Problems remain after Microsoft yanks Windows RT 8.1 update

Windows RT/8 updates have inspired a stream of complaints. Here's an overview of what's happened, how you might recover

In case you missed it, late Friday afternoon Microsoft pulled the Windows RT 8.1 update. Enough customers complained about BSODs and completely bricked machines -- including, notably, Microsoft Surface RT machines -- after applying the RT-to-RT 8.1 upgrade that the update was yanked entirely.

There's also been a steady stream of complaints about the Win8-to-Win8.1 update, including an inability to connect with Remote Access Website connections. Here's an overview of what we know so far has happened, and how you may be able to recover.

Microsoft released the Windows 8.1 upgrade early in the morning (U.S. time) on Oct. 17. For consumers and others who don't have Volume License agreements with Microsoft, the update was directly accessible through the Microsoft Store. Volume Licensees had access through the VLSC. Of course, MSDN and TechNet members have had access to the Windows 8.1 Enterprise (but not the Windows RT 8.1) bits for a month.

By Oct. 18, many users had reported problems with a Blue Screen, 0xC1900101 - 0x40017 error with the Windows 8.1 update. To date, the Microsoft Answers forum discussion that deals with that specific BSOD is up to 24 pages of comments, and Microsoft hasn't responded with any worthwhile suggestions, much less a solution.

Now we're seeing a second wave of problems.

Windows RT customers (those with retail copies of Windows RT, not volume licensees) encountered unresolved Blue Screen 0xc000000d errors with notification that "Your PC needs to be repaired / The Boot Configuration Data file is missing some required information / File: \BCD". On Oct. 19 -- two days after the update was released -- Microsoft MVP Wesley_P posted on the Answers Forum: "Why isn't the Windows RT 8.1 upgrade available in the Microsoft store?"

Apparently it took Microsoft about 48 hours to pull the upgrade. In a post without a time stamp on a rather obscure site, Microsoft issued this advisory:

Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.

I've seen no further comment from Microsoft, no acknowledgment or description of the problem, and certainly no fix.

Ozzie Scott Williams, on his technical blog kickthatcomputer ("Annoying stuff I figured out /I really hate computers"), has come up with an ingenious workaround. Big problem: The method requires a USB recovery drive for your Windows RT computer, and few people have one sitting around.

However, following the steps he outlines, if you trust him (disclaimer: I don't know Williams), you can create a Windows RT recovery USB drive. Using the recovery USB drive, there's a way to bring up an old-fashioned command prompt, and type in a one-line command to rebuild the trashed BCD. Once the BCD is fixed, apparently Windows RT 8.1 will boot.

Score one for the DOS command line. Hard to believe it would bring a borked Surface RT back to life.

The other major, solvable Windows 8.1 bug I've seen makes it impossible to connect Internet Explorer to a Remote Web Access website running on a Small Business Server 2011 server.  Poster Yves describes it on the TechNet forum:

It is not possible to connect to the Remote Web Access Website... after you log in with your credentials you get a 404, some wrong redirects. It is always redirecting to "https://remote.domain.tld/~/logon?ReturnUrl=%2fremote%3f". If you try after sucessfull logon to manually enter the correct URL "https://remote.domain.tld/remote/" you also get redirected to the above URL wich results in a 404. Firefox and Chrome doing it right. Any help is welcome, even better is if MS gets this fixed ;-)

It ends up that enabling Compatibility Mode in IE for the site, and adding the site to your Trusted Sites list, will fix the problem.

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