It’s the reason both individual computer users and admins regard patch day with at least a little trepidation: the prospect that an update that’s supposed to make our software better will, in fact, make it worse or even render it useless. You might remember the problems caused by some Office patches that were released last September, which changed users’ file associations.
That was a relatively minor problem in comparison to some patch “side effects” that can break the patched software’s functionality completely. It happens often enough that each time we get through an update cycle unscathed, we breathe a silent sigh of relief. Unfortunately, some Office 2013 users weren’t able to do that after installing this month’s Patch Tuesday releases.
Reports soon started coming in that some customers found themselves unable to run their Office programs. Not all Office users were affected (Microsoft estimated it at “less than one percent”) and subsequent investigated revealed that those who were hit by the problem had used the “Click to Run” feature to install Office. Click to Run is used to install local copies of Office applications on the machines of Office 365 subscribers as well as downloaded purchases of the traditional (non-subscription) Office suite.
Note that this month’s updates to Office were not security-related, but rather were intended to improve performance and (ironically) stability. Instead, affected machines are unable to launch Office at all. Users get a message that says:
Something went wrong. We couldn’t start your program. Please try starting it again. If it won’t start, try repairing Office from “program and features” in the control panel.
If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones, don’t despair. There is a way to fix the problem, although it’s a bit of a pain. You’ll have to uninstall and reinstall Office. The good news is that Microsoft provides a “Fix it” (one-click solution) that will automate the uninstall process for you. You can find it here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2739501/en-us
Then Click to Run users can reinstall Office from the My Account page here: https://office.microsoft.com/MyAccount.aspx?fromAR=1
You’ll need to sign in with your Microsoft account user name and password.
Note that Click to Run is based on App-V, which is Microsoft’s implementation of application virtualization. Updates delivered through Click to Run can be set up so that they go to a testing location (using the Office Deployment Tool), where IT pros can test for any issues prior to rollout on production computers.
There are indications that the reason this update is causing problems for Click to Run users is because those systems should not be accepted updates through the regular Windows Update channel in the first place. Windows Update is for installations of Office that were installed in the traditional way, not through Click to Run.
Microsoft has announced that the Office team is currently working on a better solution to the problem. One suggestion has been that Windows Update should be able to detect whether Office was installed as Click to Run or manually installed via Windows installer, and not install the update if it’s a Click to Run installation.