Users tripped up by unofficial Win Phone 7 update tool

Microsoft said it's too busy to issue a fix but will try to help the tool's developer

Microsoft engineers working on Windows Phone 7 said they're too busy right now to fix a problem caused by an unofficial update tool that some people have used, but they're willing to work with the developer to help him put things right.

Brandon Watson, a senior director in the Windows Phone group, said in a blog post Wednesday that people who used the tool won't be able to install a security update that Microsoft started pushing out on Tuesday. "The rubber meets the road today," he wrote.

In early April, developer Chris Walsh released a tool that people could use to force updates to their Windows Phone 7 devices. He built the tool following delays and problems that Microsoft itself encountered in trying to deliver the updates, including an update that added the ability to cut and paste.

At the time, Microsoft warned users that the unauthorized update mechanism might create problems. With Tuesday's security update, which fixed nine fraudulent third-party digital certificates, some of those users are now indeed facing problems.

Watson explained why the security update won't work. The update process first checks that the phone has an official software image. Phones updated using Walsh's tool don't have an official software image so they won't be able to download the update, he wrote.

"Due to scheduling of engineering resources, we did not anticipate having to [undo] the changes made to phones by these unsupported methods. While we are not ruling out having a fix in the future, for now there is no fix," he wrote. "Unfortunately, our engineering priorities are focused on improving the process by which updates get to Windows Phone, issuing the security update you just got and working to getting Mango to market. Undoing this specific problem was not in our schedule."

Mobile operators won't be able to help immediately either, he said, because they're unable to revert phones to their original image. While operators could offer to send phones back to the manufacturer, it's unclear if they will. "It is up to the mobile operators as to what they want to do with your phone," he wrote.

However, he noted, Walsh thinks he has created a way to get the phones back on an officially supported path, and Microsoft will work with him to validate the solution, Watson wrote.

While Walsh said he got the security patch just fine on three phones that were updated using his tool, more than 140 comments had appeared on his blog by midday Wednesday from people saying they were unable to get the security update. Most complained of seeing a specific error code when they try to download the update.

Walsh, who lives in Australia, said via Twitter that he would provide a solution tomorrow. "The fix is quite simple really," he wrote in the blog post.

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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Nancy Gohring

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