Update 12/24/15 9:06am: Aninvestigation by Ed Bott casts doubt on KB3xxxx being the problem, and points instead to an Office update that affected Office 2010, 2013, and 2016; the Windows 10 update still affects Edge, Outlook, and File Explorer. We stand by what we said about the model Microsoft is using. The original article continues below.
Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 cumulative update, KB 3124200, dropped last week, but clearly needed more time to bake. While initial reports suggested that the update would fix some issues with WiFi connections dropping out, the latest cumulative update is causing some significant problems.
Reports indicate that in at least some cases, KB 3124200 nukes all Microsoft Word customizations, including custom templates, AutoText, macros, envelope addresses, autocorrect, and AutoFormat settings. It also reverts any custom spell check options you may have stored. The problem is serious enough that Microsoft has published its own KB on fixing the issue, KB 3129969.
The new update policy isn’t working
When Satya Nadella took over at Microsoft, one of his changes was to radically overhaul how Microsoft handled QA (Quality Assurance). Previously, Microsoft had roughly twice as many QA testers as developers working in the Operating Systems Group. After the layoffs, that ratio is reportedly 1:1. Developers are now expected to do much of the code testing that was previously outsourced to other groups, even if they don’t have much experience in testing code.
Combine that shift with the new, mandatory update policies and you get the current situation. Because Windows 10 now forces updates by default, the system will continue to download and attempt to apply KB 3124200, even if the update is repeatedly hanging on install or having other problems. Because all updates are now rolled into a single package, there’s no way for a user who wants the WiFi fix KB 3124200 includes butdoesn’t want to risk their Word customizations to install one and not the other.
For all their decades of close cooperation, Microsoft seems to have missed a lesson Intel learned 10 years ago. The entire reason Intel uses a tick-tock model in which it shifts to a new node, then deploys a new architecture, is because it’s extremely difficult to implement a new node and a new architecture at the same time. With Windows 10, Microsoft radically shifted both its software implementation model and its update policies simultaneously.
The nature of these problems is that they affect a minority of people. I have no doubt that the majority of Windows 10 users have had nothing but smooth sailing. While I use Windows 7 for my personal machine, I’ve deployed Windows 10 on multiple testbeds and had no problems with it to-date. But if you’re stuck in the minority that’s having a problem, these changes and the opacity with which they’re made is infuriating. It’s become far more difficult to diagnose the cause of these issues and even harder to prevent the software from reinstalling itself (or simply not installing in the first place).
Microsoft needs to either drastically overhaul its QA, return additional flexibility and customization options to average users, or both. The just-trust-us model isn’t working. And I’d have a great deal more faith in Microsoft’s willingness to fix these issues if the company wasn’t relentlessly pushing holdouts to adopt W10 as opposed to fixing theproblems with its distribution and testing model.
It doesn’t have to be this way.