Microsoft Yanks Windows Updates After a Rash of Blue Screens

The company nixes a handful of updates after this month's Patch Tuesday left "Blue Screen of Death" in its wake for many users.

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Patch Tuesday is proving problematic for Microsoft this month after several Windows users were left seeing blue.

The company was forced to pull four updates released on Aug. 12 following reports that they were causing Windows PCs to display the so-called "Blue Screen of Death" (BSOD), an error screen that can only be dismissed by restarting the operating system. Encountering a BSOD can result in lost work and presage an imminent hardware failure, among several other faults in software and/or hardware.

Microsoft quickly took the blame for a rash of BSODs that occurred after the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker issued a collection of patches and bug fixes last week.

Users flocked to the Windows Update support forum on Aug. 13 to report that their systems were unresponsive after applying the Patch Tuesday updates, which included fixes for 37 vulnerabilities. Microsoft narrowed down the culprits to four buggy updates, including a security update for kernel-mode drivers (2982791); two update "rollups" affecting Windows RT, Windows 8.x and Windows Server 2012 (2975719 and 2975331); and an update that adds support for the Russian ruble's new currency symbol to Windows.

"Microsoft is investigating behavior in which systems may crash with a 0x50 Stop error message (bugcheck) after any of the following updates are installed," said the company in a support document. "This condition may be persistent and may prevent the system from starting correctly. Microsoft has removed the download links to these updates while these issues are being investigated."

On Aug. 15, in a separate online support document, the company stated, "Microsoft recommends that customers uninstall this update."

Microsoft is encouraging users to remove the updates (KB2982791, KB2970228, KB2975719 and KB2975331), which appear in the Windows Control panel in the Installed Updates section of the Programs and Features pane. First, they will need to boot into safe mode, delete a system file using the command prompt and perform some surgery on the Windows registry.

In step-by-step instructions provided by Microsoft, the company spells out a procedure that involves deleting fntcache.dat twice (Windows re-creates the file during the process); exporting the Fonts registry subkey into a reg file; removing select registry values; and finally merging the exported reg file.

It's not the first time Microsoft has had to pull a troublesome Patch Tuesday update.

In April 2010, the company was forced to reissue an update after a security patch for Windows 2000 customers running Windows Media Services proved ineffectual. Last September, a month after a botched Exchange update, the company came under fire after a non-security update for Outlook 2013 caused the email and calendar application's Folder pane to show up as empty.

As eWEEK's Sean Michael Kerner noted in his report, buggy updates are a challenge for IT administrators.

"All of this should give users and enterprise administrators significant pause for concern. It's generally speaking a good idea to update quickly with new security patches as a way to minimize the risk window and the amount of time machines are potentially vulnerable," he wrote.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...