Microsoft Issues Fix For Windows Update Glitch

In a post on the Windows Update Product team blog, Nate Clinton, program manager in the Windows Update group at Microsoft, said the issue is limited to users that have used the "Repair From CD" function of the Windows XP installation.

"The issue does not look to be widespread and occurs in rather exceptional circumstances; it occurs because the Windows XP Repair CD replaces all system files, including Windows Update, with older versions of those files," Clinton wrote.

Earlier this month, researcher Scott Dunn, in an article in the Windows Secrets newsletter, said Microsoft has been silently modifying files on users' PCs through Windows Update, even if the user had disabled automatic updates.

Microsoft subsequently defended the practice as necessary to the proper functioning of the Windows Update service. However, as a result of these 'stealth' updates, some Windows XP users reported being unable to download patches through Windows Update.

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According to Clinton, the problem occurs because the latest version of Windows Update includes a file that isn't part of the Windows Update image on the Repair CD. After the user runs a repair, the new file remains on the system and causes a registry mismatch that causes some update installations to fail.

Microsoft on Friday published a Knowledge Base article that describes how to fix the problem.

Despite the fix, one Microsoft partner feels the vendor needs to be more forthcoming about the nature of the alterations it makes to users' PCs.

"I think this is troubling. Microsoft has long been under scrutiny for their patch policies, and users need assurances that when they say 'no changes', they get no changes," said Sobel, president of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va., solution provider.

"Security ultimately means trust, and Microsoft needs to remember to build trust in their actions," Sobel added.