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A recent update to Windows broke a few things. Should we panic?

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Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.

Shortly after the 15th of the month I started getting a flood of questions that all boiled down to this: Internet Explorer started requiring the "http://" in front of domain names typed into the address bar. Where you used to be able to type something like "askleo.info", you now needed to type the entire "http://askleo.info" in order to get it to work.

Apparently the culprit is one of the security updates that was pushed out in Windows Automatic Updates. Microsoft has published a Knowledgebase article on the topic, number 918165, that details how the update, in conjunction with some third party software, can cause several different types of failures.

Since none of them are serious or involve data loss, it's unclear how, or when, Microsoft will "fix the fix". For the moment they include a registry setting that I'm hearing may, or may not, help.

But what does this mean about Automatic Updates? Are they bad? I know there are people that avoid automatic updates for exactly this reason - it might break something. Were they right?

In my opinion no. Or at least not yet.

Automatic update has been around for a while now, and from what I've seen, it's gone a long way towards mitigating many of the risks that PCs are exposed to. Problems that arrive at Ask Leo! are often due, in part, to simply not keeping Windows up to date with fixes for the latest round of discovered vulnerabilities. Automatic Updates, of course, sidesteps that issue completely.

Yes, this last round apparently replaced a security vulnerability with a functional problem for some people, and that's unfortunate and gives Microsoft a bit of a black eye.

I'll reserve final judgment, but for now I definitely continue to believe in Automatic Update, and have it enabled on all my machines. Microsoft needs to provide timely and problem free updates in the future. It would only take a few mistakes such as this one to quickly erode people's trust in the process, and start avoiding it. That, of course, would lead to an entirely different set of problems as vulnerabilities become public, and malware created to exploit them.

If you're concerned, I would at least configure it to download and notify without installing - that way you can delay, if you like, waiting to see if any reports of problems arises.

But don't wait too long.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10178 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all.

This is a presentation of askleo.info, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.

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Article C2629 - April 20, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
Greg Bulmash
April 21, 2006 12:39 AM

One of the biggest complaints is that Microsoft waits and waits on issuing these fixes because they claim they need to test them and make sure they don't bung up other things.

So users have to wait for patches while security holes sit open and exploits begin to appear in the wild. Then, when Microsoft releases them, they bung up other things.

It's like being in pain and being denied a painkiller because the doctor wants to make sure you won't have unpleasant side effects. Then, when you get it, you have unpleasant side effects. So all that pain you suffered was for nothing and you wonder if the delay was just a bunch of bullpuckey while the doctor played virtual golf or something.

Since I avoid IE and don't run the software that's having/causing other issues with the patches, the latest auto update problem hasn't impacted me. Still, I can understand people feeling duped lied to.

Thomas Harrell
April 21, 2006 9:39 PM

I would like to know how Greg Bulmash runs Windows, but not IE. I always
Thought they are one and the same, so when you update you are updating
all of windows and not just the browser.

Paul Rockwood
April 22, 2006 1:02 PM

It's because if you have for example, SBC DSL, you use the SBC browser and not IE.

V Connoly
April 25, 2006 2:45 PM

Messages from my hotmail account are not beig delivered to anyone on ...@aol.
I keep receiving delivery notification failure - although it worked perfectly in the past.I cannot contact Hotmail. Could it be due to Windows updates? Help, please.

Leo
April 25, 2006 3:00 PM

No, this has nothing to do with Windows update.

It depends on the reason quoted in the bounces you get back from AOL. But your email may simply look too much like spam, and AOL is agressive (over agressive, in my opinion) about blocking suspected spammers. Since so much spam comes from Hotmail accounts, you're starting at a disadvantage. Try sending from an account with a different provider.

chexter wilson
December 20, 2008 11:56 AM

cant turn on automatic update????

john charron
January 15, 2009 9:05 PM

leo, i cannot get atuomatic updt work xp after a virus attack, auc update was disabled and i get warn i cannot reset it and manualdates are prevented when i go di to microsoft. becau of the dablity. I follow the run services. msc but just flips back to dis. Mcafee s stumped and abandon me..o you havey ides. jjc ps maybe 'internet antivirus virus' already included ant pop ups commerciale 'dumb test.

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