Last night, as I got ready to shut down the notebook PC that I use for work, I noticed that it had some Windows updates to apply. I left Windows doing its thing and went to bed, stopping this morning only for long enough to put the PC into my bag as I headed off for the station. Only when I was on the train did I fire it up to find that the PC would not boot, greeting me instead with the following message:
Windows Boot Manager
Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause. To fix the problem:
1. Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer.
2. Choose you language settings and then click “Next.”
3. Click “Repair your computer.”
If you do not have this disc, contact our system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.
Info: The selected entry couple not be loaded because the application is missing or corrupt.
I spent the rest of the journey to London contacting colleagues to see if anyone could bring a Vista DVD in with them (with no success). After that failed, I asked the local IT support guys (no chance – they view anyone who doesn’t run the corporately-sanctioned Windows XP build as a renegade who can make their own support arrangements). A colleague used his MSDN subscription to start downloading a DVD image for me onto another colleague’s computer, but after almost 3 hours it was still only 60% downloaded (and he needed to leave the office). So I gave up and headed home.
Once home, the recovery process was straightforward. I booted from DVD, followed the directions for a startup repair and, after a reboot or two, I could log on as normal but it does leave me wondering whether, as I finally get stuck into today’s work at 4pm (after leaving home for the office at 6.30am), blindly applying updates is such a good idea?
I don’t think there is a single “correct” answer to this. On one hand, I run a risk that an update turns bad on me – and losing a day’s productivity is fairly minor in the scheme of things (next time it could be far worse). On the other hand, what is the risk of waiting to apply updates until after they have been tested (even critical ones)? After all, at home I’m on a NATted network segment, protected by a firewall, and at work the protection from the outside world is even stronger. But what about protection from the inside – from colleagues and internal servers? What about when I work on a public 3G or WiFi network? I guess, like any security decision, its a balance between risk of a security breach and the convenience of continued system stability.
In the meantime, I’ll carry on applying updates when Microsoft pushes them at me. It’s the first time an update has turned bad on me (and that system is operating with around 1.5% free disk space, which may be a factor in the issues that I experience with it). Hopefully next week I’ll finally get my new notebook and start the switch to using Windows Server 2008 as my daily computing platform for work.