Another botched Microsoft patch: Office 365 ProPlus says 'Something went wrong'

Microsoft took 12 days to fix a bug that locked out some Office 365 ProPlus customers after a silent patch automatically installed

This is the second month in a row where we've seen a botched automatic Office patch. As is the case with so many Office patches these days, there's no KB number and no warning that a patch is being applied. Unless you go to extraordinary lengths to keep Office 365 ProPlus (or Office 365 in general) from updating itself, you get the patch -- and may get clobbered.

This month, blame a bad patch that went out on July 12 through Microsoft's new backdoor channel, bypassing Microsoft Update entirely. If you were one of the unfortunate Office 365 ProPlus customers, none of your Office applications would open, returning an informative message that said, "Something went wrong."

Indeed.

The Microsoft Answers Forum lit up on July 14 with lots of suggested workarounds but few ideas that worked. If you were one of the Office 365 ProPlus users for whom none of the workarounds worked, you were plumb out of luck. Rolling back a Microsoft Update patch wouldn't work, because there was no entry. Rolling back to a restore point didn't work for a host of reasons. Ultimately, one of the forum denizens discovered they could get Office 365 ProPlus to work again by going to the Microsoft website that uninstalls Office 365 (nope, there's no Add or Remove Programs), and re-installing Office 365 ProPlus from scratch.

One poster on the forum said the same symptoms appeared "after I installed optional updates KB2973488, KB2967917 and KB2962409 on my Windows 8.1 machine this morning." At least he had a few KB numbers to work with.

On July 23, Microsoft acknowledged the problem. 'Softie JalalB said:

Shortly after the release of the July Public Update, we received notification of a potential issue affecting a subset of Office 365 ProPlus users. In some cases, users running Office may not be able to launch Office products after the July 2014 updates are installed.

We have since corrected the issue and will be releasing an updated build 15.0.4631.1004 scheduled to go live by Thursday July 24th. Once the update is available, you can click on "Update Now" from the backstage to get the latest fix.

The "backstage" is Microsoft bafflegab for clicking File, Account.

Poster Richard McBride gave Microsoft an earful:

This problem has been caused to a major percentage of your users/customers by an update from your company.

To add insult to injury you expect people to either spend hours on the phone talking to unhelpful tech support or pay an exhorbatent price for help because they are out of their 90 day period.

Spend hours trying to restore to a previous state (without success in my case).

Uninstall & reinstall (that won't work either)

Or you expect those of us who have chosen to use the subscription service to use another of their downloads to fix your problem!

Not Good Enough Microsoft. You Caused The Problem - You Fix It! NOW!!!!!

Hard to argue with that.

Microsoft's patching process was painful but largely manageable with the Microsoft Update system, especially for those users who turned off Automatic Updates or for companies that can hire chain gangs to test Microsoft's messes. Now we're being treated to a wide variety of patches appearing in obscure locations, largely undocumented -- in some cases unnumbered and without change logs -- hard to roll back, and frequently applied with no warning, at least to the typical user. We've seen this train wreck coming for much more than a year. It's unfolding before our eyes.

Microsoft desperately needs to re-think the way it distributes and supports patches. You can't patch Office like a phone.

This story, "Another botched Microsoft patch: Office 365 ProPlus says 'Something went wrong'," 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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