Is Microsoft Re-updating Auto Update, and Does It Need Updating Again?

Just when it seemed Microsoft had averted a PR debacle after an update to its Automatic Updates service in Windows installed itself into users' computers even when they thought it was turned off, now it appears something is turning back on many users' Automatic Updates.

Late Friday night, Microsoft Update Program Manager Nate Clinton denied having discovered anything in his company's software that could be causing the problem. "We have received some logs from customers, and have so far been able to determine that their AU settings were not changed by any changes to the AU client itself and also not changed by any updates installed by AU."

But last weekend, multiple members of the AeroXperience Forum reported having their update service turned back on. Some noted the update forced their systems to reboot, which in the case of servers can cause outages for the services they provide.

Clinton said his team is still looking into whether another Microsoft application could be making this change without users' consent.

While BetaNews' Windows systems have not experienced this behavior even after applying a full set of patches manually, over the last five days, four of our systems did experience difficulty with Automatic Updates failing to download those patches - a problem which we'd experienced before, and were easily able to rectify by re-registering the Windows Update services. Easy for us, that is, but probably not for the everyday Windows user.

While forum users did not report what software patches did get installed, although without permission, at least two Vista users reported systems that were set for Automatic Updates failing to install last weekend's series of patches. But the problem is not yet an epidemic, as many Vista users (not testing the private beta of SP1) reported no problems.

Still, in the wake of last month's suspicious activity in which Microsoft Update behaved as designed, though not as expected, more scrutiny is being devoted to how this service operates and whether it minds its administrator.

As one AeroXperience forum member wrote, "I really hope the WU team doesn't come back saying something along the lines of 'Oh it's a bug we are going to be addressing,' because that would be pretty lame."

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