Dear Microsoft: Please call off the KB 2919355 Windows 8.1 Update dogs

With just a few days to go and the May security bulletin advance notification now out, Microsoft's threat to cut off Windows 8.1 support hits a curve

Microsoft has released the security bulletin advance notification for May, and if you've had trouble installing Windows 8.1 Update (variously known as Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows 8.1 Spring Update, KB 2919355, and GDR1, among others), you may be in for some interesting times. Although Microsoft hasn't blinked on its statement that it won't provide any more Windows 8.1 patches for your PC until you've navigated the Windows 8.1 Update mess, there's at least one security bulletin coming next Tuesday that will test Microsoft's -- and your -- resolve.

The majority of Windows 8.1 customers who try to install KB 2919355 (now up to version 19) have had no problems. For many, though, the patch has turned into a frustrating series of error codes, Byzantine command-line entries, rumors of success, and lots (and lots) of failure. The longest complaint thread (but far from the only one!) on the Microsoft Answers Forum is now up to a record-breaking 93 pages. There are more than a dozen stories of Microsoft techs running remote debug sessions on balking machines, sometimes for hours on end, with no success.

Microsoft only knows how many formal support requests have come through, but I'm getting more complaints about this one patch than I've seen in a long time. Certainly, there are many, many people who failed the automatic update and either didn't know or didn't care to follow up.

For those of us who have been dealing with bad Microsoft patches for a decade or more, this would be yet another story of Patching Keystone Kops -- except for one little detail: Microsoft insists that it won't further patch Windows 8.1 PCs until they have Windows 8.1 Update installed. The original Technet announcement has not been rescinded or modified:

Since Microsoft wants to ensure that customers benefit from the best support and servicing experience and to coordinate and simplify servicing across both Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8.1 RT and Windows 8.1, this update will be considered a new servicing/support baseline. What this means is those users who have elected to install updates manually will have 30 days to install Windows 8.1 Update on Windows 8.1 devices; after this 30-day window -- and beginning with the May Patch Tuesday, Windows 8.1 users' devices without the update installed will no longer receive security updates.

This means that Windows 8.1 users -- starting with Patch Tuesday in May 2014 and beyond -- will require this update to be installed. If the Windows 8.1 Update is not installed, those newer updates will be considered "not applicable."

Those of you who receive your Windows updates from corporate WSUS servers, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager aren't subject to the cutoff: Microsoft has already extended your deadline until August. Those on a more pedestrian track, though, appear to be on the hook to get the buggy patch installed by next Tuesday.

Or are they?

The security bulletin advance notification for May 2014 lists eight anticipated security bulletins to be released on May 13. Each security bulletin consists of one or more patches. This time around, Windows 8.1 is due for four bulletins and an unknown number of KB-linked patches associated with each bulletin. Three of those bulletins are classified only as "important" (which, if you don't mind the translation from Microsoft speak, means "not really that important").

One bulletin, though, carries the "critical" tag, and it poses an interesting conundrum.

The critical Windows 8.1 bulletin for next week, in fact, deals with Internet Explorer. So the situation raises the question: Will Microsoft keep that patch away from Windows 8.1 customers who haven't installed Windows 8.1 Update? Even if it's the same, identical, patch, to be applied to two different versions of the same Windows fork?

Hard to believe that Microsoft would cut off Windows 8.1 users at the knees, just because their PCs won't install Windows 8.1 Update.

Now would be an excellent time for Windows management to swoop down, deus ex machina, and declare that Windows 8.1 customers (and the Microsoft patching crew) have a couple extra months to get their act together.

This story, "Dear Microsoft: Please call off the KB 2919355 Windows 8.1 Update dogs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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