Microsoft advises against homebrew update WP7 tool

It says using an unauthorized tool that lets people download software updates could end up causing problems

Microsoft is advising people not to use an unauthorized tool for downloading two software updates to Windows Phone 7 devices.

Earlier this week developer Chris Walsh released a tool that let WP7 users download two updates that Microsoft has struggled to push out.

The move follows a monthlong ordeal during which Microsoft has faced numerous problems trying to deliver the updates to WP7 phones. Three of five models in the U.S. eligible to get the updates have yet to receive either.

Walsh appears to have pulled the updater on Wednesday, the same day that Microsoft began warning people not to use it.

"If you attempt one of these workarounds, we can't say for sure what might happen to your phone because we haven't fully tested these homebrew techniques," Eric Hautala, general manager of customer experience engineering for Windows Phone, wrote in a blog post. Users might not end up getting device-specific software that is in the official update or their phones may get misconfigured so as to not receive future updates, he said.

"It's even possible your phone might stop working properly," he wrote.

Walsh's update tool is still available on mirror sites, according to comments on his blog. He did not immediately respond to a query about why the tool is no longer available on his site.

Via Twitter, Walsh is defending the tool, saying that the few problems that people have had are a result of failing to follow download instructions. "Eric stipulated they don't know what it'll do as they haven't tested it. But I've tested it :-)," he wrote.

Microsoft started pushing out the very first update, designed to smooth the update process, in February. That software made some Samsung phones unusable. A follow-up software refresh, which included cut-and-paste capability and other performance enhancements, was delayed so that the company could try to improve the process.

Neither update has reached three of five phones eligible for updates in the U.S., according to a Web page Microsoft launched to offer news on the official update process. Those phones are still in the testing phase for both software updates. The site says that phase should be complete in early April. After that comes a scheduling process that can take 10 days, followed by batched delivery.

Walsh and two other developers became known in the WP7 community when they released a tool that would let users upload applications that weren't approved in the Marketplace. But Microsoft approached the trio, promising to do more to let developers test applications on their phones and warning that its update would close the hole that allowed the unlocking tool to work.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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