Beware of Software Upgrades

Monday, April 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Windows users, if it ain't broke, don't let Microsoft fix it.

Windows makes updates to its software available to fix bugs and glitches as they are discovered. Regular readers know an installation of Windows XP Home went so smoothly that it began to build trust in Microsoft. So, lately, when the system whined that updates were available, permission to install was routinely granted.

Big mistake.

On Friday, April 19, Windows XP chirped that updates were available and they were installed. And then began the games (none of them fun).

If the upgrades were interested in security, they accomplished their goal _ both Netscape and Internet Explorer suddenly would contact the Web, but refuse all replies. Yet the Ethernet card was working just fine, on The Associated Press' internal network.

A simple restart didn't cure the problem, but a restart in ``safe'' mode did, and both browsers worked fine _ until the system left safe mode.

A reinstallation of Windows XP Home didn't fix it, but maybe that was because XP goes on line to grab the latest setup files. Another reinstallation while going online blocked didn't fix things either.

Spending the weekend puzzling about this and working on the home machine's Windows ME, brought the realization that both reinstalls had used the default ``upgrade'' option.

Maybe the trick was to do a complete news installation of Windows XP Home, the other option.

Some trick. The ``complete'' installation erases the old files. The result was that both browsers now worked, but Windows Office and Lotus Notes didn't. And, of course, the shortcuts that had been on the desktop for other software had vanished.

Four hours or so later, everything had been reloaded or reinstalled.

That doesn't mean the whole fiasco is all Microsoft's fault. No problems had been experienced before the operating system whined that there were ``critical updates'' available. So the Doofus In Charge should have reasoned that there was no need to deal with a ``fix'' in search of a problem.

The Doofus didn't, and paid. Going forward, two rules:

1. If your Windows is working just fine for you, don't install upgrades without a good reason.

2. If you think you have a good reason, first go online to one of the discussion groups for your version of Windows and see if others installing the upgrade are finding it a downgrade before installing it.