Microsoft Patch Snafu Grows, Users Seek Workaround

More problems have been reported with one of Microsoft's recent security patches, and frustrated end users are taking matters into their own hands in search of a workaround.

April 18, 2006

3 Min Read
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The snafu involving one of Microsoft's recent security patches continued to grow as the developer acknowledged new incompatibility problems with some video drivers and users on the company's forums complained about having to uninstall the fix or resort to unsanctioned repairs.

Reports first surfaced Friday of problems caused by the MS06-015 security bulletin, which was rolled out to fix a critical flaw in Windows Explorer, the operating system's core file navigator. Troubles ranged from lockups of third-party software to Internet Explorer going dead.

Saturday, Microsoft posted a document that outlined the patch's problems and offered a temporary workaround that requires users to edit the Windows registry, a potentially dangerous chore, since a single error in the registry can cause the PC to refuse to boot into the OS.

Tuesday, Mike Reavey, operations manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center, said that the patch not only conflicts with older versions of Hewlett-Packard "Share-to-Web" software, but added that it also is incompatible with older editions of NVIDIA graphics card drivers.

He recommended that users upgrade to the most current versions of HP's Share-to-Web and NVIDIA drivers, as those seem to not impact the patch.Overall, however, Reavey downplayed the extent of the MS06-015 patch problem. "To give you some idea of the scope of the problem, so far out of over 120 million successful installations of the MS06-015 update, the number of calls related to this issue is currently well under a thousand."

That's no comfort to the scores of angry users on Microsoft's official newsgroups, including the Windows Update group, who continued Tuesday to tick off new troubles, including problems with the Windows version of iTunes, and symptoms such as system hangs whenever a file is saved.

Some are simply fed up with the run-around.

"I think the focus on HP is wrong as there are other programs out there also caused the problem. MS has to fix KB908531 otherwise we will have to tweak all other applications which is wrong !!!!" wrote a user identified as "Allen."

E-mail to TechWeb from users spelled out Windows freezes, vanished external drives, inoperable printers, and an inability to save or open files in various Microsoft Office applications.Nor was Microsoft's registry-related workaround a workable fix.

"I was in the Registry (not a comfortable place to be) and the navigation string their instructions said would be at the location they had taken me was not there," said Julian Boone in an e-mail to TechWeb. He abandoned the attempt and was out his printer and browser.

"So here I am, a little Internet store guy, making a buck here and there in my spare time, without a printer to do regular business work and well in over my head on this 'patch' thing," added Boone.

Some users reported on the Windows Update newsgroup that they had resorted to uninstalling the MS06-015 patch and/or had turned off Windows' Automatic Update to prevent similar problems down the road.

"I have a new attitude about quickly installing patches with Windows Update," admitted a user identified as "Al Fikes."Users unwilling to try their hand at editing the registry were directed by others to a pair of third-party fixes which automated the changes.

"If the manual fix seems daunting, MVP Kelly Theriot has once again worked her magic and written an automated fix for the HP problem," wrote another Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) named "Malke." The fix he referred to is available here (see line 383, at the bottom of the page, right-hand side).

Another automated registry edit can be downloaded from here; after extracting the .reg file from the archive, users should double-click to make the Microsoft-recommended changes to the registry.

For its part, Microsoft has neither committed to re-releasing MS06-015, nor if it does, to a timetable.

"We're still looking at the best way to assist customers who may have been impacted by this," said Reavey.A Microsoft spokesman refused to elaborate, and said that all current information on the patch was in Reavey's recent blog.

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