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MS Windows Update suffers multi-day outage

Security update backlogs all round...

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Microsoft's Windows Update site has been experiencing severe problems in the past week, and numerous users have been unable to access the site. According to several people who've contacted The Register, problems began on Thursday and carried on through Friday. Over the weekend it does seem to have been possible to access the site, but they report that it was unreliable.

At the moment, however, it seems to have gone off again. Three attempts by The Register to download critical updates for a Windows 2000 machine resulted in an attempt to start the download, then an apparent timeout followed by a blank "the following updates were not installed" message. As indeed they were not.

A discussion thread at Winnetmag.com indicates that the problems have been going on since Thursday, and that they apply to all the Windows Update-enabled Windows platforms.

An email response from tech support on Thursday implied that the problem was excess load, but a suggested workaround makes it sound like something more complicated is going on. According to a post from a Microsoft employee, Windows Update wasn't available through some ISPs' DNS servers, and he recommended switching DNS to 198.6.1.1 and 198.6.1.2. These are UU.NET DNS servers, which presumably could be guaranteed to have the right records for Windows Update on them.

Other ISPs having the wrong DNS records could be explained by someone having updated the relevant records wrongly, as happened to The Register during Christmas week. If, say, you switch the IP address of your server you need to update the record to the new one, and it will take up to 48 hours for the update to roll across the web. Switching to these servers does seem to work, but if it were simply the case of Microsoft having to correct an error of this sort we ought to be entirely through the problems by now, so there must be other forces at work.

As The Register is now aware that we're minus two critical security updates, we'll keep on trying... ®

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