Microsoft confirms stealth WU update mucks up XP restore

An extra file that is part of the silent change to Windows Update is to blame

Microsoft confirmed late last week that Windows XP users who repair the operating system cannot update their PCs with the latest patches because of a file included with the stealth update pushed out to machines this summer.

"When an XP repair CD is used, it replaces all system files (including Windows Update) on your machine with older versions of those files and restores the registry," said Nate Clinton, program manager for Windows Update (WU), in a post to the Microsoft company blog dedicated to the update service. "However, the latest version of Windows Update includes 'wups2.dll' that was not originally present in Windows XP. Therefore, after the repair install of the OS, wups2.dll remains on the system, but its registry entries are missing. This mismatch causes updates to fail installation."

The Windows Secrets newsletter reported the patch installation failures after tests on Windows XP machines that had been restored by an in-place reinstall. The root of the problem, said the publication, is that seven DLLs from the latest revision to WU -- not just one -- failed to register themselves with XP. Microsoft could not provide an explanation for the discrepancy between the claims.

The file cited by Clinton, wups2.dll, is one of the seven fingered by Windows Secrets and part of the so-called stealth update that Microsoft sent to most noncorporate Windows XP and Vista users beginning in July and running through this month. The update was delivered and installed without prior notification, even when the PC's owner had told the operating system not to download or install updates without notification and permission.

Computerworld confirmed through testing that the WU update silent update -- tagged as 7.0.600.381 -- blocks 80 patches and hot fixes from installing on a just-repaired system restored with a retail version of Windows XP SP2. After executing a batch file recommended by Windows Secrets, the batch file registered each of the seven suspect DLLs. The updates could be installed, however.

Clinton said the problem would be fixed by registering only the wups2.dll file. He also listed the steps users should take, and promised that a document providing more detail would be posted to Microsoft's support database.

Although Scott Dunn of Windows Secrets said the post-repair update bug is proof of the danger that stealth updates pose, Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security, said that the practice also hits Microsoft in the wallet.

"Imagine the amount of work for Microsoft's support teams on this," he said. "It would have probably taken a couple of hours on the phone to help a customer," he added, because even the support representative would not have had any idea that the WU update was the cause. "This isn't just a PR problem for Microsoft, but also a support problem.

"Silent updates are not going to help with Microsoft or end users," Storms said.

Companies may rely on re-imaging a damaged PC rather than restore it with an in-place reinstall, he said, but plenty of small and midsize companies depend on the repair option. They, too, would be stymied by the inability to patch repaired PCs, since the same WU client software is used by Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the update mechanism most businesses use to deliver update to their end-user machines.

"Everyone gets the same updates [to WU]," said Storms, "so the same problem will persist for both WSUS and people getting updates direct from Microsoft."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?