Woody Leonhard

About the Author Woody Leonhard


It’s time: Make sure Windows Auto Update is turned off

It’s time to make sure your computer is locked down. If history is any indication, we’re going to be in for a rocky ride over the next week or two.

In September, folks who were set to update Windows automatically were greeted by Word docs and Excel spreadsheets that wouldn’t display merged cells, switched languages and intentionally broke one-click printing on custom forms. In October, admins who let patches go through automatically were greeted by oceans of blue screens and failures in Microsoft’s own Dynamics CRM. Last month, every version of Windows was hit with a patching bug that blocked Epson dot matrix printers — and those who had told Win10 Creators Update to wait to upgrade found themselves “accidentally” upgraded to Win10 Fall Creators Update, version 1709.

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Microsoft quietly repairs Windows Defender security hole CVE-2017-11937

Many malware researchers were surprised to find an unexpected patch on their machines yesterday. It didn’t arrive through the front door — Windows Update wasn’t involved. Instead, the new version of mpengine.dll arrived automatically, around the back, even if you have Windows Update turned off.

This vulnerability is particularly nasty. If the Malware Protection Engine scans a jimmied file, the file can take over your computer and run whatever it wants. Since the MPE routinely runs all the time, in the background, that means a bad file could infect your computer in myriad ways. To quote Microsoft’s Security Vulnerability notice:

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Windows Update for Win7 broken, throwing error 80248015

Reports are piling in from afar that Windows Update in Win7 is broken. My first sighting was late Sunday afternoon, when KarenS posted on the AskWoody Lounge:

When I clicked on the Windows Update icon today to start the updates it said that my computer was up to date and that there were no updates available which I know was not the truth because I hadn’t installed any of the [recent ones]

KarenS reported that the machine would only regurgitate the message shown in the screenshot.

win7 no updateWoody Leonhard/IDG

There was an attempt to isolate the problem on KarenS’s computers, to no avail — the update service was working fine.

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Retro Start menu star Classic Shell heads out to pasture

Hundreds of millions of downloads just doesn’t cut it, apparently. Ivo Beltchev, who first released the Start Menu replacement in 2009, has decided it just isn’t worth the effort any more. Yesterday he posted this on his official web blog:

After months of deliberation, I have decided to stop the development of Classic Shell…

There were few factors that led to my decision:

1) Lack of free time.

2) Windows 10 is being updated way too frequently

3) Each new version of Windows moves further away from the classic Win32 programming model… The new ways things are done make it very difficult to achieve the same customizations

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Reports of IE 11 failing to start linked to font size

Throughout history, there have been a million reasons why Internet Explorer won’t start: You click on the icon in the taskbar, and nothing happens. Thanks to some stellar sleuthing by @PKCano on AskWoody, it now appears that there’s an identifiable cause for some of the failures. If you’ve recently installed any of the Win 7 or 8.1 Monthly Rollups from September onward and you can’t get IE to start, check your icon font size. Yes, you read that right.

Earlier this week I received an email from reader JB:

Have you heard of or seen an issue with Internet Explorer 11 crashing when the cumulative update for the Win 7 OS KB4048957 is installed? (not the IE patch mind you – the OS cumulative patch. Weird right?)

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Reports of IE 11 failing to start linked to icon font size

Throughout history, there have been a million reasons why Internet Explorer won’t start: You click on the icon in the taskbar, and nothing happens. Thanks to some stellar sleuthing by @PKCano on AskWoody, it now appears that there’s an identifiable cause for some of the failures. If you’ve recently installed any of the Win 7 or 8.1 Monthly Rollups from September onward and you can’t get IE to start, check your icon font size. Yes, you read that right.

Earlier this week I received an email from reader JB:

Have you heard of or seen an issue with Internet Explorer 11 crashing when the cumulative update for the Win 7 OS KB4048957 is installed? (not the IE patch mind you – the OS cumulative patch. Weird right?)

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Get November Windows and Office updates installed — carefully

The list of complaints about this month’s patches goes on forever. I covered the high points a couple of days ago. We’ve seen people who are running Win10 Creators Update and who specifically said they didn’t want to upgrade to Fall Creators Update get pushed into an upgrade anyway. Those using Epson dot matrix or POS printers lost them for a couple of weeks. Add to that a heaping handful of hooey and there were enough problems to keep most Windows customers shaking their heads. Or quaking in their boots.

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Microsoft Patch Alert: November’s forced upgrades, broken printers and more

There are so many issues with this month’s security patches that it’s hard to decide where to begin. Let’s start with the problems that have been acknowledged, then move into the realm of what’s not yet fully defined.

Forced upgrades

Many users have remarked about how much the forced 1703-to-1709 Windows 10 upgrades feel like Microsoft’s detested forced upgrades from Win 7 and 8.1 to 10 – the “Get Windows X” campaign. Although the situation’s different on the surface, the net result is the same. Many people who were happily using Windows 10 Fall Update – version 1703 – were forcibly upgraded this month to the Fall Creators Update – version 1709 – even on systems that were not supposed to be upgraded.

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HP stealthily installs new spyware called HP Touchpoint Analytics Client

Hard to imagine in this age of privacy scandals, but HP is installing a telemetry client on its customers’ computers — and it isn’t offering any warning, or asking permission, before delivering the payload.

Dubbed “HP Touchpoint Analytics Service,” HP says it “harvests telemetry information that is used by HP Touchpoint’s analytical services.” Apparently, it’s HP Touchpoint Analytics Client version 4.0.2.1435.

There are dozens of reports of this new, ahem, service scattered all over the internet. According to Günter Born, reports of the infection go all the way back to Nov. 15, when poster MML on BleepingComputer said:

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Microsoft Thanksgiving turkeys: One patch disappears, another yanked

For those of us keeping track of Windows patches, the long four-day weekend in the U.S. felt like another instantiation of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Here are the developments, in more or less chronological (which is to say, not logical at all) order.

While many of you were sneaking out the door early on Wednesday, Microsoft released KB 4055038, a fix for bugs that clobbered Epson dot matrix printers, introduced in this month’s Patch Tuesday security patches. I talked about the bug two weeks ago. In short, a bug in all of this month’s Windows security patches caused Epson dot matrix printer drivers to fail. The bug appeared in:

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A breakthrough in Surface Book battery problems?

I’m not vouching for Microsoft, mind you, but if the latest official assertion about the Surface Book 2 battery is true, it’s a game changer.

Since the dawn of Surface time, there’s been no way to have a battery replaced: Your only option was to swap out the entire unit, an expensive proposition. A recent post by a Microsoft employee on the official Microsoft Answers Forum raises a glimmer of hope that batteries in the Surface Book 2 can be replaced.

Surface owners have complained about short-lived batteries and their expensive replacements going all the way back to the original Surface and Surface Pro. Way back in February 2013, poster Hyperlexis described his interaction about a bad Surface Pro battery with a Microsoft Surface rep:

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Patch alert: Microsoft acknowledges printer bug; forced 1709 upgrades continue

The patches have been out for only a few days, but as best I as can tell at this early juncture, November’s Patch Tuesday bugs aren’t as bad as they were in October. Thank Redmond.

If you use an Epson dot matrix printer, if you’re seeing an error that CDPUserSvc has stopped working, or if you were forcibly upgraded from Win10 Creators Update, version 1703, to Fall Creators Update, version 1709, I have some good news and some bad news.

Dot matrix dissed

Microsoft has acknowledged a bug in its Patch Tuesday updates that causes “some Epson SIDM and Dot Matrix printers” to fail. The bug appears in this month’s patches for every version of Windows:

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Microsoft forces Win10 1703 customers onto 1709, and other Patch Tuesday shenanigans

Another massive outpouring of Microsoft patches yesterday — more than 1,100 separate patches — brought a few surprises and shouts of indignation from a forced but unannounced upgrade. Some bugs are already evident, and there’s a storm brewing over one Office patch. But by and large, if you don’t use Internet Explorer or Edge, it’s a non-event.

Every version of Windows got patched yesterday (Win10 1709, Win10 1703, Win10 1607, Win10 1511 Enterprise, Win10 1507 LTSC, Win 8.1, Win RT 8.1, Win 7, plus Server 2016, 2012 R2, 2012, 2008 R2, 2008). Almost every version of Office (2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, plus 2013 and 2010 Click-to-Run). Plenty of miscellaneous, too: IE 11, 10, 9 and Edge, Flash for all, SharePoint Server, the ChakraCore package, and various .Nets including ASP.NET. The good news? Unless you use IE or Edge, there’s nothing pressing — you can sit back and watch the bugs crawling out of the woodwork.

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Microsoft promises fixes for several long-standing Surface problems

Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar Surface brand has taken many hits in its relatively short and sordid career, while customer support vacillated between inadequate and non-existent. Now, official posts on the Microsoft Answers Forum lend a ray of hope to those who have specific problems. It remains to be seen if the posts reflect a corporate change of heart, or if they’re just more of the same-old same-old.

Last week I wrote about the apparent bug in the Win10 Fall Creators Update that makes some Surface Pens stop writing. In that article I list 10 separate Answers Forum threads and two Reddit threads, packed with complaints from similarly afflicted customers.

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Non-security Office patches appear with the reprise of KB 2952664 and 2976978

November’s two dozen or so non-security Office patches won’t raise any eyebrows: A bad antivirus scanning sequence problem (KB 4011188, 4011229, 3162081, 4011138), an upgrade from Lynch 2013 to Skype for Business (KB 4011255), and lots of miscellaneous bug fixes. Two patches caught my eye.

First, I’m surprised that the antivirus scanning problem is characterized as non-security:

If Windows Defender is enabled and registered for IOfficeAntivirus scanning, Office applications still run registry key scanning first instead of using Windows Defender for documents scanning. After you install this update, Office applications will use Windows Defender instead.

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