The Windows Servicing Guy

Tips and tricks from a Windows support engineer on issues related to servicing

Questions you shouldn't call Microsoft for....

Questions you shouldn't call Microsoft for....

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Odd day at work today, I kept getting asked questions by people that simply cant be answered.  Some were on behalf of customers, some were questions from peers or others inside of Microsoft but I thought I would make a quick note of a couple of them to save everyone some time.  Here's a couple of questions that we simply can't answer for you if you were to call and open a case:

1.  When does Service Pack <x> release for product <x>?

A:  We get this one a lot, especially as large service packs for things like Windows come around to being closer to release.  I can understand why people want to know the date; so that they can start prepping their respective enterprises for it.  However, this is always going to be a question we cant answer. I always just tell people, it will release when it releases, because honestly, that is the actual answer.  It's software, anything can happen and putting out any kind of date without being 100% makes us just look silly.  This same answer goes for questions around major releases like Windows and Office.  We usually know the same day you do.

2.  Can you give me a master list of all the hotfixes I need to make my machine current?

A:  Oddly enough I was asked this a couple of times this week.  Usually I get it a couple of times a year, not a week.  This one is a little more easy to say "No" to but the reasoning behind that answer is important.  At Microsoft we have plenty of updates that ship to everyone as you are all well aware of.  But, not every update is meant for every customer.  Many updates are meant to fix something very specific (hotfixes) and not needed on all machines, but rather only ones with the actual issue the fix was meant to address.  Others are meant for everyone running a particular flavor of OS (security patches) where the patch is vital across all machines.  And still some are for performance tweaks, updates to specific roles/features, etc.  We usually ship this as optional or recommended updates and while not required to be on a machine, might not be a bad idea either.  Given all of those variables, it's hopefully easy to see why there isnt a master list for all machines.  You dont want all the updates made from one service pack level to another because you wont need all of them.

3.  How long will it take for CHKDSK to run?

A:  Quite simply, we don’t know.  There are so many factors that go into answering this question: volume size, number of files on the volume, fragmentation or corruption on the volume, etc that this is truly an impossible question to answer for customers.  We get asked this a lot in my group and trust me, if we could give you an answer to this, we would.  Quite simply though, its just not possible.  I usually defer to “As long as it takes” as my answer to this questions.

4.  Can you help me get my 3rd party application installed/working?

A:  This is a pretty common question as well.  We see this the most in our group around third party backup solutions, but it could be just about anything.  The best answer for this is to speak with your third party vendor first before calling Microsoft.  I know that seems like something everyone would do, but it’s actually very common for us to speak with customers who have never even approached the ISV/IHV about their issue  The vendor knows their application better than we do and they should be involved in the conversation.  Does that mean that its not potentially a Microsoft problem?  Not at all.  The OS could have some sort of problem that is causing the third party application to fail and we will definitely help you there.  However, we see a lot of issues that are known issues to the respective vendors and we just don’t know about them.

Hope these help.

--Joseph

Comments
  • <p>You forgot #3:</p> <p>Why does Joseph have such a freakishly oversized head? It&#39;s like a golf ball nailed to a noodle!</p>

  • <p>Go back to your tree Ned and make me some more Grasshoppers.</p> <p>Gotta love your co-workers</p>

  • <p>Why do people ask #1? Because in the past, Microsoft used to provide a service pack roadmap. Can&#39;t you see how everything was perfect in the Windows 2000/XP days and how&#39;s everything changed for the worse? Granted now with internet being ubiquitous, service packs need not be yearly but MS is taking it too far. Service packs are still needed once every 2 years, sadly, Microsoft only cares about service packs for their latest and greatest products. Microsoft should release a service pack for XP and Office 2003 around the end of its extended support. They should commit to a Vista Service Pack 3, even if the release date is not yet decided. Given the time it now takes to install a single MSU update, patches accumulated over a period of 2 years is a nightmare to install compared to XP where scripted installation of patches just buzzed past us.</p>

  • <p>About #1, you can usually estimate, looking on past releases.</p> <p>The Visual Studio SPs has been released 6-9 months after VS. Ofcourse anything can happen in the future, but taking a look in the past could be a very good guess.</p>

  • <p>You mentioned this obliquely, but doesn&#39;t the answer to the hotfixes question very much depend on which software you are running, what version of the software you have (Office 2007 vs. Office 2010), what parts of Office you have installed, what specific hardware is installed, and so on? &nbsp;It&#39;s more than just computers that are &quot;experiencing the particular issue&quot;, but computers that have certain software installed.</p> <p>The answer is to let Windows Update do the work of telling you which hotfixes you need, because it looks at what hardware and software you have installed. &nbsp;It has code to figure out the answer to that question.</p>

  • <p>@David; &nbsp;Yes, the answer was meant to be pretty vague but you&#39;re correct, if you let WU do the work for you it can handle all of the version checking for you.</p>

  • <p>I think one reason people might ask #2 is to be able to make an install disc for windows with all the patches slipstreamed in. I know that I used to want to clean install XP on occasion and nLite and HFSlip were great to be able to make a bootable disk that would install an up-to-date Windows and even have a bunch of my favorite programs preinstalled.</p>

  • <p>... a good reason for #2 is people who want to sneakernet the patches to a remote machine, instead of lugging the machine to a good network, patching it, and then lugging it back. But more likely, they&#39;re worried about there being a magic patch that provides THE security, speed, or reliability for which they hope.</p>

  • <p>@Andrew; &nbsp;No doubt. &nbsp;Understand that the reason I wrote this isnt because I dont think that these have valid reasons for being asked. &nbsp;It&#39;s that we truly cant answer them unless you want to devulge a large amount of information about your problem and spend a ton of time trying to get the right answer. &nbsp;Even then, that answer is good for one machine usually and not hundreds or thousands.</p>

  • <p>Does point 2 type questions suggest that a Windows Update query tool with thorough filtering capability would be valuable? A command line tool that can read *.clg files to know what packages and components are in your images and filter results accordingly. This page is relevant:</p> <p><a rel="nofollow" target="_new" href="http://blogs.technet.com/b/deploymentguys/archive/2008/05/19/managing-windows-updates.aspx">blogs.technet.com/.../managing-windows-updates.aspx</a></p> <p>Regarding Chkdsk elapsed time, this document is worth reading: <a rel="nofollow" target="_new" href="http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=35a658cb-5dc7-4c46-b54c-8f3089ac097a">www.microsoft.com/.../details.aspx</a> Here are some interesting quotes from the conclusion (taken out of context - so read the doc):</p> <p>You should add more memory if the Chkdsk execution time is too long for your scenario.</p> <p>Remove data volumes from the boot time check.</p> <p>Do not run Chkdsk on a volume unless it has been marked ‘dirty’ by the file system.</p> <p>Running Chkdsk in read-only mode can help predict server or system down-time before running the full Chkdsk offline.</p> <p>Microsoft recommends turning off short file names at a volume level to reduce Chkdsk execution time.</p>

  • <p>@Drew;</p> <p>To your update point, the answer is not really. &nbsp;Each machine in an environment is going to be pretty specific. &nbsp;Even in instances where you think you have taken out variables such as hardware, model numbers arent always built off of the same exact hardware and might require a different level of patching.</p> <p>As to CHKDSK, while there are ways to reduce the overall time it may take to run CHKDSK, the answer is always the same for this one.....we just dont know how long its going to take to run.</p>

  • <p>&quot;...model numbers arent always built off of the same exact hardware and might require a different level of patching.&quot;</p> <p>Presumably you aren&#39;t just refering to driver updates? So hypothetically i couldn&#39;t just ask for all the post SP1 updates for 7_x86, excluding drivers, on machine A, and expect to get the same list for the same query for machine B, even if the two machines had fairly similar hardware? Why not? I would have supposed that OS levels like NDIS and DirectX would abstract away any hardware dependencies, so that the applicable update list for each machine would be identical.</p> <p>Re Chkdsk, yes i take your point. I just wanted to make reference to that doc because i thought it was relevant and found it very informative.</p>

  • <p>Nope, not exactly. &nbsp;The hardware piece has its own servicing, but I was saying it to make a point. &nbsp;As for the machines, it would still be software dependant</p>