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Buggy Windows 7 cumulative update? Just tell us, says Microsoft

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 12, 2016
First step used to be to uninstall individual updates, but with new Windows 10-style servicing model, now you have to ring up Microsoft support.

But with cumulative updates, either solution will be dicey said Chris Goettl, program product manager for patch management vendor Shavlik. Rolling back a Windows 7 update will pose a devil's dilemma: Apply the update and break something, perhaps a business-critical application, or roll it back, leaving who-knows-how-many-other vulnerabilities unpatched.

Nor will it always be possible to "work with the publisher" of an affected application. "Look back at January, when a Windows 10 cumulative update broke the Citrix [WorkstationOS Virtual Delivery Agent]," Goettl said. "Citrix was big enough and was able to react fast enough" to the incompatibility between the Windows 10 update and its software to generate a software update. "But that's not going to be the case for everyone."

Goettl ticked off the kind of ISVs that don't have the resources to jump on a problem caused by an OS update, including small publishers, niche publishers such as those that write software for medical devices, and finally, those long out of business. Alternately, a publisher may have already dealt with the underlying problem that led to update-application incompatibility, but packaged it in a newer version that comes with a price tag.

The new patching model, Goettl predicted, "Will have a lot more impact on [software] vendors supplying companies. There are a lot who cannot react very fast."

Nor was Bradley counting on Microsoft itself to always rapidly react to quality-control problems with the new updates.

"The investigation process [with Microsoft support] is not fun, not efficient and often takes several days for the support team to understand the issue and repro[duce] the problem," she said. "Then it will take several more days for the known issue to be documented in the KB [knowledge database] and often longer still for a note to be posted to the KB."

And for many customers, Microsoft's advice was expensive, Bradley noted. It costs $499 to open a case if a customer is not on a support plan. Although that fee should be automatically refunded if the problem is in a security update, Bradley said that in several instances she has had to formally request the refund before receiving it.

"Not all issues are found by enterprises with TAMs [technical account managers employed by Microsoft] and support reps on speed dial that have key contacts to make the support process a breeze," Bradley said. "Some of the issues are found in the community where people do not relish paying (even temporarily) Microsoft a fee of $499 to tell them they have a bug in their code."

win7 new update model 
Microsoft's new update model for Windows 7 and 8.1 looks complicated. Credit: Microsoft

 

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