Microsoft fixes OneCare, but it's late for some users

It released a patch Sunday, two days ahead of schedule

Microsoft quietly deployed a patch to its Windows Live OneCare security suite earlier than expected to fix a bug that has erased some users' e-mail.

"On Sunday March 11, the Windows Live OneCare team released a new anti-malware engine that will fix the issue of OneCare erroneously quarantining certain Outlook .pst or Outlook Express .dbx files when infected files were detected within them," a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed Tuesday. "Windows Live OneCare customers whose PCs are connected to the Internet will automatically get this fix."

Last week, Microsoft responded to user complaints that their Outlook and Outlook Express mail had vanished by acknowledging the bug and naming today as the patch date. As complaints continued to mount, it released the patch ahead of schedule.

"Microsoft handled the fix earlier than they expected," the spokesperson said.

Although users had been reporting the problem since January, the flaw only surfaced in media reports last week when Microsoft admitted OneCare was quarantining Outlook and Outlook Express data files when it sniffed malware in an incoming file attachment. Once OneCare moved the .pst (for Outlook) or .dbx (Outlook Express) files, users' messages disappeared from their inboxes. In some cases, the data files could be restored from OneCare's quarantine folder.

Other users, however, remained hot Monday over both Microsoft's slow support response and the fact that they could not recover their Outlook or Outlook Express data files.

When asked if the OneCare patch would be able to recover long-lost .pst or .dbx files, the Microsoft spokesperson repeated advice the company gave last week -- advice that the users who have lost their data files say is worthless. "For customers whose Outlook .pst and Outlook Express .dbx files had been quarantined prior to this fix and engine update, we continue to recommend the following steps to recover their e-mail," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft's instruction are to:

  • Close Outlook or Outlook Express
  • Click Change OneCare Settings in the main OneCare screen
  • Click on the Viruses & Spyware tab
  • Click on the Quarantine button, select the pst or dbx file, and then click on Restore.
A user writing on a Windows Live OneCare support forum hoped that Microsoft would also be able to help those whose .pst or .dbx files had vanished. "OneCare says they released the update 'Last Night'...the update just prevents [erroneous quarantining] from happening (hopefully) but I hope we get solid info on extracting the [data] file and recovering it," said a user identified as rialcnis.

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Gregg Keizer

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