Friday afternoon I started hearing about a mysterious message from Microsoft that warned Windows Live Mail users their systems wouldn't work "in a few weeks." They were exhorted to download and install a patch -- there's a link to KB 3093594 -- or upgrade to Windows 10 and use the new Universal Mail app (which is almost universally panned).
The sign-up message looks exactly like malware. The patch crashes many systems in many different ways, with the Calendar app taking particular credit. It's a mess, and you should avoid it.
Here's the message, supposedly from Microsoft, that people started receiving Friday:
Important information about your email service
In a few weeks, we will be making some changes to our email services that might impact your @outlook.com, @hotmail, @live, or @msn email account. Those changes will prevent your email from being delivered to the Windows Live Mail 2012 application you use.
In order to continue using Windows Live Mail 2012 to send and receive email for your account, you need to install the latest update published here.
If you use Windows Live Mail 2012 on Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, we recommend that you switch to the built in Mail app in Windows to stay connected and get the latest feature updates on Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.
Windows Live Essentials 2009 and 2011 are not supported anymore, and you will need to update to Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 10 and use the Mail app, or use www.outlook.com. To learn more about the Mail app, please click here.
We also recommend all Windows Live Mail users on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 and use the built in Mail application to stay connected and get the latest feature updates.
We suggest saving this email so you can refer to it later.
Thanks for your understanding and continued use.
The Outlook team
Although it looks like a phishing message, the message is, in fact, from Microsoft. For years, those of us who support Windows customers have admonished people to never click a link in an email message that says it will install a Windows update. "Microsoft would never send you an email with a link to a patch," the saying went -- until Friday anyway. Now, I guess the general advice is "If it looks like the mail came from Microsoft, sure, install whatever they say."
I wonder how long it'll take until we see copycat messages, apparently from Microsoft, pointing to websites that look exactly like Microsoft's download site, serving up malware. The Microsoftie who came up with this harebrained approach should be flogged.
There's another sleight of hand involved. (Or, golly, was it merely an oversight?) Many people read this phrase "If you use Windows Live Mail 2012 on Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, we recommend that you switch to the built in Mail app in Windows" as saying, "If you use WLM on Win 8, 8.1, or 10, you need to install this patch." In fact, that isn't what Microsoft's message says. If you're currently using Windows Live Mail on Windows 10 and you install this patch, Live Mail stops working. Boom! No warning during the installation. It's good-bye WLM. You can only get it back by uninstalling the updated version and re-installing the old version.
If you read the message a little bit closer -- or check out the hidden System Requirements on the download site -- you'll see that Microsoft specifically says the patch is for Win 7, 8, and 8.1 only. Does the installer check to make sure you're running one of the required versions of Windows? No. Of course not.
MessengerGeek Jonathan Kay has a detailed description of what's happening on his blog:
Although not officially mentioned in the message, Windows Live Mail 2012 uses the DeltaSync protocol to send and receive email for Outlook.com/Hotmail accounts, so it can be assumed that they are discontinuing this protocol. Prior to DeltaSync's creation, Outlook Express used WebDAV, which itself was shut down in 2009.
With the patch linked in the email, KB3093594, Microsoft seems to have elected to continue to support Live Mail 2012 by replacing the DeltaSync protocol with Exchange ActiveSync.
However… the Exchange ActiveSync support is extremely rudimentary and fixes none of the existing issues with mail notifications.
There's ongoing advice on a Tenforums thread about the idiosyncrasies of this patch. In particular, poster jyusa recommends that you wait an hour or more after installing the patch before it'll start working. "Just close WLM when it crashes." Comforting thought, that.
One of many Microsoft Answer Forum threads complaining about the patch includes a nugget of information from Ron Sommer, Microsoft MVP and Community Moderator. He says:
Login to your outlook.com account using a browser. Does it say Outlook.com or Outlook Mail (Preview)? KB3093594 should only be installed if you have an outlook.com account that has been upgraded to Outlook Mail (Preview).
If you have more than one outlook.com account, you will have to decide if you want the accounts that have not been upgraded to Outlook Mail (Preview) to work or do you want the accounts that have been upgraded to work.
No Outlook Mail (Preview) accounts = do not install KB3093594.
An account has upgraded to Outlook Mail (Preview) = install KB3093594.
That seems to be the best advice around.
For those of us who remember Windows Live Mail's triumphant announcement at the time Windows 7 hit the stands -- it replaced the much-maligned Windows Mail in Vista -- this is a sorry state of affairs. Once touted as the ultimate free email client, seven years later, WLM's been put out to pasture, being used as a tool to push Windows 10 upgrades.