I’ve been in the IT world long enough to know that not every Microsoft update brings only good things to the table. That was certainly the case when I recently encountered a real dud affecting one of my employer’s customers.
The summary for KB3177725 states, “This security update resolves vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows.” Great! We like patching security holes. This update has a darker side, however, and although the patch description now mentions it as a known issue, that was not the case when the customer’s problem initially popped up.
I first became aware of the problem last month when the customer reported that he was unable to use a program created by my employer to encode more than one magnetic stripe card at a time on his Magicard card printer. If he tried sending a second job to the printer, the program indicated the job had been queued successfully, and it would even show up in his print spooler, but the card would not actually print even if the spooler was restarted. The only way to print another card was to close the encoder software, reopen it, and send the print job again.
Although the problem initially looked like it might be related to my employer’s software, nothing had changed on our end, but we still checked to make sure the customer had the latest version of the software and the latest driver for his card printer. Eventually, I headed to Control Panel to check out the list of recently installed Windows updates, one of which was the aforementioned KB317725. It was automatically installed around the same time the customer started having problems—an interesting coincidence—and a quick search revealed that it was causing printing problems for other people.
According to posts in that forum thread, the problem occurs in a given program only if it is coded a certain way, but such programs work just fine up to the point that the Microsoft patch is installed. You can read up on the details if you like, but it’s beyond the scope of what we’re discussing here.
The problem our customer was having was not exactly the same as what other people had experienced because he could print only one document before needing to restart the encoder software, whereas other people could print two in a row before running into trouble. Even now the known issues section of the patch description says, “After you apply this security update and you print multiple documents in succession, the first two documents may print successfully. However, the third and subsequent documents may not print.” Nevertheless, the patch being installed around the same time he started having trouble suggested to me that it was probably related.
By the time I ran across this issue, Microsoft had already been made aware of the problem. An update, KB3187022, was available, not through the usual Windows Update interface but through the Microsoft Update Catalog.
We downloaded this patch and installed it on the customer’s computer, and after a reboot, he was again able to print multiple cards in succession without needing to restart his encoder software between print jobs.
Since first encountering this problem, we’ve had a second customer using the same encoder software report the same problem, except in his case he was able to print two cards in a row before having to reboot the software. That situation exactly matched the problem described in the update’s known issues section.
We were lucky that the first customer was using a Windows 7 machine since, at the time the issue first cropped up, Microsoft had not released a patch for the Windows 10 version of the update, KB3176493. That has since changed, and a fix is now available for Microsoft’s latest OS, too.
Naturally, you can’t blame Microsoft for every problem that comes up, nor is every problem their fault. Nevertheless, when a problem pops up seemingly out of nowhere at the same time Windows updates are installed, I can’t help but take a second look.