Buggy Windows 8 patch: Old problem, new solutions

New patches seem to be the culprit causing 64-bit Windows 8 Pro systems to lock up. Experienced Windows users face a complex and unfamiliar fix

Dozens of Windows 8 users have reported a consistent problem that causes their Start screens to freeze.

The cause of the problem isn't known yet, but the symptoms include multiple failures of the TimeBroker application, where Event Viewer shows that it terminated unexpectedly. Several complaints point to use of a Microsoft Account and possible failure of network validation for that account.

Praseetha Nair, listed as a Support Engineer, has a very complex series of steps for narrowing down -- and attempting to resolve -- the problem. Nair's post on Microsoft Community includes instructions for booting into safe mode with networking clean booting, disabling Startup programs, disabling Startup Windows services, and if all else fails, "try performing a system restore prior to a point before you were experiencing the issue."

Those actions would've been reasonably straightforward in Windows 7: an F8 to boot into Safe Mode with networking, Russinovich's Autoruns to temporarily block autostarting programs, a trip to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools to bring up the System Restore Wizard. In Windows 8, though, life isn't so easy.

There are many ways to boot into Win8 Safe Mode, all of which are complex; Nair's instructions step affected users through msconfig to reboot in Safe Mode. (There is no F8 Safe Mode interrupt in Windows 8 because, supposedly, Win8 boots too fast to look for an F8.) Nair shows how to disable autostarting programs with msconfig, as well. Running a system restore in Win8 is very obtuse, unless you know that the System Restore Wizard is called rstrui.exe. Microsoft's buried the handling of restore points deep in the Win8 interface.

On the Microsoft Answers forum, Benjamin Arnold reports that when he rolled back to a restore point prior to installing KB 2769165 (a Windows 8  digital signature fix that also "improves .Net Framework 4.5 files") and KB 2770917 (a cumulative Windows 8 update), the problem went away. Various posters describe similar problems, although it appears the problems didn't appear until two or three days after the updates were installed.

Compounding the problem, several posters report that because of this issue they can't get in to msconfig in order to boot into Safe Mode. Kitw is in a complex chicken-and-egg situation:

Right now I can't even boot into Windows. When I am presented with the picture login screen I can make the motions and have them acknowledged in the vector paths on the screen but it will not authenticate, and switching to a text keyboard will not load the on-screen keyboard. Using an external keyboard is not recognized either.

Buggy Windows patches are nothing new, of course. But the interface changes in Windows 8 pose new challenges for experienced Windows 7 users.

This story, "Buggy Windows 8 patch: Old problem, new solutions," 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.