspaper each day and lets subscribers read it offline; and Novell's ZCM Agent.
It's not unusual for Microsoft to call out a few packages either just before, or at some point after, the release of a service pack. It did the same thing, for example, more than three years ago when it last updated Windows XP. The list of incompatible programs, last updated in May 2007, includes almost three times as many as Vista SP1's warning. And like SP1's, the list for XP SP2 also includes several security tools, ranging from Norton AntiVirus to ZoneAlarm, a standalone personal firewall.
Nor is the idea that an operating system update breaks existing software a Windows-only concept. Although Apple does not provide similar lists - it did not post any kind of incompatible program list before or after the release last October of Mac OS X 10.5, others compiled lists that ran into the scores.
Microsoft plans to roll out Vista SP1 via Windows Update in mid-March as an optional download, then follow that the next month with an automatic download that installs to most Vista machines. Although it announced that it shipped the service pack nearly three weeks ago, it cited problems with an unspecified number of hardware device drivers as the reason for the delay in making it available to the general user population.
However, it has released the final, or RTM (release to manufacturing) code to beta testers, Volume Licensing customers, and subscribers to TechNet Plus and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). The latter groups, mostly IT professionals and Windows developers, were offered SP1 only after they complained publicly about being forced to download pirated copies of SP1 to start their testing.