Don't install this Windows patch: Intel System 8/19/2016 12:00:00 AM

Here are the details on the undocumented patch that mysteriously appeared yesterday

Yesterday, I started receiving reports of a recommended update that suddenly appeared in the Windows Update listing for some Windows 7 and 8.1 machines. (As "recommended," it may appear in your Windows Update Optional list, or in your Important list.) There's no KB number, which means you can't uninstall it via the "Uninstall an update" dialog, and links from Windows Update turned up nonexistent pages.  

Running a search for "8/19/2016" through the Windows Update Catalog results in 55 different downloads, all of which appear to be identical. They all have the same filename, and a random hex file comparison came up with no differences (thx to td and DougCuk). The description in the Update Catalog says it's an "INTEL USB driver update released in August 2016," and individual files are for a wide variety of processors and USB Enhanced Host Controller types.

The closest driver update I could find on the Intel site is the "Intel(R) Server Chipset Driver for Windows" version, dated Aug. 29. The dates don't line up, the version numbers don't jibe ( on the Intel site, in Windows Update), and the size is wrong (the Intel download is 2.71 MB, where the Windows Update download is 67 KB).

AskWoody poster John Hillig, referencing the Viper site, says:

  • Intel Chipset INF -- 08/03/16 Is Not WHQL and has the chipset type CAT/INF files packaged into Intels SetupChipset.exe stand alone installer.
  • Intel Chipset INF -- 08/19/16 via Windows Update Is WHQL and is packaged as separate chipset type CAT/INF files for install by Windows INF installer.

Which explains the differences in version numbers, dates, and file sizes.

Overnight, Windows guru Günter Born took apart the download and came to some interesting conclusions. Writing on his blog Born's Tech and Windows World, he describes how the patch appears to be destined for Broadwell and Haswell chips and for "some hardware components." Tearing into an .inf file he found this description:

; ** Filename: AvotonUSB.inf **
; ** Abstract: Assigns the null driver to devices **
; ** for yellow-bang removal and **
; ** brands Intel(R) devices **

Born examined many of the files and concludes, "The .inf files for new CPU chip sets contains a list of device ids for drivers, needed to support the CPU chipset." He concludes that the drivers -- null drivers, which don't do anything -- are placeholders that define device IDs for various motherboard components, getting rid of the yellow "!" in Device Manager.

That seems innocuous enough, but it looks like the installer wipes out whatever device drivers may already exist. Born cites two examples:

  • I found a case here, where the optional update replaced an already installed and needed SMBus driver -- so the user was no more able to read its DIMM temperature, using Intel Desktop Utilities.
  • A 2nd incident has been reported as a user comment within my German blog post. The user reported, that his Wi-Fi adapter stalled after installing this optional update.

Bottom line: At best, installing this patch will remove some of the yellow bangs in Device Manager. At worst it'll break an already-good driver.

Avoid it.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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