Some Windows 8.1 updates tripping over driver problems

Affected users are reporting that their attempts to download the new version of the OS are failing

Microsoft is investigating reports that some users are trying and failing to update their PCs and tablets to Windows 8.1, apparently due to outdated and incompatible drivers.

In messages posted to Microsoft's technical support website, people have been complaining that they're unable to complete the Windows 8.1 installation due to an error that the OS identifies as 0x40017.

The complaints started on Oct. 17, the day when the Windows 8.1 update became available for download on the Windows Store. Affected users see a message informing them that the Windows 8.1 installation couldn't be completed and that their previous version of Windows has been restored on their device.

One of the threads is very much active, with 36 pages and about 360 comments.

So far, Microsoft apparently has been able to isolate some of the problems to the presence on the affected machines of outdated drivers, such as the ones for Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, and of software from SteelSteries, a maker of mice, keyboards, headphones, games and other items.

However, the mystery of error 0x40017 hasn't been fully solved. A Microsoft official chimed in on Tuesday in another one of the threads, indicating that Microsoft is still searching for a solution for users whose problem isn't related to Nvidia drivers or the SteelSeries software.

"If you've tried all of these steps and are still receiving the 0x40017 error, we are still investigating the issue to determine what additional drivers are causing this error. We'd like to thank everyone who sent us their log files to help us in this effort. We have collected enough sample files to work with, and are busy analyzing the logs at this time. We'll post a fix or solution as soon as they are confirmed," the official wrote.

A Microsoft spokesman contacted on Wednesday declined to provide additional comment about the scope of the problem and the timetable for solving it.

This problem is different from the one that rendered some Surface RT tablets useless after their owners downloaded Windows RT 8.1. In response to that issue, which was caused by outdated firmware and left the tablets unable to boot up, Microsoft pulled Windows RT 8.1 from the Windows Store for several days while it figured out the problem and offered a solution.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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