Microsoft stops pushing buggy Win7 patch KB 4088875, hopefully as a precursor to yanking it

Microsoft no longer installs the Windows 7 March Monthly Rollup automatically, but KB 4088875 is still available in the Update Catalog. Aren’t you glad you held off on patching this month?

Microsoft stops pushing buggy Windows 7 patch KB 4088875

Pity the cannon fodder.

Folks who had Windows Automatic Update turned on and installed Patch Tuesday’s Monthly Rollup for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, KB 4088875, have encountered a viper’s pit of problems.

Based on reports from all over the globe, it looks like Microsoft is no longer pushing the buggy patch out the Windows Automatic Update chute — but the patch is still there if you go looking for it. Just don't go looking to Microsoft for explanations.

Right out of the gate we were warned that KB 4088875 had problems. The KB article lists these:

  • After installing this update, SMB servers may leak memory.
  • A Stop error occurs if this update is applied to a 32-Bit (x86) machine with the Physical Address Extension (PAE) mode disabled.
  • A Stop error occurs on machines that don't support Streaming Single Instructions Multiple Data (SIMD) Extensions 2 (SSE2).

(“Stop error” is Microsoft speak for a bluescreen.)

Microsoft basically says it doesn’t have fixes for any of those problems —but it pushed the update out the Automatic Update chute anyway.

Shortly after the patch appeared, we started hearing from admins that both the pushed Monthly Rollup and the download-and-manually-install Security-only patch, KB 4088878, were causing problems with IP addresses on servers’ virtual Network Interface Cards (vNICs). After applying the update, the server — and sometimes individual machines — simply dropped off the network because their manual IP addresses had been altered.

Since then, there’s been an avalanche of complaints.

2 scenarios where the bug is causing problems

Susan Bradley has identified two specific scenarios where the bug kicks in:

Scenario 1 — VMware.  As noted on a reddit post, a new virtual Ethernet network card is installed/enabled after the update. The side effect has occurred before with other convenience rollups, and a workaround was previously posted to this KB and a script is provided to fix the issue. It is not impacting all servers; it appears to be impacting virtual machines on VMware.

Scenario 2 — workstations. This one is a bit more fuzzy and not clear cut. I’ve seen reports where workstations with static IPs may be impacted with this update. There are definitely enough credible reports of chipsets being reset and losing their networking IP addresses. Note that I’m seeing this more in businesses than in consumer/peer-to-peer settings.

A sign that Microsoft will pull the buggy patch?

Microsoft hasn’t acknowledged the bug or pulled the bad patches, but they have taken a step that we’ve seen a few times before. When you run Windows Update on Win7, the KB 4088875 patch appears in the “Important” list — but it isn’t checked. Since it isn’t checked, it won’t be installed automatically.

In the past, that’s been a precursor to Microsoft completely yanking the patch. At this point, the buggy patches are still available in the Windows Update Catalog, for KB 4088878 (still dated March 12) and KB 4088875 (now dated March 14).

If you’ve applied the update and your machine isn’t connecting any more, try uninstalling KB 4088875 or KB 4088878. If you want to continue with the patch installed, there’s a useful 7-year-old article on TechNet from Dan Stolts, "How to Find a Lost, Missing, Hidden or Removed Network Card (NIC) or Other Device and Even Remove it," that may help you get your NIC back.

I find it infuriating that Microsoft has stopped pushing the patch — they obviously know there's a problem — but as of Thursday morning, the company hasn’t acknowledged the bug. We really need more transparency from the Patching Monolith.

Will Microsoft fess up and fix things? Ha! Join us on the AskWoody Lounge.

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