Latest Windows Update Snafu was Microsoft's Fault

Microsoft late last week admitted that the latest incident of unwanted automatic updates being installed on users' computers was, in fact, its fault. This is the first time the software giant has admitted blame in a recent spate of problems with Windows Update, all of which are related to updates being automatically installed on systems which were specifically configured not to receive such updates.

In the latest episode, users had complained that an optional Windows Desktop Search (WDS) update from February 2007 had been automatically installed on Windows XP and 2003 systems that access Windows Update via Microsoft's business-oriented Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) tool. On Thursday, WSUS product manager Bobbie Harder explained that, this time at least, the unintended update was all Microsoft's fault: In revising the way the WDS update is categorized internally, the company inadvertently caused WSUS installations around the globe to download and install the update to XP and 2003 desktops.

"Unfortunately, in revising this \[WDS\] update, the decision to re-use the same update package had unintended consequences to our WSUS customers," Harder explained. "Namely many of you who had approved the initial update package for a limited number of machines had Tuesdays' WDS revision automatically install on all clients because of the expanded applicability scope and because by default, WSUS is set to automatically approve update revisions. We sincerely regret the inconvenience this has caused and extend a sincere apology to all impacted customers."

Harder notes that Microsoft has temporarily suspended the distribution of WDS so that it can work on a fix. The company is also revising its internal update publishing processes so that such an error doesn't happen again.

Users and admins that have been affected by the inadvertent WDS download can uninstall the update. Instructions are provided on the WSUS blog.

Previous Windows Update issues have not been resolved so neatly. In September, Microsoft was found to have been silently updating Windows Update on users' computers, even those that users had explicitly configured to not automatically install any updates. In early October, more reports of unwanted automatic updates surfaced, but Microsoft later determined that they were caused by user error. More recently, Microsoft's OneCare security product was criticized for the way that it changes automatic update settings, though Microsoft said that this was by design.

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