Microsoft fix for Automatic Updates lockup not working

Users are still complaining about the problem

Windows XP systems are still locking up during patch update attempts -- even after users deployed the fix suggested by Microsoft.

Symptoms of the long-running problem -- which the Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) team dubbed the "svchost/msi issue" -- include 100 percent CPU usage by svchost.exe and its multiple processes during Automatic Updates scanning, update downloads and sometimes even if AU is simply enabled on a machine.

"Of course, the computer is virtually unusable" when that happens, said a user identified as Foxy-Perth on the Windows Update support forum.

Every month at patch time, Microsoft's support boards fill with complaints from users. It was no different this week. "I have 6 (and counting) computers having issues with SVCHOST process running at near 100 percent CPU utilization," said TKovacs on Wednesday, one day after Microsoft unveiled seven security updates. "Disabling Automatic Updates resolves the issue. [What] did Microsoft just release?"

A hotfix, updated just Thursday, is available on the Microsoft support site. The patch will be pushed out via Microsoft's usual update services, including Windows Update and Microsoft Update, late this month or in early June, said a developer on the WSUS blog. However, the fix can be downloaded and installed manually on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 systems.

Users will also need to download and install the new stand-alone WSUS 3.0 client -- even those who don't rely on the enterprise-centric WSUS for updates -- to completely patch the problem. "It's important to keep in mind that the new WSUS client is only a partial solution and clients must have both KB927891 and the new 3.0 client installed for a full solution," the WSUS team blog read.

The new client and the WSUS update to Version 3.0 will be available to WSUS on May 22. Like the hotfix, the client can also be downloaded manually and installed now. Instructions and a link to the download have been posted to the MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) site.

Thursday and Friday, however, users poured out their frustration on the WSUS blog after installing the hotfix and updating the WSUS client. "I installed both WindowsXP-KB927891-v3-x86 and WindowsUpdateAgent30-x86 on Windows XP SP2 boxes configured to get updates from a WSUS 2.0 server. The problem still exists," said Summit Tuladhar in a comment to the blog.

"Doesn't appear that the fixes address the issue I experience on multiple machines," said ltpolaris.

"This is clearly a very serious worldwide issue," said Alan O'Riordan. "I will advise the disabling of the Automatic Updates until a clear resolution is found."

"I doubt you'd call what you've cobbed [sic] together a 'fix.' Thanks for nothing," said another user simply labeled jaded_admin. "We are seriously considering a pilot with SLED [SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop] or Ubuntu and OpenOffice now. Your poor workmanship is driving your customers right into the arms of the open-source community."

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Gregg Keizer

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