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Pause

With a fix for the ‘temporary profile’ bug still elusive, Win10 1903 and 1909 customers should check Pause Updates

By now you’ve probably heard about the disappearing-profile bug in this month’s Win10 1903 and 1909 cumulative update. The buggy patch went out on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Reports started rolling in shortly afterward about desktops that were wiped clean, wallpaper replaced, even files that disappeared. I wrote about it on Thursday morning:

Many people are in a tizzy — their desktop icons are gone, they can’t log onto their usual Admin account, and their files most definitely aren’t where they left them.

Since then we’ve seen many hundreds of complaints and dozens of articles about the mayhem. Ends up that the hapless victims had their Windows profiles swapped out, replaced by a temporary profile. The buggy patch moved their cheese and hid it where all but the most advanced Windows boffin would never find it.

Early on, Patch Lady Susan Bradley nailed the cause of the problem:

Loss of profile has historically been a race condition between the boot process and something holding files open. I personally have seen antivirus most often do this but it could be other things like antiransomware protection, group policy settings. Microsoft DOES test their patches, they really do. What they can’t do is test for the myriad of unknown ways that we set up our computers.

(Techy note: A race condition is a timing issue that arises when two or more independent programs stomp on each other. They’re very difficult to diagnose.)

Initial reports pointed the finger at a specific antivirus package as being the one that tangled with the KB 4532693 installer, but then we discovered that not all folks running that AV software were getting bit. Then we had a series of reports about local accounts (users who aren’t signed on with a Microsoft Account) getting the special treatment. Nope, that wasn’t the problem.

Microsoft hasn’t officially acknowledged the bug, as best as I can tell, aside from two posts on the Answers forum. On Feb. 12, Lawrence Abrams at BleepingComputer said that a Microsoft rep told him, “We are aware of the issue and are investigating the situation.” On Feb. 17, almost a week after the bug first appeared, Mayank Parmar at Windows Latest said:

In a conversation with Microsoft’s support team, multiple employees told us that Microsoft is aware of the issue and are actively investigating the situation. “Microsoft is aware of this known issue and our engineers are working diligently to find a solution for it,” a staff stated.

There have been multiple reports of users losing data because of the KB 4532693 patch. I haven’t seen that happen as yet, personally, so remain skeptical. Far more likely is that the data got stuffed into a .BAK or .000 or .003 folder inside the C:Users folder — the place Windows sticks profiles. If a Windows customer runs a Cleaner program while trying to fix the lost profile bug, the backup may well be gone.

Most distressing: Susan Bradley reports on a response to a Microsoft support case, in which a Microsoft technician specifically mentioned Windows Defender as a possible source of conflict:

I discussed the case with my tech lead and confirmed this to be a bug — 25270101 … find the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection and Microsoft Defender Antivirus services, right-click each of them, select Properties, and change Startup Type to Disabled, selecting OK after each change. Restart your device in normal mode and attempt to sign in with your original profile.

It isn’t at all clear if Defender might be part of the two-to-tango race condition. 

And, of course, neither the Knowledge Base article nor the official Windows Release Status page says a word. Nine days later and the buggy patch is still being shoveled out the Windows Automatic Update chute.

Not all is doom and gloom.

If you’re using Pause Updates in Win10 1903 or 1909 to block Microsoft’s patches, and your “Resume updates” date is far enough out — today or later — you didn’t get either this buggy patch or the monstrous KB 4524244 UEFI “patch,” which was pulled last week. But if you’re relying on Pause Updates, now would be a very good time to make sure it’s set out to the end of the month or later. Heaven only knows when (if!) Microsoft is going to re-release KB 4532693 and fix the disappearing profile problem.

For most of you, pausing updates until March 9 seems like a very good idea. (If you’re running SQL Server, though, you need to get the February patches installed. Sorry.)

To adjust your Pause Updates setting, first make sure you’re running either Win10 version 1903 or 1909 (type winver down in the Search box and press Enter). If you are, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. You should see something like the screenshot.

defer to 03 09 2020 Woody Leonhard/IDG

If your “Updates will resume on” date is before March 9, click the “Pause updates for 7 more days” link. (March 9 is a lucky number because the next Patch Tuesday is on March 10. Presumably Microsoft will fix this mess prior to that date. Presumably.)

In the past, I haven’t recommended that you extend the “Resume updates” date by pressing the “Pause updates for 7 more days” link because Microsoft has long warned that you can only extend updates after you’ve installed the currently available updates: 

After the pause limit is reached, you’ll need to install the latest updates before you can pause updates again.

I’m delighted — and surprised — to tell you that, at least in my tests, that limitation no longer applies. It appears to me as if you can go back in and pause updates for seven more days at a clip, even if you already have Pause updates set.

That’s remarkably good news.

Questions? Observations? Vituperations? We’re all ears on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Patch Tuesday’s tomorrow. Verify you have ‘Pause Updates’ enabled

Remember the frenzy after last month’s Patch Tuesday? How everybody and his twice-removed cousin — even the N forkin’ SA — told you to get patched immediately because of this big, spooky Crypto API security hole that was supposed to bring down  Windows As We Know It, like, right now?

Guess what. It never materialized.

To its credit, Microsoft never said the Chain of Fools/CurveBall CVE-2020-0601 fix was a “Critical” patch. That didn’t keep most of the increasingly echo-like Windows blogosphere from crying, “Fire!”

If you prefer to wait and see if the latest Windows patches turn to dreck, there are a few simple steps to take right now.

Watching out for Windows 7

The last free, pushed Win7 patches arrived a month ago.

If you paid for Win7 Extended Security Updates — yes, even a business of one can get them — you’re due a patch tomorrow. One little problem: We haven’t seen the patch and don’t know absolutely, for sure, how it’ll arrive.

If you haven’t paid for Win7 Extended Security Updates, we also don’t know what the morrow will bring. Windows 7 already has one manually downloadable patch to fix the bad patch last month (which introduced the “Stretch” black wallpaper bug) and I expect we’ll see a patch at some point to fix the “You don’t have permission to shut down this computer” bug. For now, there’s nothing pressing. See Patch Lady Susan Bradley’s Feb. 9 podcast for more details. 

I suggest you keep your powder dry by following the usual steps: Click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the “Turn automatic updating on or off” link. Click the “Change Settings” link on the left. Verify that you have Important Updates set to “Never check for updates (not recommended)” and click OK.

We’ll watch for any goofiness and alert you, as usual.

Blocking automatic update on Win8.1

If you’re using Windows 8.1 (believed by many to be the most stable version of Windows currently on offer), click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the “Turn automatic updating on or off” link. Click the “Change Settings” link on the left. Verify that you have Important Updates set to “Never check for updates (not recommended)” and click OK.

Blocking automatic update on Win10 1803 or 1809

Not sure which version of Win10 you’re running? Down in the Search box, near the Start button, type About, then click About your PC. The version number appears on the right under Windows specifications.

If you’re using Win10 1803 or 1809, I strongly urge you to move on to Win10 version 1903. Microsoft released it (to some consternation) in May of last year. It had a shaky start before plunging into a four-patch debacle in September/October, but now appears to be relatively stable. There are detailed step-by-step instructions for moving to Win10 1903 in “Why — and how — I’m moving Win10 production machines to version 1903.”

If you insist on sticking with Win10 1809 (thrice bitten, thrice shy, eh?), you can block updates by following the steps in December’s Patch Tuesday warning. Be acutely aware of the fact that Microsoft won’t be handing out any more security patches for 1809 Home or Pro after the May Patch Tuesday.

There’s a better way with Win10 versions 1903 or 1909

In version 1903 or 1909 (either Home, Pro, Education or Enterprise, unless you’re attached up an update server), if you followed my instructions last month, you already have “Pause Updates” set so patching resumes near the end of February (screenshot). 

updates paused til 2020 03 02 Woody Leonhard/IDG

Not sure if you’re sufficiently paused? To check, using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. If you’re paused until the end of the month or so, you don’t need to do anything. That’ll give you three weeks after Patch Tuesday to see if there are any bad bugs.

On the other hand, if pause is set to expire before the end of February, or if you don’t have a pause in effect, you should set up a patching defense perimeter that keeps patches off your machine for the rest of this month. Using that administrators account, click the “Pause updates for 7 days” button, then click it again and again, if necessary, until you’re paused out into March. (If you have a partial pause already in effect, you may need to click “Resume updates,” then reboot.)

For those of you who have been wondering about the “optional, non-security, C/D Week” KB 4532695 patch for Win10 1903 and 1909, it’s there, but you shouldn’t install it. For weeks I’ve been wondering why I didn’t see KB 4532695 offered on my 1903 machines as an additional update to “Download and install now.” @abbodi86 on AskWoody.com finally figured it out: If you’re running Win10 1909, you’ll see KB 4532695 offered as an additional update, as one would expect. But if you’re running Win10 1903, you have to have a specific combination of hidden and blocked patches before the optional KB 4532695 is offered.

Don’t be spooked. Don’t be stampeded. And don’t install any patches that require you to click “Download and install now.” They’ll be minimally tested and available soon enough.

If there are any immediate widespread problems protected by this month’s Patch Tuesday — a rare occurrence, but it does happen — we’ll let you know here, and at AskWoody.com, in very short order.

We’re at MS-DEFCON 2 on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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The difference between Defer updates, Pause updates and Delay updates — and what happens with Win10 1909

Yes,  there’s a difference between Defer updates and Pause updates. But that’s just the tip of the micro-plastic-infused iceberg.

The main sticking point: Win10 still has both concepts floating around, they conflict, and we don’t have any idea how the conflicts are being resolved — a problem that’s going to get worse with the release of Win10 version 1909, which doesn’t follow the Defer, Pause, push, pull or prod rules.

This time the name change — Deferred updates, Paused updates — masks a Gordian knot of settings in various places, with conflicts galore. Be of good cheer. When Microsoft pushes Win10 version 1909 into the mix next month, we have yet another update with a new pedigree.

Here’s where things stand.

If you scroll down the Windows Update Advanced Options pane for Windows 10 Pro versions 1803 or 1809, you see the old Deferral settings (screenshot).

1809 sac 300 15 Woody Leonhard/IDG

Although you can see the settings right there in black and white, they’ve been kicked under the bus. Back in February, “Semi-Annual Channel” was retroactively defined as “wait an extra 60 days on version upgrades.” Nonetheless, the other two settings — deferral settings — still have effect.

Deferred Updates

In practice, the meaning of Deferred updates in Advanced Options is reasonably clear:

“Feature update … deferred for this many days” means that Windows Update will refrain from installing a new version of Win10 for the specified number of days after the new version is posted. There’s a little squishiness in the “posted” part — Win10 version 1809 being a case in point, with its horribly botched rollout over different days — and you may have to add 60 days depending on the Channel setting. But, well, Microsoft.

“Quality update … deferred for this many days” means that Windows Update will wait the specified number of days after a cumulative update is pushed before it gets installed. Note in particular that some months — like September — have two pushed cumulative updates. The deferral applies to each pushed update, in turn.

In both cases, we’re talking about the number of days that pass after the patch is released. The day you adjust the setting doesn’t make any difference, although if you change the setting while a deferral is in effect, the new setting takes precedence.

For example, say Microsoft pushes a cumulative update on Oct. 3. You have quality update deferrals set to, say, 15 days. You change your mind and on Oct. 10, you change the quality update deferral setting to five days. In that case (although you may need to reboot), the Oct. 3 quality update will get installed.

There are more changes coming. The upgrade to Win10 version 1909 apparently isn’t constrained by the Deferred update setting — there’s an independent “Download and install now” prompt.

Confused? Yeah. You aren’t the only one.

Paused updates

Paused updates are a different kettle of fish entirely. Win10 version 1809 has a “Pause updates” slider in Advanced Options, but it only pauses for 35 days; there’s no finer setting.

Win10 version 1903 has a plethora of pausing options. On the Windows Update main screen, you have a button marked “Pause updates for 7 days” (screenshot).

1903 pause 7 days 2 Woody Leonhard/IDG

Click that button and it’s replaced with another that says “Pause updates for seven more days.” You can click the button up to five times and each click adds seven more days to the pause.

Dig deeper into the Advanced Options pane and you see the ability to “Pause updates until a specific date.” This pause, though, maxes out at seven days — an odd limitation, considering the 5 x 7 multi-click option on the main page. (Note that earlier versions of Win10 Pro 1903 allowed date-by-date pause extensions for up to 35 days. That’s no longer the case, per a clean install yesterday of build 18362.356.)

1903 pause updates Woody Leonhard/IDG

When you pause updates, the pause takes effect from the point you set it. So if, on Oct. 1, you click three times to pause updates for 21 days, all cumulative updates will be held back until Oct. 22. Once Oct. 22 rolls around, though, you get the most recently pushed cumulative update — which may not be the one you thought you were blocking. 

Delayed updates

So what’s a “Delayed update”? 

As best I can tell, there’s no official Microsoft definition of the term. It doesn’t appear in any of the current versions’ settings. 

Think of it as a generic term that may mean either Deferred or Paused updates, or both, in any combination.

The case of the disappearing 1903 deferral settings

When you install a clean copy of Win10 Pro version 1903, you see the Deferral settings shown in the first screenshot in this article. If you change any of the settings, on reboot the whole settings section disappears. I talked about that rather shocking revelation back in June.

I have no idea why it happens, and as best I can tell, Microsoft has never discussed the disappearing deferrals.

Group Policy behind the scenes

Many of the defer and pause update options you see in the Settings app are available under the covers through the Group Policy Editor. (Remember, again, that we’re talking about Win10 Pro, Education, and maybe Enterprise, depending on your admin’s settings. This doesn’t apply to Win10 Home.)

To see what’s happening down there, start gpedit.msc and navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update. There you’ll find a bunch of defer and pause options, with the mother lode under Windows Update for Business.

As you might expect, there’s a real hornet’s nest of settings, some of which work, many of which don’t, and the conflicts are glaring. For example, in Win10 1903 the Windows Update for Business > Select when Quality Updates are received setting says that you can pause quality updates — but that pause will last for 35 days. Period. There’s no seven-day option, no variable number of days option. It’s 35 days and that’s it.

In Win10 version 1809, though, the analogous setting gives you a chance to specify the date Pause starts — and then it goes for 35 days.

As is all too common with Group Policy, there’s no apparent relationship between what’s in the Settings app and what’s in effect under the hood.

Don’t get me started on the Registry values underpinning all of this mayhem.

Conflicts. Oy, we got conflicts.

So what happens when a Pause and a Deferral collide? Or when a Group Policy conflicts with something you can see in the Settings app?

Short answer: It’s complicated. Longer answer: The exact resolution seems to vary depending on which build of what version you’re using.

PKCano undertook an extensive testing of the conflicts between Group Policy, Settings app, and what actually happens back in July. The results are ugly, to say the least. Since then there have been numerous attempts to reconcile conflicting Defer, Pause, Settings app, GP settings and values in the Registry — and it’s an unholy mess.

My main observation — not backed by any exhaustive research, but just from listening to the howls of patching pain — is that Windows Update tries to honor all five sources of settings, and usually opts to hold off if any of them say to block an update.

The new 1909 kid on the block

At this point, it looks like the Win10 version 1909 announcement arrives as part of a cumulative update, and it’s only installed if you explicitly click on “Download and install now.” Whether the appearance of the announcement is subject to Defer or Pause update rules is an unknown at this point, but it seems likely that installation of Win10 version 1909 will be wholly dependent on clicking yet another link, ignoring any other Defer or Pause setting, either in the Settings app or in Group Policy.

Which is good. Anything to break free of this patching tar patch.

The future’s unclear at this point. Just for starters, we have no idea if Microsoft will continue to deliver a major Win10 upgrade in March followed by a Service Pack in September. The Service Pack, also known as an optional feature update, or an “Enablement Package” (sheesh), likely won’t follow any of the old Defer or Pause rules — although it may mimic version 1909. 

Of course, we don’t know for sure. Microsoft hasn’t told us.

Heaven only knows what will happen when version 1903 gets within four months of end of support. Then we enter uncharted waters once again.

Feeling pushed? Join us on AskWoody.

Thx @b, @PKCano

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Windows by the numbers: Upgraders press Pause

Apparently, just six months before Windows 7 hits retirement, users decided to take a break from migrating to the latest shiny, Windows 10.

According to web metrics company Net Applications, anyway.

The chances that everyone pressed Pause in June are about the same as pocketing a million from a scratch-it. In other words, highly unlikely. But that’s what Net Applications claimed Monday.

Windows 7’s share of all personal computers barely budged in June, remaining at 35.4%, and its portion of the PCs running Windows stayed put at 40.1%. (The second number was significantly larger than the first because Windows does not power every personal computer; in June, Windows ran 88.3% of the world’s machines. All but a miniscule fraction of the rest ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS.)

Meanwhile, Windows 10’s numbers were almost as immune to change. The operating system’s share of all PCs reached 45.8%, an increase of less than one-tenth of a percentage point. Windows 10’s share of Windows PCs did not move at all, sticking with 51.8%. (The stubbornness of the share of Windows overall was an artifact of rounding.)

So, what’s going on? Did Windows users, especially commercial customers tasked with getting off Windows 7 before security updates dry up, really stop doing — what they’d done the month before — upgrading from 7 to 10?

Who knows? As Computerworld has noted numerous times when discussing analytics data that tries (pretends, some would argue) to reveal Microsoft’s secrets, the whole process can be an impenetrable black box. Everything must be inferred, whether X gained when Y declined, or in this case, movement stalled.

It may simply be the data itself; Net Applications has visibility only on sites it monitors for clients. Its user share numbers are extrapolations at best, and so far from definitive to be laughable. But failing Microsoft’s own data — which it has, thanks to the telemetry embedded within Windows — it’s the best outsiders have. (Virtually every estimate of OS or browser share is based on the same principles used by Net Applications.)

What’s important, as always, is to keep an eye on the longer-term trends. If any of this is worthwhile, it’s the over-time movements of an OS. That’s why, even in a month which stumps easy analysis, Net Applications’ Windows numbers can provide insight.

Windows 10 still accelerates

By Net Applications’ numbers, Windows 10’s growth still shows signs of speeding up. The average per-month change over the past 12 months has been +0.84 of a percentage point. But over the last 6 months, the average climbed to +1.1 points, representing an increase of about 24%.

However, Windows 7’s decline has not kept pace. Rather than accelerate, it has slowed. While Windows 7’s average per-month movement over the last 12 months has been -0.53 percentage points, the 6-month average was only -0.25 points, or less than half. If Windows 7’s fall was speeding up, the 6-month average decline should be larger not smaller than the 12-month.

That’s why Windows 7’s forecast — based, as always, on the operating system’s 12-month average change — now pegs its January 2020 user share at 35.7%, nearly half a point higher than the prognostication of the month before. (Windows 7 will exit support Jan. 14, 2020.) That’s a lot of PCs destined to go without security updates.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 should stand at about 58% of all Windows installations when the older OS drops off support, a decrease of approximately two points from the early-June forecast. A year later — January 2021 — Windows 7 and Windows 10 will be at 28.5% and 69.5%, respectively.

Elsewhere in Net Applications’ June reporting, the user share of macOS slipped by more than a tenth of a percentage point to 9.2%, the lowest mark for Apple’s desktop operating system in over a year. macOS has lost user share for three straight months. Linux’s user share climbed by almost two-tenths of a point to 2.1%, while Google’s Chrome OS stayed flat at 0.4%.



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How to Pause a Bash Script With the Linux Sleep Command

Bash shell on Unity desktop concept
Fatmawati Achmad Zaenuri/Shutterstock.com

The sleep command makes your Linux computer do nothing. Counter-intuitive perhaps, but a period of inactivity is sometimes just what’s needed. This article shows you how to use this Bash shell command effectively.

Using sleep is easy. On the command line type sleep, a space, a number, and then press Enter.

sleep 5

The cursor will disappear for five seconds and then return. What happened? Using sleep on the command line instructs Bash to suspend processing for the duration you provided. In our example this was five seconds.

No visible output from sleep 5 command

We can pass durations to sleep in days, hours, and minutes, as well as in seconds. To do this include  a suffix of either d, h, m, or s with the duration. To cause sleep to pause for one day, four hours, seven minutes and five seconds, use a command like this:

sleep 1d 4h 7m 5s

The s suffix (for seconds) is optional. With no suffix, sleep will treat any duration as seconds. Suppose you wanted to have sleep pause for five minutes and twenty seconds. One correct format of this command is:

sleep 5m 20

If you forget to provide the m suffix on the minutes duration, you will instruct sleep to pause for five seconds and then again for twenty seconds. So sleep will pause for 25 seconds.

Many commands require you to provide parameters in a specific order, but sleep is very forgiving. You can provide them in any order and sleep will make sense out of them. You can also provide a floating point number as a parameter. For example, 0.5h is a valid way to indicate you wish sleep to pause for half an hour.

All of the following (increasingly eccentric) commands tell sleep to pause for 10 seconds.

sleep 10
sleep 5 5s
Sleep 1 1 1s 1 1 1s 1 2
sleep 0.16667m

Using Sleep to Pause Before a Command

The sleep command can be used to give a pause before the execution of a command. This command would pause for 15  seconds and then give a bleep.

sleep 15 && echo -en '07'

Using Sleep to Pause Between Two Commands

You can use sleep to give a pause between two commands. This command would list the files in your Documents directory, pause for five seconds and then change the current working directory to your home directory:

ls -R ~/Documents && sleep 5 && cd ~

Output from two command separated by sleep

Using Sleep to Pause Execution of a Script

You can use the sleep command in shell scripts to pause execution of the script for a precise amount of time. Typically, you’d do this to allow some process sufficient time to complete before the script continues its processing. You can also use it to rate-limit the requests a script makes to another resource.

To demonstrate exactly that, here is a script that calls out to a Google web service using curl. When you query the web service with the ISBN number of a book, it responds with a dump of JSON data regarding that book. We can parse that data by passing it through the jq utility to retrieve the title of the book. So that the script doesn’t stress the web service, it sleeps for one second between web requests.

Create a file containing the following text, and save it as check_book.sh.

#!/bin/bash

for book in `cat $1`
do
 echo $book":"
 curl -s https://www.googleapis.com/books/v1/volumes?q=isbn:$book | jq '.items | .[] | .volumeInfo.title'
 echo ""
 sleep 1
done

echo "All done."

Type the following command to set the execution permissions and make the script executable.

chmod +x check_book.sh

The script requires the curl and jq utilities. Use apt-get to install these packages onto your system if you’re using Ubuntu or another Debian-based distribution. On other Linux distributions, use your Linux distribution’s package management tool instead.

sudo apt-get install curl
sudo apt-get install jq

Create a text file containing the following numbers, and save it as books.txt.

9781565921276
9781874416685
9781565921672
9780521431088
9781491941591

Run the check_book.sh script and pass in the books.txt file as a parameter.

./check_book.sh books.txt

Output of the check_book.sh shell script

The requests are made to the Google web service at one second intervals. The title of the book will appear shortly after each ISBN number is queried.

That’s all there is to sleep. The inner workings of the check_book.sh script are beyond the scope of this article. The script was chosen purely to illustrate a valid use of the sleep command. If you wish to read more about the two main components of the script, refer to the  curl project page and the  jq on-line manual.





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