Category Archives: Windows

Microsoft resumes rollout of Windows 10 October Update

Last month, after users reported file deletion issues, Microsoft took the Windows 10 October Update offline. Yesterday, the (now fixed) update was again made available. Microsoft has slowed their rollout this time, and for now, you can only get the update by manually checking for updates in Windows Update. If there are no new problems, Microsoft will gradually push the update out to all Windows 10 computers over the coming weeks.

In the month since the October update was pulled, Microsoft did a lot of soul-searching (aka process review), and the results of that work, detailed in a November 13 blog post, make for interesting reading. Here are the highlights:

  • Microsoft is trying to be more transparent about how it tests new versions of Windows before they are released. This is a good thing.
  • Adequate testing is difficult because there are so many possible combinations of hardware and software being used on Windows 10.
  • Base functional testing is the responsibility of the development teams. Presumably dedicated testing staff did this previously.
  • Data and user feedback are being used to gauge quality.
  • According to Microsoft, October update issues aside, overall quality and user satisfaction are increasing with each new Windows 10 update.
  • Employees working on Windows 10 have to ‘eat their own dog food’, meaning that they are required to use Windows 10 themselves.
  • As many as 15,000 new device drivers are added to Windows each month.
  • “The first principle of a feature update rollout is to only update devices that our data shows will have a good experience.” I find this wording amusing: in this case a ‘good experience’ means one where you’re less likely to throw yourself off a building after trying to update your O/S.

Patch Tuesday for November 2018

This month, we have fifty-six updates from Microsoft. The updates fix security issues in .NET, Office, Internet Explorer, Edge, Microsoft Project, SharePoint, PowerShell, Skype, and Windows. Analysis of the Security Update Guide for this month shows that a total of sixty-three vulnerabilities are addressed by the updates. Twelve of the vulnerabilities are flagged as Critical.

Windows 10 computers will have relevant updates installed automatically over the next few days. Those of you running older versions of Windows that don’t have automatic updates enabled will need to use Windows Update (in the Windows Control Panel) to check for new updates.

Adobe logoMeanwhile, Adobe released new versions of Flash and Reader. Flash 31.0.0.148 addresses a single security vulnerability in earlier versions. Reader DC 2019.008.20081 fixes a single security bug in earlier versions. Adobe software will usually update itself, unless you’ve explicitly disabled its automatic update features.

Windows 10 October Update is deleting user files

As you may be aware, there’s no longer any practical way to avoid installing Windows 10 updates. Once Microsoft pushes them out, they’re going to end up on your computer whether you want them or not. But maybe you trust Microsoft to make changes to your computer while you sleep (for the record, I’m definitely not). On the other hand, when an update ends up causing problems, it makes these forced updates look downright irresponsible.

According to numerous reports, the recently-announced October Update for Windows 10 is causing user files to be silently deleted. Now, before you go into panic mode, keep in mind that the October Update is not yet being pushed out to all Windows 10 computers: the only way to install it is to manually check for available Windows Updates. For now, the only people affected are those eager types who like to install shiny new things before looking closely at them.

Microsoft is aware of the problem, and they are looking into it, although it’s not at all clear when it might be resolved. Hopefully Microsoft will either pull the update, or at least delay pushing it out to all Windows 10 computers.

If you’re worried about losing files, I strongly suggest backing up all your documents, images, music, video, and other data files. Which you really should be doing anyway. I back up all my data nightly to an external hard drive, using the freeware Cobian Backup.

Update 2018Oct07: Microsoft put a halt to the planned rollout of the October update. The update is still available via Windows Update, so don’t think seeing it listed there means the problem has been fixed. All it means is that the update won’t be pushed out until the issue has been resolved.

Update 2018Oct08: When you shift testing away from professionals and to your user base, quality will suffer. Things are going to slip through. That’s why formal software testing is so important, especially for operating systems and other critical software. Microsoft seems to have made an erroneous assumption: that if you have a (nearly) infinite number of monkeys people using your software, they will find (and reliably reproduce) every bug. In fact, the people doing this unpaid “testing” are mostly power users who are just hoping that their own specific needs will be better served by the latest version. They aren’t testing every scenario, just the same one they tested for the last version. Power users are also much less likely to make the kinds of obvious mistakes that regular folks make, which can lead to surprises even after an update is pushed out to the general public. This situation seems likely to get worse, sadly. The Verge weighs in.

Update 2018Oct16: On October 9, Microsoft made a new (fixed) version of the October update available to users subscribed to the Windows Insider program. Microsoft also seems to understand that the current user-focused testing process is less than ideal: the Windows Insider Feedback Hub now allows users to provide an indication of impact and severity when filing User Initiated Feedback.

Patch Tuesday for September 2018

Analysis of Microsoft’s Security Update Guide shows that this month’s updates address sixty-two security vulnerabilities, ranging from Low to Critical in severity, in the usual suspects, namely Edge, .NET, Internet Explorer, Office, and Windows. There are forty-five updates in all.

If you’re looking for a new way to evaluate Microsoft’s monthly patch offerings, I recommend Microsoft Patch Tuesday by security firm Morpheus Labs. It’s a lot less oppressive — and easier to use — than Microsoft’s Security Update Guide.

Adobe’s providing us with a new version of Flash this month. Flash version 31.0.0.108 fixes a single security vulnerability. As usual, the Flash code embedded in Chrome and Microsoft browsers will update itself through Google’s automatic update process and Windows Update, respectively.

Happy patching!

Patch Tuesday for August 2018

It’s update time again.

Analysis of Microsoft’s Security Update Guide shows that this month there are seventy updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, .NET, Edge, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Visual Studio. A total of sixty security bugs are addressed, twenty of which are categorized as Critical.

Adobe, meanhwile, has released new versions of Flash and Acrobat Reader. Flash 30.0.0.154 includes fixes for five security issues, all of which are ranked as Important. Acrobat Reader 2018.011.20058 addresses two Critical security vulnerabilities.

Remember, folks: although updating software is perhaps not the most exciting thing you’ll do today, it’s entirely worthwhile, as it limits the damage that can be done by any stray malware that may find itself on your computer… from that attachment you opened without thinking, or that web site you visited when you accidentally clicked that link.

Microsoft finally making Windows 10 updates less disruptive

One of Windows 10’s most frustrating features is the way it installs updates. Unless you’re using an enterprise version, updates are almost completely out of your control. You can’t prevent them from installing, and there’s very little you can do to control when they install, or when your computer restarts to complate installation.

While developing Windows 10, Microsoft somehow failed to understand that downloading, installing, and rebooting for updates automatically at potentially inconvenient times might be annoying to users.

The good news is that Microsoft is finally going to do something about this. What did it take to get Microsoft to look at the problem? A steady stream of customer complaints, starting immediately after Windows 10 was released.

The bad news is that you still won’t have any real control over when updates happen. Instead, Microsoft is planning to improve Windows 10’s ability to detect that a computer is in use before it automatically reboots. This is from the recent post Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17723 and Build 18204:

“We trained a predictive model that can accurately predict when the right time to restart the device is. Meaning, that we will not only check if you are currently using your device before we restart, but we will also try to predict if you had just left the device to grab a cup of coffee and return shortly after.”

It’s too early to know how well this will work in practise, but at least it’s a (small) step in the right direction.

Patch Tuesday for July 2018

Adobe and Microsoft have issued their monthly updates for July, so even if you’d rather be doing anything else, you should be patching your computers.

We’ll start with Microsoft. As usual, this month’s Security Update Release bulletin serves as little more than a link to the Security Update Guide (SUG), Microsoft’s labyrinthine replacement for the individual bulletins we used to get.

In my experience, the SUG is much easier to digest in the form of a spreadsheet, so the first thing I do there is click the small Download link at the right edge of the page, to the right of the Security Updates heading. If you have Excel — or something compatible — installed, you should be able to open it directly.

Once the spreadsheet is loaded, I recommend enabling the Filter option. In Excel 2007, that setting is in the Sort & Filter section of the Data ribbon (toolbar). This makes every column heading a drop-down list, which allow you to select a particular product or platform, and hide everything else.

Analysis of this month’s updates from the SUG spreadsheet shows that there are sixty-two distinct updates, addressing fifty-three security vulnerabilities in Flash, Internet Explorer, SharePoint, Visual Studio, Edge, Office applications, .NET, and all supported versions of Windows. Seventeen of the updates are flagged as Critical.

As for Adobe, there are updates for Flash (version 30.0.0.134) and Acrobat Reader DC (version 2018.011.20055). The Flash update fixes two vulnerabilities, one of which is Critical. The Acrobat Reader DC update includes fixes for over one hundred security bugs.

Patch Tuesday for June 2018

The June 2018 Security Update Release bulletin on Microsoft’s TechNet blog is almost devoid of useful information, but if you click the link to the Security Update Guide, then click the big Go To Security Update Guide button, you’ll see a link to the release notes for this month’s updates.

According to the release notes, this month’s updates affect Internet Explorer, Edge, Windows, Office, Office Services and Web Apps, Flash embedded in IE and Edge, and ChakraCore. Analysis of the information in the SUG reveals that there are forty updates, fixing fifty-one separate vulnerabilities. Eleven of the vulnerabilties are flagged as Critical.

Patch Tuesday for May 2018

Spring has sprung, and with it, a load of updates from Microsoft and Adobe.

This month from Microsoft: sixty-seven updates, fixing sixty-nine security vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Edge, .NET, Flash, and various development tools. Seventeen of the vulnerabilities addressed are flagged as Critical and can lead to remote code execution.

The details are as usual buried in Microsoft’s Security Update Guide. You may find it easier to examine that information in spreadsheet form, which you can obtain by clicking little Download link partway down the page on the right. Just above that there’s a link to the release notes for this month’s updates, but don’t expect much useful information there.

Update 2018May11: If you were looking for something to motivate your patching endeavours, consider this: two of the vulnerabilities addressed in this month’s updates are being actively exploited on the web.

Adobe logoAs you might have guessed from Microsoft’s Flash updates, Adobe released a new version of Flash today. Flash 29.0.0.171 addresses a single critical vulnerability in previous versions. You can find release notes for Flash 29 on the Adobe web site.

You can get Flash from Windows Update if you run a Microsoft browser, via Chrome’s internal updater, or from the official Flash download page. If you use the Flash download page, make sure to disable any optional installs, as they are generally not useful.