*Due to some valid complaints regarding my usage of the term “Malware,” I’ve updated the headline with a more accurate description of the Windows Update: “Badware,” which is unintentionally harmful software.
If you have Windows 7 & Windows 8.1 set to automatically update every Tuesday, it may be time to permanently disable that feature. MicrosoftMSFT -3.11% has just confirmed that a recent update — specifically KB 3004394 — is causing a range of serious problems and recommends removing it.
The first issue that caught my attention, via AMD’s Robert Hallock, is that KB 3004394 blocks the installation or update of graphics drivers such as AMD’s new Catalyst Omega. Nvidia users are also reporting difficulty installing GeForce drivers, though I can’t confirm this personally as my machines are all Windows 8.1. Hallock recommended manually uninstalling the update, advice now echoed officially by Microsoft.
Unfortunately this newest update isn’t limited to graphics driver problems. Redmond hasn’t directly divulged each and every issue, but Microsoft’s Answer Forum is littered with tech-savvy users reporting that USB 3.0 drivers are broken and User Account Control (UAC) prompts have gone haywire. Microsoft has acknowledged that it even prevents the installation of future Windows Updates.
Perhaps most troubling is that the Windows Defender service – crucial software that blocks viruses and malware — has been disabled by the update.
Microsoft has issued a patch to patch the patch (sorry, couldn’t resist that one), which is KB3024777 and is available directly through Windows Update. My advice? Just manually remove the problem by browsing to Control Panel -> Windows Update -> View Update History -> Installed Updates. Then, highlight the update named KB3004394 and click the “Uninstall” button. This is confirmed to resolve the issues, and Microsoft has removed the original update from the pipeline.
If you are on automatic updates, it’s possible KB3024777 has already installed itself and made things right. Still, a lot of Windows 7 customers from casual to gamers to power users will have been affected by this, and I’ve heard numerous firsthand reports from readers who’ve been pulling their hair out over this. Some even forked over cash to their local computer shops to troubleshoot what they couldn’t identify and fix themselves.
The moral of the story is this: Return to your main Windows Update area and change your settings from “Install updates automatically” to “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them.”
See, Microsoft has a bit of a spotty track record with Windows Updates, and this isn’t the first one to cripple systems. My recommendation is to install system updates about two weeks after they’ve been released, allowing enough time for any potential problems to be identified by users, reported on by the press, and fixed by Microsoft.
Linux fans, I’m beginning to see your side of the story.
UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out that disabling automatic Windows Updates is bad advice, and while that’s a fair argument I have to disagree. There have been no less than 3 occurrences in the last 3 years where Microsoft has issued software and firmware updates to their Xbox platform which have “bricked” — or rendered useless — the consoles. And Windows updates that have bricked PCs? There’s this example from August 2014. Or this example from April 2013 which caused widespread BSODs (Blue Screens of Death.) Or this example which made Surface 2 Windows tablets unusable. And here’s a more comprehensive list of issues that Windows Update caused from just last year.