Microsoft Patch Alert: September 2020

The September patches kicked up a bit of dust, but things look pretty stable now. I’m still skeptical of Windows 10 version 2004, but it’s getting closer to stable. Give it another month.

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July 2020

July tends to be a leisurely month in Windows and Office patch land, and this one’s no exception.

We had a bit of a thrill July 15 when Outlook stopped working on millions of PCs all over the world, but Microsoft fixed the bug four hours later by updating its servers.

Folks who pay for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates felt rightfully miffed when the new .NET Framework 4.8 patch, KB 4565636, refused to install. Microsoft took nine days to fix the bug and re-ship the patch.

We also found out this month that Microsoft’s way of handling the newly-reinstituted “optional, non-security, C/D Week” patches runs all over the lot.

The chicken-little cries to “Patch NOW” evaporated into stony silence as July rolled along, with one very important exception: If you’re running a Windows Domain Name Server, you need to get it patched. Pro tip: If you aren’t sure whether you’re running a Windows DNS, you aren’t.

Outlook goes down for the count

If you run Outlook on Windows, you probably couldn’t get it to work for about four hours on July 15. There’s been a lot of internal finger-pointing inside Microsoft, but it looks like the problem stemmed from a bad fix made to Microsoft’s servers. Hard to believe a crippling bug like that could roll into production without raising an alarm somewhere, but it did.

Microsoft built some fancy new checking mechanism into the more recent versions of Windows-based Outlook. It was working just fine until… somebody changed something on Microsoft’s servers. Kaboom. No more Outlook.

Many folks discovered that they could use a browser and just log into their account at outlook.com – the problem was with the Windows-based version of Outlook. But many also discovered the joys and frustrations of chasing down yet another bug.

.NET patch refuses to install on Win7 machines with paid Extended Security

Folks who are paying for Win7 Extended Security Updates weren’t happy when this month’s .NET Framework 4.8 patch refused to install. There’s a lengthy discussion about the cause on the Microsoft Answers forum, but the problem was traced to a buggy detection of the wrong license type.

Nine days later, Microsoft re-issued the patch, saying:

"On July 23, 2020, update KB4565636 v2 was released to replace v1 for .NET Framework 4.8 for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. The v1 update did not install for customers who had certain ESU configurations.  The v2 update corrects the issue for customers who could not install the v1 update."

Yes, even folks who are paying for patches get bad ones.

The mess with optional updates

July was going reasonably well until Microsoft released its “optional, non-security, C/D Week” patches and the Cumulative Update Previews for .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.8 on Win10. Microsoft stopped issuing those kinds of patches in March, citing the impact of the COVID situation. Who needs preview patches gumming up the works these days with a pandemic going on?

Unfortunately, patching proponents prevailed, and we started getting these “optional” patches again this month. Win10 1809, 1903, and 1909 got patched, although version 2004 (as of now) did not.

It looks like the .NET preview patches aren’t behaving the same way as the Win10 preview cumulative updates, leading to plenty of confusion. It now appears that the Win10 version 1903 updates behave differently than 1909. It’s a bifurcated – now trifurcated -- mess.

To its credit, though, Microsoft isn’t pushing the preview cumulative updates out to all machines. The details are unclear, the documentation essentially nonexistent, but it looks like those confusing “optional, non-security C/D Week” updates are only being offered to machines that are enrolled in the Windows Insider Release Preview Channel.

If that holds true for future months’ optional patches, it’s a big improvement: Fewer unsuspecting Windows users will accidentally install the test patches.

The push to version 2004

Microsoft’s expanding its push to Win10 version 2004, in spite of many complaints that the two-month-old version just isn’t yet ready for prime time. Windows 10 version 1809 users are getting forced onto version 2004, even though 1809 doesn’t reach End of Service until November. We also have an active rescue mission underway for a Win10 version 1903 user who’s trying to keep 2004 off their machine.

With all the conflicting, overlapping, deprecated, poorly documented patch settings running around, it’s hard to keep up.

Patching problems? Hit us on AskWoody.com.

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