Microsoft tends to enterprise Windows users -- but kicks consumers to the curb

Microsoft patches the wounds inflicted on corporate customers by XP and Windows 8.1 Update, but consumers are still mired in update woes

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Progress on the Windows 8.1 Update installer patching front is completely stalled and frustrating as ever. There are two main conversations on the Microsoft Answers forum, with a total of almost 1,000 posts. The first conversation, started by Michael Cherry on April 4, covers Windows 8.1 Update installation fails on Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center. The second, started by BrandonStead on April 8, covers a wide range of installation failures, particularly terminating with errors 0x80070020, 80073712 and 800F081F. Although posters on both threads describe hours and hours of frustrating work trying to get the patch to install -- sometimes with high-level Microsoft support -- there are no definitive answers and Microsoft has not yet issued a fix for the patch.

And these folks who can't get Windows 8.1 Update installed are facing that May 13 deadline, with no reprieve in sight (yet) from Microsoft.

There are two home-grown fixes for the Windows 8.1 Update installer problems that seem to work in a majority of cases. The first, a complex eight-step process from Marek Kusmierski, fixes some -- but not all -- of the myriad errors. The second, from Microsoft Forum Moderator Vivian Samartha, takes six steps. It's marked as an "Answer" to Michael Cherry's problem with Win 8.1 Pro Media Center, but several posters have said it doesn't work for them.

There's been some further confusion: Folks who installed Windows 8.1 Update using the files from MSDN have to take another step to make their Windows 8.1 Update a "real" Windows 8.1 Update. Windows Update/Microsoft Update will offer you a further update, also called KB 2919355, which fixes the fact that the MSDN files and the KB 2919355 files aren't the same. MVP and Answers Forum moderator Susan Bradley explained it to me this way:

Normally the bits you get on MSDN/VLSC and via Windows Update/Microsoft Update are the same. This time they are not. The MSDN files include five separate patches (KB2919442, KB2919355, KB2932046, KB2937592, KB2938439, KB2949621). The final patch wouldn't install on Servers. Come to find out via a comment in a forum that final patch was a Bitlocker one that would only install if you had the Bitlocker role installed. When the Windows Update bits released, it had a final part/KB that is different than the one on MSDN/VLSC.

The MSDN and VLSC updated ISOs do not contain the complete set of fixes that are offered from Windows Update. Therefore, Windows Update and WSUS will offer the KB2919355 update again to computers that are deployed by using the images in these ISOs. This is expected and does not result in the full reinstallation of the Windows 8.1 Update but only one smaller component of it. The rest of the update will not be downloaded or reinstalled.

Confused? I am.

Bottom line: If Windows Update or Microsoft Update offer you the KB 2919355 update, even if you have Windows 8.1 Update installed, you should take it. On my Windows 8.1 Update-from-MSDN production machine, the patch was offered as a 129MB download and it installed without incident. I've also heard -- but can't independently confirm -- that yet another KB 2919355 patch will be offered at some point in the future.

I haven't any idea if Microsoft will block patches to Windows 8.1 come May 13 on machines that have the patch-deficient MSDN or VLSC copy of Windows 8.1 Update installed.

There's even more confusion: At least one site is reporting that Microsoft changed the MSDN ISO images of Windows 8.1 Update on April 15. While I can't vouch for all of the Win8.1 variations on MSDN, I can confirm that the report is wrong for the file that contains the full U.S. English Windows 8.1 with Update, X64. Filename is en_windows_8.1_with_update_x64_dvd_4065090.iso. Also, the file currently on MSDN is identical to the one I downloaded on April 2 -- the MD5s and SHA1s match. At least we don't have multiple final versions of Windows 8.1 Update on MSDN -- yet.

Consumers (that is, anyone who isn't hooked up to a WSUS update server or who works for a company with fewer than 1,000 XP machines) are taking a grossly unfair hit. If Microsoft's going to offer a Windows 365 or set up three different versions of Windows 9, it's going to have to do a whole lot better than this.

This story, "Microsoft tends to enterprise Windows users -- but kicks consumers to the curb," was originally published at 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 on Twitter.

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