When Windows Secrets' Scott Dunn blogged about a stealth Windows update that broke Windows XP's "repair" functionality, he probably didn't expect to create such a buzz around the web. The fix turned out to be simple, but many people are peeved at Microsoft for forcing them to fix the company's mistake.
The actual problem occurs after rolling XP back to a previous state through the installation disk. Once the system is restored, users are unable to install any additional updates from Windows/Microsoft Update. When Microsoft caught wind of the bug, it started pursuing the issue and did ultimately find the root cause within a day.
Windows Update program manager Nate Clinton diagnosed the bug as a case of DLL Hell.
Here’s what we found: when an XP repair CD is used, it replaces all system files (including Windows Update) on your machine with older versions of those files and restores the registry. However, the latest version of Windows Update includes wups2.dll that was not originally present in Windows XP. Therefore, after the repair install of the OS, wups2.dll remains on the system but its registry entries are missing. This mismatch causes updates to fail installation.
The fix, described in the bug's associated KB article, is as simple as re-registering the wups2.dll file. Nevertheless, some users are upset that they've had to do that much. "The fact is we shouldn’t have to be continually fixing things that Microsoft breaks," one blogger wrote. Another blogger questioned Microsoft's quality assurance process, asking, "I have to wonder about a company with programming and R&D staff the size of Microsoft – and no one tested for something like this?" Because it is hard to believe that Microsoft could have missed this issue, some conspiracy theorists have even gone as far as arguing that Microsoft deliberately created this bug to move people from XP to Vista.
While it's highly unlikely that Microsoft would intentionally leave a bug like this in XP, users do have a right to be angry about having to manually repair this problem. However, these kinds of ad-hoc fixes are sometimes necessary in the world of computers—this one just seems to have received a little more visibility than usual.