In which our intrepid hero has another run-in with Microsoft product.

During the week, a friend asked me to fix her email. No biggy, I thought. There’s probably just some problem with the data file. Or maybe BigPond’s email server has gone down again.

So, I logged into webmail. Cool. I checked the data file. Looked good. I checked the lame excuse for a server status page on the BigPond site. Nothing wrong there, but I thought I’d give them a call anyway. The tech on the other end of the line couldn’t see anything wrong. I’d checked the mail server settings in Outlook, and they were fine.

The BigPond tech had mentioned that antivirus software sometimes interfered with Outlook, something I wasn’t aware of, since I don’t use Outlook if I can avoid it. So I disabled the antivirus software. And the spam filter software. And the firewall.

Still nothing: Outlook still claimed to be sending okay (which it wasn’t) and timing out when it tried to contact BigPond’s POP3 server. Okay, I thought, then something must be wrong with this install of Outlook. I can just reinstall it.

But, of course, it just didn’t want to reinstall. My friend had lost her copies of the Office install CDs; luckily I had one, but after an hour or so of fiddling, I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to fix it without some serious tooling around in the system registry, which I didn’t want to do.

Some four-and-a-half hours after I’d arrived, I was stuck, stumbling from forum to forum, looking for an answer. Finally, I found it: KB911567.

If you’ve worked with Windows PCs, you’ll recognise the prefix. "KB" stands for "Knowledge Base"—that vast collection of feedback from Microsoft on why their products aren’t working when they should. They usually detail some sort of fix, or (if the problem is particularly bad) have a downloadable patch attached.

Now, Outlook is notorious for holes in its security, and is unusually prone to catching and spreading viruses. To plug these holes, Microsoft regularly issues patches. Nine-eleven-five-sixty-seven is one of these.

In order to prevent viruses from infecting PCs running Outlook, KB911567 closes the biggest hole of them all: since viruses are spread by sending and receiving infected emails, the most effective method of ensuring that they don’t spread is by preventing Outlook from sending or receiving emails at all. And it performs this task admirably.

My friend’s PC had automatically downloaded and installed this patch, thus causing her email to go down. I don’t think that’s what the patch was intended to do, but that’s what it did do.

Once I’d uninstalled KB911567, everything worked fine. It had taken me four-and-a-half hours to fix something that Microsoft should never have released without at least beta-testing it first. Patches are supposed to fix bugs; if your patches are buggy, then you’ve seriously got a problem with quality control.

And people wonder why I have an issue with Microsoft product.

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