• MS-DEFCON 4: Get Windows and Office patched, but watch out for Kylo Ren

    With the holidays now in full swing, it’s highly unlikely that Microsoft will be releasing any Windows or Office patches over the next few days. That gives us Windows users a clear, uh, window for getting our machines updated. Do it now.

    The big stinker patch in December was KB 3114409, which triggered multiple problems in Outlook 2010. Although complaints surfaced within hours of the release of the patch, it took Microsoft more than a day to pull it. Eight days later, Microsoft released KB 3114560, which fixes the problems introduced by KB 3114409. So it’s all clear on KB 3114409 – you shouldn’t see that patch being offered.

    For those of you who use Windows Live Mail and have an @outlook.com, @hotmail, @live, or @msn email account, you should take a look at my advice on KB 3093594. In short, Microsoft hasn’t yet fixed the mail sync problem. The KB article, last updated Dec 23 and at revision level 5, says “Microsoft is researching this issue and will post more information in this article when the information becomes available.” No need to sit on pins and needles about this patch. As best I can tell, it’s only available by direct download, not yet through Windows Update, and the trigger event – Microsoft killing the DeltaSync protocol on its servers — hasn’t yet come to pass. Stay cool and don’t go looking for trouble.

    The Office version 6366 debacle, which renamed normal.dotm and normalemail.dotm, thus destroying customizations in Word, is still listed as the Current Branch for Office 365. (Yes, this is the bug I erroneously attributed to Win10 v 1511 patch KB 3124200.) If you subscribe to Office 365 and suddenly discover that Word isn’t behaving properly, Microsoft has an 11-step procedure to discover and change the erroneous names for “Normal.dotm.old, NormalPre, NormalPre15, NormalOld, or OldNormal. If you see more than one of these files, then you will need to choose the correct file to restore. Often, this is the file with the most recent Date modified value, which should be Normal.dotm.old. Don’t worry if you choose the wrong one, you can repeat steps 7-10 as many times as necessary to find the right file.”

    The article doesn’t mention normalemail.dotm, but one can assume the procedure is similar, mutatis mutandis. Don’t worry, you can repeat steps 7-10 as many times as necessary to find the right file.

    If you can do all of that in about ten seconds, you’re a better geek than I, Gunga Din.

    If you’re in charge of an Office 365 fleet, you should seriously consider throttling the Office 365 Click to Run updates, at least until we get official word that version 6366 is toast.

    Many of you are wondering about installing Internet Explorer 11. Yes, it’s true that Microsoft is discontinuing support for earlier versions of IE on January 12. (Exceptions: IE 9 will still be supported on Vista and Server 2008 SP2; IE 10 on Server 2012. Details on Microsoft’s IE End of Life page.) I’m seeing some really weird behavior with IE 11 installs, and will be looking at it in more depth while you’re out having a good time next week. For now, I say stick with the IE you currently have – and for heaven’s sake, don’t use IE, use Firefox or Chrome. ‘Course I’ve been saying that for almost a decade now.

    The Windows 10 v 1511 patches are going along as usual –it seems that every one generates a loud chorus of complaints about failure to install, weird errors, disappearing apps, re-assigned filename associations, and other imponderables. I’d say go ahead and install the latest cumulative update, KB 3124200, keep your eyes open and pray for the best.

    The bad Outlook 2013 patch I mentioned last month, KB 3101488, appears to be fixed. See KB 3118497 if you have problems with Outlook crashing.

    Thus, I say go ahead and patch. We’re at MS-DEFCON 4: There are isolated problems with current patches, but they are well-known and documented here. Check this site to see if you’re affected and if things look OK, go ahead and patch.

    As always, use Windows Update, DON’T check any boxes that aren’t checked. Reboot immediately after patching. If you’re using Win7 or 8.1, run GWX Control Panel right after the update to get rid of any sneaky “Get Windows 10” nagware. Then, if privacy is important to you, follow Susan Bradley’s suggestions to turn off the Diagnostic Tracking Service. When you’re done, make sure Automatic Update is set to Notify but don’t download (see the tab at the top of this page).

    For Windows 10 users, if you’re using the metered connection trick (or one of Susan’s other methods for deferring updates), unblock the updates just long enough to get the latest dose (CU 6, KB 3124200).

    If you hit any snags, post ‘em here.

    Time to get braced for January. Microsoft’s promising that we’ll see the Windows 10 upgrade posted to Windows Update as a “recommended” update. Lots of offal is about to hit the fan.