Security patches are inevitable since all software has coding flaws that clever attackers can take advantage of. Software vendors such as Microsoft work diligently to create fixes that will seal up those holes. Unfortunately, sometimes the new code has problems of its own; while it might be secure, it can cause the programs it fixes to stop working properly. And then there are all those non-security updates that get installed every month, and get far less attention.
Thus every Patch Tuesday, thousands of home users and IT admins alike cross their fingers and hope for an uneventful installation of the month’s fixes. Sometimes everything goes smoothly for everyone; sometimes not. This month was one of those “sometimes not” times.
For some reason, Office patches seem especially prone to being problematic. This month the first inkling of trouble came when some computer users discovered that after applying the patches, they were no longer able to open archived mailboxes in Outlook. This is something that many wouldn’t notice for a long time, since most of us probably don’t try to open the archives very often. Tony Redmond outlined his experience with this problem in his blog over on WindowsITPro.com.
The problem was reported with both on-premises Exchange servers and Office 365, but it only seems to affect the locally-installed Outlook application. The Outlook Web App still opens the archives. Testing showed the culprit to be KB2881011. Removing the update restores the ability of Outlook to open the archived mailboxes.
This is an annoying problem but it doesn’t really do any harm. Outlook still works and the archives can still be opened in the web app. The second problem that cropped up with this month’s patches isn’t quite as benign. It appears that some Windows 7 64-bit systems are experiencing blue screens after the installation of the patches.
The blue screen errors are being reported on the Microsoft Answers community site and seem to be related to KB2982791, the update associated with security bulletin MS14-045 that fixes three vulnerabilities in the Windows kernel-mode drivers. It makes sense that making changes to the kernel code could cause bad things to happen. Some others are also reporting that updates KB2976897 and KB2970228 may also be causing blue screens.
The good news is that the Windows community rode to the rescue before Microsoft could “fix the fix,” supplying a solution to the problem that involves booting to DVD, removing the FNTCACHE.DAT file (located in the C:\Windows\System32 directory) and rebooting. Apparently the blue screens stem from corruption of that file. Of course, this is not something that the average home user is going to (or should) do, and anyone who removes an important system file should be careful to back up everything, but kudos to the community for pulling together and getting a fix out there.
For more information about the community fix, and to read about an interesting proposal that Microsoft put out patches to voluntary testers a day ahead of releasing them via Windows Update, check out this article from Infoworld.com: Users find fix for botched KB 2982791 and KB 2970228 Windows update . In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated on this issue and let you know when Microsoft addresses it.
Latest update: Microsoft recommends uninstalling problematic updates