Microsoft again forced upgrades on Win10 machines specifically set to block updates

For the third time in the past four months, Microsoft 'accidentally' upgraded Win10 1703 machines to version 1709 in spite of explicit, correctly applied, deferral settings. Gawrsh.

Microsoft forced upgrades on Windows 10 machines set to block updates

When Microsoft released Win10 Pro Creators Update, version 1703, it included the ability to control updates. Some would argue (and I still do) that the ability to readily block updates is the most important feature of 1703 — and the single reason why individual Window 10 customers should spring for Win10 Pro, instead of Win10 Home.

Now, for the third time since its release in April 2017, Microsoft has simply ignored those blocks and moved machines on to the Fall Creators Update, version 1709, without warning or explanation.

Confirmation of the latest fiasco arrived last Friday evening, as part of a note appended to the end of a Knowledge Base article, KB 4023814. There is no patch associated with KB 4023814. It’s an “explainer” KB article titled, Some versions of Windows 10 display a notification to install the latest version. It says:

If you're currently running Windows 10 Version 1507, Version 1511, Version 1607 or Version 1703, you can expect to receive a notification that states that your device has to have the latest security updates installed. Windows Update will then try to update your device…

Windows 10 version 1607 and version 1703 are not yet at "end of service." However, they must be updated to the latest versions of Windows 10 to ensure protection from the latest security threats.

That article was modified during the Friday night news dump period to add:


Microsoft is aware that this notification was incorrectly delivered to some Windows 10 Version 1703 devices that had a user-defined feature update deferral period configured. Microsoft mitigated this issue on March 8, 2018.

That fits in with the KB update history logs, which show the patch KB 4023057, Update to Windows 10 Versions 1507, 1511, 1607, and 1703 for update reliability was released on March 8.

Microsoft's getting better at the bad news game. Bad bug hits on Tuesday. Fixed on Thursday. But the notice didn't go out until Friday evening. Makes you wonder if the patching group now has its own PR department.

To understand why Windows 10 customers are so upset, it helps to look at the Windows Update advanced options in Win10 Creators Update, version 1703 (screenshot below).

windows update 1703 advanced options Woody Leonhard

Folks who want to take control of version changes in Windows 10 set those advanced options to (1) force Microsoft to wait until a new version is declared “Current Branch for Business,” then (2) after the version has hit CBB, to wait an additional 365 days before upgrading to the new version, (3) hold off on cumulative updates until 30 days after they’re sent out the Windows Update chute, and (4) overriding all of that, hold off on all updates — cumulative updates and version changes — for 35 days.

Except, golly, Microsoft hasn’t followed any of those settings.

3 accidental Windows updates in 4 months

In mid-November 2017, without warning, Windows Update started upgrading 1703 machines set to wait for CBB. That came as something of a shock to those who figured Microsoft should have warned them in advance. Microsoft finally fessed up to the mistake, modifying KB 4048954 — for the November 14 cumulative update — to say, “Windows Pro devices on the Current Branch for Business (CBB) will upgrade unexpectedly.” Microsoft didn’t bother to fix the problem until the December 12 cumulative update. Gawrsh.

In mid-January 2018, Microsoft pushed many Win10 1703 customers onto 1709, even though they had “feature update” deferrals set to 365 days. Microsoft decided that it would no longer use the “Current Branch for Business” nomenclature, replacing it with the nearly-identical “Semi-Annual Channel” terminology (Gregg Keizer has details). Somehow, in the course of charging ahead to CBB, er, SAC, Windows Update forgot to pay heed to the feature update deferral setting. Gawrsh two.

This month, Microsoft started rolling out an entirely new feature, called “Update Assistant,” that bypasses the Windows Update routines. One little problem: This month, Update Assistant forgot to look at the feature update deferral setting and starting rolling 1709 out to machines set to block 1709 — even machines that have Windows Update disabled. Gawrsh three.

As the saying goes, “I’m altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Microsoft’s penance for the three transgressions? A little bit of oft-repeated advice:

Users who were affected by this issue and who upgraded to Windows 10 Version 1709 can revert to an earlier version within 10 days of the upgrade. To do this, open Settings > Update & Security > Recovery, and then select Get started under Go back to the previous version of windows 10.

That is, if the rollback works properly.

When you read about Win10 Fall Creators Update’s rapid acceptance rate — how it’s been installed on more machines, faster, than any prior version of Win10 — keep the Gawrsh factor in mind. Three “accidental” upgrades in the past four month. Sure looks good on the version adoption graphs, eh?

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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