This past week, in record time, Microsoft removed the Windows 10 1809 update from all their servers and software sources and stopped the rollout via Windows Update to users because of a bug that deleted user data. Record time. The last time an issue like this stopped an update, it was Windows 10 version 1607 that broke millions of webcams by removing the H.264 codec, and it took almost two weeks for the update to be halted. After issuing a fix for the data loss, Microsoft started to roll out 1809 again late yesterday afternoon. But now it’s broken in new and exciting ways.
The file deletion issue was detailed on Microsoft’s Windows Blog by John Cable (what a badass name, I hope he dresses up as Cable for Halloween!). Cable explained that Microsoft typically rolls out new upgrades to the consumer channel slowly in order to catch any latent bugs they might have missed. The rollout of 1809 was, by contrast, done very quickly. There was no release preview period, and there was no final testing phase for Windows Insiders – the build was shipped as-is with no last-minute testing. Cable also claims that one percent of one percent of Windows 10 users who deployed the update had data loss problems (extrapolated to almost 700 million users of Windows 10, that’s about 70,000 systems).
What caused the break? In Windows 10, you are able to redirect “destinations” in Windows Explorer, so destinations like Documents, Photos, and Music can be on a different hard drive, and you can redirect those folders to locations on separate media (Microsoft calls this Known Folder Redirection). If you do this, the folders are redirected and data is stored in the new location, but you’re left with duplicate folder structures on drive C: that were created when Windows was installed. Microsoft, in their wisdom, decided that these duplicate files and folders could be safely deleted.
So, if you had begun to set up KFR on your machine, and at the final step in the process decided that you didn’t want to do it, no files were moved over (but Windows still takes note of this action). It seemed like nothing had changed. If you set up KFR to give you extra space with a new “Documents” location, but didn’t move or alter any of the original files, the same would happen – seemingly nothing changed.
However, in a stunning display of malicious compliance, Windows doesn’t check to see if any files exist in “C:\Users\%user%\Documents”, and it expects only duplicate folders to be there. Little Windows 10 is as happy as can be to finally be useful and noticed by senpai, and deletes all the files in “C:\Users\%user%\Documents”, “Photos”, “Movies”, and “Music”, even if you had previously cancelled the setup process for KFR.
It gets better. Known Folder Redirection got an upgrade for Microsoft OneDrive for Business customers, with a new feature and group policy object called Known Folder Move that allowed for system administrators to set up KFR to redirect and move important folders into OneDrive automatically. If you had machines that hadn’t been updated to a more recent version of OneDrive for Business, and if the KFM group policy was set, and if you had already moved folders to another drive using KFR, there was a good chance that your user’s data in their profile got hosed. Did you make backups recently?
But the 1809 Update is now broken, again, for different reasons. If you’re using an Intel machine (6th Gen and newer) with Smart Sound Technology, like a laptop, desktop, or small-form-factor PC, you might run into an issue where the audio is broken in various ways for no clear reason. Smart Sound is an audio DSP that will do a lot of pre-processing to make interactions with Cortana and other voice-driven functionality on your PC sound clearer to the AI, and it also functions as an always-on voice-activated remote control for things like “Hey Cortana, turn on my PC”. Systems that ship with Smart Sound will also allow SST to control all system audio to give you a better audio experience (well, maybe). In Windows 10 1809, this driver is currently broken, and the fix is to tell the Smart Sound DSP to mimic a standard HD Audio controller.
This also affects newer PCs with Realtek audio chips, so if you’re getting sound but it’s rather tinny, the same fix will be required. That fix should also be valid for recent Intel systems that can’t alter volume controls, can’t mute audio, can’t change audio sources and have no microphone input after updating to 1809. The fix also might not work, as seen with this Reddit thread where the fix doesn’t work. If you’re a system administrator reading this, there should be a way to automate this via a batch file for multiple computers.
If you’re a programmer reading this, you might run into a bug where certain key combinations are ghosted. SHIFT+Spacebar and/or CTRL+Spacebar keys can exhibit ghosting, and it’ll affect your input and might affect your work when coding inside an IDE or using CMD or Powershell. There’s no fix for this yet, unfortunately. You’ll just have to suffer.
If you were affected by the keyboard issue and uninstalled KB4464330, you’ve also just exorcised your computer of the Sticky Notes app. As in, it’s deleted. KB4464330 included a new version of the Sticky Notes app because Microsoft thinks that bundling some patches and feature updates together in a single cumulative update is a good idea.
If you’re in Europe, “Windows 10 N” 1809 installations which come without bundled media features need a new version of the media pack to be installed before the Windows Store or the Movies and TV app will work again.
I think it’s safe to say that if you’re able to defer the upgrade to Windows 10 1809, it’s a good idea to put it off for at least a month. If you’re a Windows 10 Home user, Gaben help you.