Windows 7 hit by rash of bogus 'not genuine' reports, validation code 0x8004FE21

Windows 7 is suddenly telling users it isn't genuine -- and it has nothing to do with Windows being stolen

patch band-aid bandage broken fix
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Have you been following this month's Black Tuesday bounty of problematic patches? Good. I have a question for you: What do all of these Microsoft Answers forum posts have in common?

I could go on -- there are dozens more, in the Activation section alone, all in the same vein -- but you get the gist of it. Looking around the Internet and answering my email, I see at least a hundred posts from people who are being told their copy of Windows 7 is disingenuous when, in fact, they know it's genuine.

If you guessed that all of those problems were caused by a bad Black Tuesday patch, you win the small prize. If you guessed that the aberrant patch is KB 3004394, you get the big prize. And if you guessed that the bad patch may not even show up on customers' systems, you get the giant whoopee cushion. Let's give Microsoft a big Bronx cheer.

Windows users started screaming about KB 3004394 within hours of it being rolled out of the Automatic Update chute last Tuesday: Bogus UAC prompts, MMC plug-ins refused to start, Windows Defender wouldn't start, Microsoft Security Essentials wouldn't install, VirtualBox wouldn't work, the AMD Catalyst Omega driver wouldn't install, and other Windows Updates wouldn't install after KB 3004394 infected those machines.

[ Check out the legendary clunkers that have made Microsoft's Patch Tuesday a living hell for Windows users everywhere: 20 epic Microsoft Windows Automatic Update meltdowns ]

On Thursday morning, Microsoft pulled the patch. On Thursday afternoon, Microsoft started advising in the Answers Forum that people infected with KB 3004394 should manually remove the patch, although the KB 3004394 article admonished, "The ability to remove Windows Updates through Control Panel may no longer function on some Windows 7 SP1-based and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1-based computers after KB 3004394 is installed."

Then we started hearing rumors that manually uninstalling KB 3004394 would, in fact, cause more problems.

Late Thursday night, Microsoft released its "Silver Bullet" patch, KB 3024777, which nullified KB 3004394 (I'm tempted to say "uninstalled" but it isn't clear whether the bad patch is literally uninstalled). In addition, the Silver Bullet patch removed all mention of KB 3004394 and KB 3024777 from the list of installed updates.

There's been a whole lot of bad advice flowing around this problem. Even at this late date -- working all the way through the weekend, until late Sunday night -- I'm not sure that this fix will work in all cases. But if Windows 7 is telling you that you're a thief and a scoundrel, try this:

  1. Download and install KB 3024777.
  2. Reboot. Then, for the heck of it, reboot again.
  3. Click Start, right-click Computer, choose Properties, and look at the bottom to see if you've been activated. If you haven't, click the link to Activate Windows Now. Reboot again.

If Windows continues to report that you aren't genuine, you should go through the steps to activate Windows over the phone.

Tell the people on the other end of the line that Microsoft's stupid KB 3004394 patch broke your system, and you want a refund.

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