June updates cripple some customers' Office 2013

Non-security updates brick apps installed with 'Click-to-Run' technology, Microsoft acknowledges

Microsoft last week confirmed that the June 10 updates for Office 2013 left some users holding crippled software that refused to run.

"In some cases, users running Office 2013 may not be able to launch Office products after the June public updates are installed," Microsoft acknowledged in a Friday post to the "Office Updates" blog.

Those impacted were customers who had installed Office 2013 using Microsoft's "Click-to-Run," a part-virtualization, part-streaming technology that downloads and installs the basics within minutes to let users start working almost immediately. Office 365 relies on Click-to-Run to install local copies of the suite's applications, as do retail versions, including Office Professional 2013 and Office Home and Student 2013, when downloaded rather than purchased on physical media.

Microsoft claimed that the problem affected "less than 1% of our user base," but did not elaborate. The company does not release total unit sales of the suite, although it has regularly trumpeted subscription tallies for Office 365 Home, the consumer-grade rent-not-buy plan.

Microsoft's most recent subscription figure for Office 365 Home was 4.4 million, which it disclosed late last month. One percent of 4.4 million is 44,000.

Nor did Microsoft say which of the updates it pushed to Office 2013 last week caused customers' applications to refuse to run. Although Office 2013 did not receive any security updates in the June 10 slate, according to Microsoft's summary, it did get several stability and performance improvements.

To regain use of Office 2013, users must uninstall the suite and then re-install it, Microsoft said in a note on its support discussion forum. The note also offered a link to a Fixit, the one-click tools Microsoft often crafts, that handles the uninstall process.

Office 2013 updates have a checkered history: In September 2013, Microsoft had to rewrite several security fixes after customers reported never-ending demands that the patches be reinstalled. That same month, Microsoft yanked an Office 2013 stability and performance update when it blanked the folder pane in Outlook 2013, the suite's email client.

Microsoft said it was working on a fix, but as of early Monday had not released one.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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