back to article Windows XP repair disk kills automatic updates

A commonly used method for repairing Windows computers can disable the automatic installation of Microsoft updates, or patches, it was revealed this week. The company is getting a kicking from critics for this - the same people who slammed the company two weeks ago when Microsoft forced a Windows patch on users who had turned …

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  1. Michael Sheils

    People were complaining

    Because MS didn't bother to explain why the update was needed, as you article explains this can cause issues for network admins, etc. NOW people are complaining about that update because it breaks one of the most common disaster recovery tools available for winXP.

    I fail to see what your problem is with people raising this issue?

  2. david Bronze badge

    Read My Lips

    The forced update broke the Windows repair disk.

    The Windows repair disk does not repair Windows correctly because of the forced update.

    The Windows repair disk is broken because of the forced update.

    The Windows repair disk can only repair Windows. If MS forces a silent update that rewrites Windows as Ubunto, the repair disk can't repair correctly.

    This is why MS should not have silently forced an update on unsuspecting users.

  3. Steven Knox Silver badge

    Inconsistency

    "But it's inconsistent for critics to take Microsoft to task for pushing an update that was necessary for the continued smooth running of Windows Update and then gripe when the update gets undone by a repair disk."

    No it's not. The first gripe is about MS's unwillingness to recognize its responsibility to notify users of its software's activity on their PCs, and to accept users' decisions about what software is installed on their PCs. The second is about MS's failure to test their update against a very common scenario.

    In fact, it would be only be inconsistent if users didn't recognize that the two issues were related, and that the practical problem could only have been avoided by Microsoft behaving differently in both cases (i.e, if Microsoft had tested a repair scenario AND notified users about the update, it could have included information about fixing auto updates after a repair within the original KB article for the update.) But since MS did neither (and in fact even if it had done one or the other but not both) the result was yet more erosion of users' confidence in the company.

    The silent update isn't the red herring. The red herring is the false impression that this is about Automatic Updates, when it's really about Microsoft listening to its customers.

  4. Adam Cutchin

    Awful analysis, Mr. Goodin

    The fact that windows update performed in a way entirely contrary to its users explicit instructions and Microsoft's documentation is by no means a "red herring."

    Microsoft tried to downplay the issue by saying that the update was good and proper, was most definitely harmless, and the closest they came to accepting responsibility was that they "could have been more transparent."

    Well now it turns out that the update in question was not harmless at all. A misbehaving update which can kill the auto update functionality under some circumstances is bad, but forgivable. But now it's all the more a slap in the face that this was also the one update which was invisibly declared non-optional by Redmond.

    Technical flaws happen. Anybody using MS products for any length of time has probably become conditioned to accept them. But a security policy blunder like this is a much, much bigger issue. That you think the easily fixed technical problem is the only real issue here is simply bizarre, and inconsistent with just about every security researcher's opinion on the matter that I've read.

    But let's put your "red herring" idea to the test. Let's see if Microsoft forces the fix to this problem on their users in the same way that the forced the update that caused the problem in the first place. I suspect they wont, meaning at least Microsoft got this one correct, even if you missed its significance entirely.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the sake of argument...

    ...suppose I yield to the argument that we/customers are being inconsistent.

    I do not care.

    I am the customer. I vote with my dollars. Or pounds. Or yen.

    Who is the vendor, and who is the purchaser, here?

    - The Garret

  6. Adrian Esdaile

    Typical MS bashers

    leaping on any bandwagon without checking facts, getting stories straight, reading the manual, etc. etc. etc.

    Yawn.

    They probably also complained ad nauseum when they were forced to change to metric, too. (If they live in a country advanced enough to use metric, that is)

    At least us Apple-bashers rely only on cold hard physical evidence that Macs Are Crap.

    Ask the BOFH; he'll set you straight.

  7. Tom Silver badge

    You think updates are bad...

    Just try to get older software support, or even the "last released" version of something. I was trying to get IE 5.5 for Win 98se. It seems that on Win 98, the latest Adobe reader needs it. What a pain. Microsoft doean't archive these "obsolete" versions of things on their site. I've also got an older Apple Quadra 840AV (nice machine for its age). At least I can go to Apple's site where they have older versions available. OK, they are obsolete, but at least they are there. Maybe Microsoft is embarassed that anyone would want an improved version that runs faster, even if it was a few years old. Apple has no qualms. Maybe there is a lesson here. Time will tell.

    Most of my machines use Linux anyway, but that is another story...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another point...

    The justification for the forced update seems plain wrong anyway. A PC may spend an arbitrary amount of time disconnected from the internet and all other network connections. PCs were used before the internet ever became popular, and not everyone is an addict. Microsoft cannot assume that any past version of Update is ever completely gone, and must always support a reasonable upgrade route from all past versions at all times.

    If Microsoft must always support upgrades from all versions at all times, why should it need to force a particular upgrade at a particular time?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's enough to drive you insane

    This is just sloppy systems programming I do expect it from MS I don't think it's right I just expect them to screw it up. I don't care but I would think at this point people would stop worrying about it.

  10. Damien Jorgensen

    sloppy? joker!

    Dont talk rubbish, theres nothing sloppy about it, thats the kind of comment you get from Philistinism.

    If you let Windows Update check for updates, them it seems to me that you intend to install at least some of them. If Microsoft thinks that a patch is so critical that it should install it automitcally then I think theyd be a pretty good judge of whats needed.

    The people that want to go and zap are those that have Windows Update turned off completly. If you're on the net Windows should force the end user to keep up to date. This is exactly like the Measles jab, people dont give it to their kids and we get a major problem. People dont apply patches and we get things like the Sasser Worm

  11. Blain Hamon

    Consistency

    > But it's inconsistent for critics to take Microsoft to task for pushing an update that was necessary for the continued smooth running of Windows Update and then gripe when the update gets undone by a repair disk.

    What part of "I want to update only when I want to update" is inconsistent? It's not "update when I don't want to update" or "don't update when I want to update."

    > At least I can go to Apple's site where they have older versions available.

    Apple's good about 7.5 and the like ( http://www.info.apple.com/support/oldersoftwarelist.html ), but here's a challenge. iTunes 3.0, or any version that'll run on MacOS 9.

  12. Brian Milner

    What about PCs that use WSUS?

    Many PCs use WSUS. They won't get this update.

    What does the update do, and why should some PCs but not others, need it?

  13. davcefai

    @ Damien Jorgensen

    I OWN my PCs. MS only thinks that they do.

    If you think that MS is a good judge of anything where USERS' best interests are concerned I suggest you review the available evidence. Or ask those people whose "Windows Experience" was enhanced by installing WGA.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we expect MS to disa,,,,, sorry I mean update XP so we all have to buy Vista ??

    What I am concerned about is that MS will issue an update that disables XP in some way so we all have to rush out and buy Vista . Is that possible they will do this do you think ?.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Computers with backdoors!

    They ignored the update policy on a computer and sent a forced update through anyway. You just don't get how major that is.

    THEY HAVE THEIR OWN BACKDOOR INTO EVERY COMPUTER! Which means no documents on any Windows computer is safe. Regardless of encryption, format, location, anything else.

    What that patch did (or what the previous one did that they wanted to overwrite), isn't as major as THEY'VE GIVEN THEMSELVES A BACKDOOR ONTO EVERY COMPUTER!

  16. Paul Banacks

    The bottom line is...

    We learn from this that you might own the hardware but don't for a minute believe you own the software or any data on it. If Microsoft wants to target your individual PC, read your files and install software, perhaps under the orders of a USA "security" agency or maybe just from someone that pays them enough, then they can and will. I guess that's the same for any automatic update system, but with Microsoft when you think you've turned it off, you really haven't.

  17. Peter Mc Aulay

    Speaking out of both sides of their mouths

    I disagree. Microsoft violates the principle of least surprise. Yet again. The complaint is perfectly legitimate.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has always been buggy

    I've seen this happen when installing SP4 on Windows 2000 after a fresh install, and on XP (even before MS's 'update'), so why all the outcry now? Often WSUS seems to stop working on some machines when MS issues an update like this. Usually, manually going to the Windows update site will fix this, sometimes something stronger like the excellent "Dial-a-fix" tool by DJ Lizard is needed, sometimes you really have dig for it and see what services are 'broken.' But again, this is something that corporate Sysadmins have been living with for a long time.

  19. Chris

    Microsoft's argument is weak and doesn't hold water

    "Microsoft eventually explained that the forced update concerned Windows Update itself, and as such, was installed on machines that were configured to keep track of new patches, even if the user had opted not to have them automatically applied. Failure to patch Windows Update would prevent it from working reliably, Microsoft said."

    Why didn't Microsoft simply present this as an optional update explaining that its installation would be necessary to receive further updates? At least that way people would have had control over what was running on their machines. The fact that this forced update actually broke an importaint tool that people use to repair their machines and to feel that they have some measure of control over their own property only makes it worse.

    But hey, the people who have been affected by this should probably count themselves lucky that they haven't been suckered into "upgrading" from Windows XP yet. If this article had been about Windows Vista then I could easily imagine that my quote from the article would have been something along the lines of the following:

    "Microsoft eventually explained that the forced update concerned Windows Vista itself, and as such, was installed on machines that were configured to keep track of user activities, even if the user had opted not to have them automatically applied. Failure to patch Windows Vista would prevent it from working reliably, Microsoft said."

  20. BitTwister

    @Damien Jorgensen

    > If you let Windows Update check for updates, them it seems to me that you intend to install at least some of them.

    Or that you'd like to first review what's available before making your OWN decision, so that you can try to judge any impact on existing installed software - software which might have nothing to do with Microsoft?

    > If Microsoft thinks that a patch is so critical that it should install it automitcally then I think theyd be a pretty good judge of whats needed.

    Microsoft has never demonstrated an ability to judge anything properly - least of all the needs or opinions of the machine's OWNER. (clue: it's not Microsoft)

  21. Andy

    Not strictly related to *automatic* updates, but...

    Windows update: you visit a web site, and in consequence core operating system files get replaced. Just what kind of amoeba could possibly have thought that was a good idea? I wouldn't trust them to sit the right way on a toilet seat.

    -A.

  22. AdrianC

    Am I missing something?

    MS have issued an update to Windows Update that MUST, MUST, MUST, MUST be applied *NOW*. It's so critical that it's applied now that it's going to be applied whether you want it or not. Next week isn't good enough. Before the next updates you do apply isn't good enough.

    So, ummm... what happens in six months time when somebody reinstalls Windows from the OEM install CD that came with their machine several years ago...? Will they be able to install this update then? Or will they be barred from Windows Update completely, and left with an unpatched pre-SP1 install...?

    With install keys being specific to and incompatible between "genuine MS", licence scheme and different branded OEM install CDs, there's no easy way to start from a post-hyper-critical-update CD without a lot of fannying about building slipstreamed media, so there's going to be an awful lot of very broken copies of XP in short order.

    Is this a sneaky plan to get people to upgrade to Vista after all...?

  23. Chris

    Microsoft's argument is weak and doesn't hold water

    "Microsoft eventually explained that the forced update concerned Windows Update itself, and as such, was installed on machines that were configured to keep track of new patches, even if the user had opted not to have them automatically applied. Failure to patch Windows Update would prevent it from working reliably, Microsoft said."

    Why didn't Microsoft simply present this as an optional update explaining that its installation would be necessary to receive further updates? At least that way people would have had control over what was running on their machines. The fact that this forced update actually broke an importaint tool that people use to repair their machines and to feel that they have some measure of control over their own property only makes it worse.

    But hey, the people who have been affected by this should probably count themselves lucky that they haven't been suckered into "upgrading" from Windows XP yet. If this article had been about Windows Vista then I could easily imagine that my quote from the article would have been something along the lines of the following:

    "Microsoft eventually explained that the forced update concerned Windows Vista itself, and as such, was installed on machines that were configured to keep track of user activities, even if the user had opted not to have them automatically applied. Failure to patch Windows Vista would prevent it from working reliably, Microsoft said."

  24. Doug Taylor

    Windows Update WingDing Evil Easter Egg

    Here's a wonder for you. At random times after running windows update, all you can see are wingdings, and all your fonts are lost. Try running a regedit repair when you get have wingdings instead of characters.

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/919752

    SYMPTOMS

    Consider one of the following scenarios:

    • You install updates from the Microsoft Windows Update Web site at the same time that antivirus software is running on a Microsoft Windows XP-based computer.

    • You run a virus scan on the computer after you install updates from the Windows Update Web site.

    In this scenario, most of the Windows fonts on the computer may not be registered. Additionally, the default Windows display font becomes a symbol font such as Wingdings or Webdings. When a symbol font is used as the default display font, you may not be able to read the UI where this font is used.

  25. Timothy Slade

    @Damien Jorgensen

    BULLSHIT

    "If you're on the net Windows should force the end user to keep up to date. This is exactly like the Measles jab, people dont give it to their kids and we get a major problem. People dont apply patches and we get things like the Sasser Worm"

    How many years has XP been out? How many patches have been released? And how many worms, virus and so on have affected it or its components, such as IE and Outlook?

    Patching is something that is done after the fact. The way to avoid malware problems is to use systems that are properly designed and administered. I don't update my copy of windows: it works, why the fk would I let Microsoft change that? I do run Zonealarm, and keep it fully up to date - and run periodic scans of my machine.

    Microsoft shouldn't "force" people to do shit. Microsoft provide software to users. They should do it on the users terms. But we all know how likely that is.

  26. Old Fart

    Doesn't work with new install

    Just installed XP Pro on a new hard drive, tried to update the files, and Windows Update icon in Control Panel doesn't work, tried to go to Microsoft website to download the update software, no go-won't even download, tried going to Windows Update through Internet Explorer favorites, and IE freezes up.

    So I guess that answers the question about the OEM install.

  27. Tom Simnett

    Re: Read my lips

    Surely rewriting Windows as Ubuntu is repair in itself, and therefore requirement of said repair disc is no longer needed?

    Oh to be frivolous!

  28. AdrianC

    @ Old Fart - Thanks for that...

    Flamin' Nora... MS shoot 'emselves in the foot? They've blown everything south of the nipples off this time.

  29. Paul Barton

    RE: Forced Upgrades to Vista

    Some people mournfully predict (half jokingly) that MS will deliberately cripple XP to 'force' people to buy Vista.

    If a company releases a product that is so broken and unreliable that even the part of it designed to keep its brokenness under control ends up breaking it even further, and a person responds to this by rushing out to buy even more products from that company, well.....

    All I'd say to them is 'Go for it'. Fools and their money ~are~ quickly parted after all, and Paul Allen's yacht isn't quite as impressive as it once was, is it?

  30. David Wilkinson

    Microsoft reserves the right to hack you comptuer.

    Nice to know that Microsoft has the ability to push any software they please on my computers without my knowledge or consent.

    I actually read the entire EULA once, but I must have missed that section that gives makes this even remotely legal.

  31. daniel Bronze badge

    Why can't it "just work"...

    First of all, having just reinstalled for a customer several Windows 2000 servers, I know that before installing any system updates, I have to update Windows Update several times, including a couple of reboots.... so if Windows update can be updated this way, why does MS need to force an upgrade? What would happen if this forced upgrade service got hacked and pushed a malware named 'Windows Update' to several million PC's?

    On a similar note, I have also noted that on 2000/XP systems that Windows Update checks that all it's services (3 in total) are not only running, but set to automatic start, otherwise, even if manually started, you cannot update... so your PC's need to run needlessly 5 mb of code and data, 23.5 hours a day... This linked with other unneeded services for a home user (DNS [only works for an Active Directory network], Windows time [most firewalls block it], telephony [no use if you have an ethernet/wifi connection], distributed link [never seen it used]...) Can anyone say bloat?

    Finally, when I repair a system,I do not expect the repair to break somthing... OK, several services and applications are going to get rolled back, especially if you repair an XP system with SP2 installed with it's original non-SP CD, but no-one thought of making the update client self repairing?

    If updates are set, and with the number of PC's available (and the general technical knowledge - or lack of - with most users), I am surprised that MS cannot maintain a backward compatible service that would allow users to upgrade their updaters until finally being able to upgrade the system - even if it takes a week, between 4 updater upgrades (and associated reboots) and then finally a system and app upgrade...

    And if I set the system not to upgrade at all, Not At All means what it says. It's my PC and my damn responsability. I own the hardware, I decide what code gets installed on it: Agreeing to a EULA is one thing, but not to signing a blank check (IE you agree to the EULA now, and this covers your agreement to currently installed code, but also code and functionnality that does not exist yet and that you do not know about).

  32. Dave

    Appaling article, Goodin

    Appalling editorial decision to publish this M$ apologia.

    When oh when oh when will Redmond UNDERSTAND that we OWN our PCs - not them??

    We can only hope that they learn the transparency lesson. Oh! and perhaps they should include advice when an update is so fundamental that we are strongly advised to make a new "known good" (? known OK-ish would be more accurate?) backup?

  33. Thomas Martin

    I stopped updates years ago

    I have blocked Micro$oft in my firewall for years. Anything that has microsoft in the resolved domain name is blocked. I review the patches at work and copy them to CDR and install the ones I want.

    Micro$oft no longer has the privilege of touching my system.

  34. LehiNephi

    If it ain't broke...

    Personally, I would like to know what was wrong with Windows Update that needed fixing. Seriously. WU has been running for....well, since Win98 at least, with periodic updates. If you didn't have the latest version of WU, you were given the option of either installing the new version, or going without patches. It didn't matter how old your old version of WU was, you could always update to the latest version, and then apply the patches.

    It was all well and good until Microsoft decided to integrate WU with the operating system. That wasn't all bad, really--since most users don't care about security, it was fine for XP to download and install updates on its own by default. Since then, however, it appears that they have begun to assert more and more authority over our computers. If I recall correctly, this isn't the first time there's been a forced update contrary to the user's wishes. It's just that this is the first time it's had nasty consequences.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No inconsistency at all....

    I completely disagree with the rather biased writer - this is not a two-faced issue.

    The main issue is that MS have decided unilaterally that a patch will be installed; this patch clearly disables any ability to repair a system effectively.

    At no point is the owner of the computer in question ever given any choice.

    This isn't about Automatic Updates ability to function - this is a user choice issue.

    Plain and simple.

    Why is it two-faced to complain about a patch being installed without authorisation and then complain that this patch can break a function over which the user should have ultimate control and sanction?

    Once again MS have taken the "We know best" approach and given the resulting SNAFU, this is obviously not true.

  36. Ash

    Bitch, Moan, Sigh...

    Vote with your currency. Stop buying Microsoft. They will not stop behaving this way until you do.

    What insentive do they have while they are still raking in your cash?

  37. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Patch?!!!

    If the roofers came back to me and said they wanted to install a new patch, I'd say WTF? I'd probably get pretty angry too, especially if they showed up in the middle of the night without asking me! When I write the cheque, I expect that to be the last of it. It's standard practice not to pay for something until it's finished. This whole Windows patch thing is just plain unprofessional, regardless of the reasons. Like with the roofers, I honestly don't care whose fault it is. I don't want to hear any reasons or excuses, and I don't want to see them again for a number of years. Of course if the work was done for free, I wouldn't have a reason to complain.

  38. steve lampros

    RE: Computers with backdoors!

    the above noted post: Computers with backdoors! is ABSOLUTELY all that really matters here. can we ALL look at the big picture please?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the Point

    it seems a lot of people seem to be missing the point, if MS can silently put patch's on your system what else could they do with you knowing?

    oh look they just got your credit cards details and charged a copy of vista to it to boost sales :) , or even worse someone at MS could get something on your system via a "silent update" take all your details, passwords, etc and sell them to the highest bidder

    Hmm time to get linux on dual boot, shame game makers don't do linux clients, then would be no need for the dual boot :)

  40. Kevin Thomas

    @Adrian Esdaile

    And there we have it, surely a record. How long before someone bashes Apple, and in an article that's not even related to the Mac.

    Well done. Almost as much fun as watching any England football match and waiting to see how long before the commentator mentions 1966!

  41. lansalot

    @Brian Milner

    "Many PCs use WSUS. They won't get this update."

    Actually, in a default install of WSUS, updates to Windows Update itself are set to automatically approve for "All Computers", so unless your sysadmin has unticked that option, all your internal machines updating from WSUS will likely have received and applied this update by now.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EULA

    You may be the customer, but you agreed to the EULA .. nuff said methinks.

  43. Duncan

    Plain Silly

    I know a large portion of the IT industry still like to bash MS for anything and everything they do, increasingly it’s just plain silly, please get over it. I’ve been a critic in the past and will be in the future from time to time but no one will ever take that seriously due to the constant silliness of the average ‘MS hater’. Windows XP was surprisingly good, fact! it hurt to accept but I have now and lets move an and keep it real :D

    p.s

    have you seen the way Bill wears his pants… terrible!

  44. Slaine

    Automatically updating via a backdoor.

    So what if M1cr0$h4ft have taken it upon themselves to force a fix for part of XP. So what if they have used yet another gaping hole in the security of their bloatware in order to do it.

    Call me a cynic but wouldn't it be nice if they actually fixed the operating system while they are at it?

    Windows98 was supposed to be the full fix for 95 - nope, still waiting... Windows 2000 and ME ? nope - still waiting... Windows XP comes along as the great new OS? nope - still waiting... Vista ? HA HA HA!!! - the single greatest advert for Linux ever... and now, not only are we still waiting for proper drivers, support and security but there is now valuable M1cr0$h4ft time, money and effort being spent on Vienna because MS have absolutely NO intention of providing what the end client originally asked for; to wit: a secure, reliable operating system.

    Have you ever read a UELA agreement? ... see below...

  45. Kevin Gurney

    When you buy Windows........

    Do you buy the software (ie. you own it) or do you buy a licence to use it (ie. Microsoft own Windows and give you permission to install it) ?

    To use the roofing analogy above, if I'd paid roofers and they realised after doing the job that they'd left a big hole in my roof, I'd rather they came and fix it rather than waiting for me to notice the water running in.

  46. Slaine

    Have you ever read a UELA agreement?

    5. Internet-Based Services. Microsoft provides Internet-based services with this supplement. It may change or cancel them at any time. This supplement connects to Microsoft or service provider computer systems over the Internet as described below. In some cases, you will not receive a separate notice when it connects.

    ((Microsoft reserves the right to change its mind or cancel this deal altogether. Microsoft admit however that it will use your personal bandwidth to keep in touch with your computer and it will not necessarily inform you when it is doing so.))

    6. Computer Information. This supplement uses Internet protocols to send to Microsoft computer information, such as your Windows XP product key, hard drive serial number, PC manufacturer, operating system version, Windows XP product ID, PC BIOS information, user locale setting, language version of Windows XP, validation result and whether the installation of this supplement was successful. Certain information derived from your IP address, which cannot be used to identify you, is retained in association with this computer information.

    ((Microsoft will keep a note of your IP number, plus details of your hard disk identity, you computer and internet providers, your settings and your location and store it linked to your product key for windows. If, in the future, you upgrade your computer, the differences will force you to purchase another operating system, by which time we should have got rid of the last of XP and filled all the shelves with Vista or Vienna.))

    7. Use of Information. We may use the computer information to improve our software and services, help prevent improperly licensed use of the software, and develop aggregate statistics. We may also share the aggregate data with others, such as hardware and software vendors

    ((Microsoft reserve the right to give your details to manufacturers of computer software and hardware. As if your junk mail folder wasn't already full enough, now I can look forward to seeing adverts for all the new hardware I can't afford but need in order to run the operating system I can't afford and don't want))

    8. CONSENT FOR INTERNET-BASED SERVICES. BY USING THIS FEATURE, YOU CONSENT TO THE TRANSMISSION AND USE OF THE ABOVE COMPUTER INFORMATION.

    and that is why I click "Decline"

  47. Steve

    Disappointing article

    Dan,

    I'm disappointed with this article, because usually your articles are of a high quality (and better than most of the other Reg writers)

    ----------

    "red herrings about stealth updates" : they weren't red herrings, based on the first half of your article!

    I quote : "the end user who should ultimately decide what software runs on it"

    ----------

    "But it's inconsistent for critics to take Microsoft to task for pushing an update that was necessary for the continued smooth running of Windows Update and then gripe when the update gets undone by a repair disk"

    There is no inconsistency. There are two problems, being articulated by the same people. The first one is the user controlling what is installed on their PC (see earlier in your article). The second one is an update (whether pushed by MS or pulled by myselves) breaking vital functionality. Two separate complaints about two separate problems. It is not inconsistent to complain about both of them.

  48. Costa Mihalidis

    about the backdoor

    if i was a hacker, i would be delighted to learn that microsoft has a build-in backdoor

    if i was a hacker i would set out to find how it works and make my own "patch" - just imagine, an undetectable rootkit (just ask Sony how to do it)

    - complete access - and the user wouldn't even have to click on anything, email OR funny links

    i wonder if antivirus programs would be able to detect something like this

  49. Dave

    Nasty, with Nasty Implications, and a side order of Nasty

    Let me see if I understand this:

    Automatic Updates is *allegedly* under user control. There are 3 options.

    i) Automatically Update the system with all the relevant new patches.

    ii) Present the user with a list of the new relevant patches and allow the user to determine whether or not to apply them.

    iii) The user has expressed a preference not to be notified of the existence of patches at all. They will either get the patches from another source (Company Update sites, Removable media, with the list of patches compiled by someone who vaguely knows what they are doing) or do without.

    Now it turns out that choosing to be responsible for the configuration of your own hardware is not being honoured. There always exists the possibility that some fool in M$ could ( via action / inaction / malice / love / social engineering) allow an arbitrary package to be silently sent to any Intarweb connected Windows box.

    Isn't this a Backdoor into the system? How secure is this backdoor? (Help! We are through the Looking Glass; I appear to be positing the existence of Secure Security Holes !?)

    How easy would it be for someone to spoof a Mega Kritikal Update to dump the wacky world of Warez, Virii, Trojanuses, and other software Buckets of Sunshine [(c) Lewis Page 2007] straight onto my harddrive?

    It would seem that the only way to secure your system from these buckets would be to break an allegedly disabled feature, by repairing it, and then manually repatch the system back to it's previous level.

    Is that right? Is the above really a simplified and exaggerated version of what's happened, and its potential implications?

    Does Windows Update go looking for new patches to Pull down, regardless of the AU settings, or were they Pushed onto the boxes? (Trying to figure how how this would be exploited.)

    --------------------------------------------

    Bonus Feature for the TinFoil Hatters - Pick your favourite:

    THEY (You know who THEY are!) have had full control to your PC all along. And you never suspected a thing. And even if you did there's nothing you could have done about it. You're no better than those mindless meat-sack drones that we (uhh, you) call Sheeple!!! Run!! Hide!! It's all True!!

    or

    It's all a Giant Conspiracy to improve Vista Sales!!! It's now impossible to assume you have a secure XP installation!!!11!!one! To ensure security you must either: Go Linux, Mac, OtherOS, which is unlikely, cos you'd have done it already; or Buy Vista, which is safe from all this nastiness, thanks to it's updated security model.

    or

    Tehy blew it!!! A Brave Courageous Whistleblower revealed teh existence of tehir Top Secret Back door! Now we have evidence taht TEHY (see "THEY" - first option) have been secretly infesting our computers all along. Now we can fight back! Teh Revelation taht starts teh Revolution!!shift+one!!11!!!

  50. Matthew

    For goodness sake!!

    Am I the only person here that thinks running Windows Update & checking automatic update status is something you need to do after doing a system restore? Its basic computer admin.

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