The Windows August Update released on 8/12/14 included 4 updates for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 that were linked to blue screens. Since the release all 4 patches have been pulled back by Microsoft, but if you have Automatic Updates configured on your computer and the patches were applied Microsoft has provided manual instructions on removing the patches (see section on Mitigations). Please note that the removal instructions are done in safe mode – if your computer won’t boot to safe mode you may need to resort to whatever recovery utilities came with your PC.
If you have Automatic Updates configured to download patches and ask before installing, check the list of recommended patches and make sure the following patches are not selected for installation:
- 2982791 MS14-045: Description of the security update for kernel-mode drivers: August 12, 2014
- 2970228 Update to support the new currency symbol for the Russian ruble in Windows
- 2975719 August 2014 update rollup for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2
- 2975331 August 2014 update rollup for Windows RT, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012
This isn’t the first time patches have been released and then pulled back or needed to be patched themselves:
- July and August 2014 cumulative security updates slow down IE versions 7 through 11– a hotfix was provided to correct problem.
- August/September 2013 Office updates causes folder pane in Outlook 2013 to disappear – Technet blog post describes the problem, and outlines which patches to install and uninstall.
- August 2013 Exchange Security patch breaks Exchange 2013 Content Indexer – a KB article is provided with a work-around to address the problem.
- April 2013 BSOD
This is by no means a complete list, but it illustrates that patches intended to make a system perform better and run more securely can have unintended consequences. The problem is not that the patches haven’t been tested before release, but rather that there is no way to test every possible system permutation. For example, the April 2013 issue was caused by a Brazilian third party banking security software, and the most recent patch problem happened if “OpenType Font files are installed in non-standard font directories that are recorded in the registry with fully qualified filenames” .
Does the chance of a crash mean you should disable updates? Of course not – that would be leaving your computer vulnerable to security problems. It does mean that you should disable automatic updates and make sure the updates must be approved before installation. In addition check for reports of issues with updates before installing them and only apply patches intended for your system.