Microsoft this week issued its latest round of patches in what has long been known as ‘Patch Tuesday’. This latest batch of fixes was relatively light with there being only three critical bulletins and five important updates.
The eight security bulletins cover a total of 19 separate vulnerabilities aimed at fixing bugs in Windows, Internet Explorer and Office. Whilst there is no fix for the wide-reaching zero-day TIFF vulnerability that was recently discovered, installing the latest patches is still recommended.
Of course many computer users do not need to give a whole lot of thought to Patch Tuesday though as Windows Update takes care of everything for them.
Well, perhaps not this month.
Users of Microsoft’s Community forums, as well as commentators elsewhere around the web, are reporting en masse that there are a whole lot of problems this month.
A great many Microsoft customers are saying that Windows Update has borked the installation of November’s patches and that they are experiencing unexpected errors, even on fresh installs of their operating system.
“I’ve been having an issue updating my copy of Windows 8.1. I went into Windows Update and noticed that it hadn’t checked for updates since November 1st. Every time I run Windows Update, either on the desktop or tiled interface, it gives a 80244FFF error.”
In the same thread Korn1699 highlighted that reinstalling Windows was no help:
“First it happened on an upgrade from 8 to 8.1 machine. I did a clean install with just 8.1, and the same thing happened after a couple weeks.”
Currently there is no official fix or workaround for this problem but Microsoft engineers have offered up some fixes such as:
I would suggest you to check the Service status of Windows Update.
a) Press Windows key + R and type services.msc in the search field and press ENTER.
b) Scroll down to find ” Windows Update “.
c) Right-click ” Windows Update “, and then click Start.
d) Check if the issue persists.
Other suggested fixes include clean booting the machine and selectively choosing which services and startup items are enabled in order to eliminate any potential conflicts with third party applications. Thus far, it doesn’t look like anyone has been able to successfully kick-start Windows Update by following any of these methods though.
There also seems to be a similar lack of success amongst the suggestions put forward by Microsoft customers themselves. Some suggestions have included disabling Windows’ own firewall and antivirus component (not advisable!) as well as running the machine in Safe Mode.
For now, the only viable alternative seems to be manual downloading and installation of all Patch Tuesday updates, something that is far from ideal for business users and potentially overlooked completely by less tech-savvy home users.
To compound matters even further, users of Windows XP are also encountering a problem with Windows Update which causes their machines to lock up completely. InfoWorld said that CPU usage has been reported hitting 100% for quite some time as the PC looks for the updates and the same thing happens again during installation.
All in all then, it seems like November is not a good time to be installing security patches but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. As awkward as it is, go install the fixes manually just as soon as you can.