Protect Yourself From Tech Support Scams
May 11, 2020
Protect Yourself From Tech Support Scams
Tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers trick you into paying for unnecessary technical support services. Additionally, some scammers may try to identify themselves as a Microsoft MVP.
I have just yesterday (and into today) encountered another update that nearly ended in catastrophe for me. Compared to the optional update that just a few days ago broke my Cortana/Taskbar Search (KB 4512941) but took "only" an hour or so to remove,
this one (KB 4515384) was not optional. It not only broke Cortana/Search and the tooltip context feature for icons, but replaced the Latin alphabet with some sort of ASCII machine code! All desktop icons, taskbar information, and key Windows apps like Task
Manager, Msconfig and Install/Uninstall became unreadable! I shut down and rebooted several times, without any change.
The only thing that saved the day was my long familiarity with Msconfig. I launched it with the Run box (called up using the Windows Key+ R key combination), clicked on the second tab in Msconfig and checked the box at the top of the left column that
I knew from experience represented Safe Mode. Then I clicked what I knew must be the Restart button, followed by the Restart Now button. Remember, NONE of these were readable. They all contained nothing but ASCII characters!
Once in Safe Mode, everything was readable again. I launched Settings, got to Programs & Features, and selected KB 451384 for removal. It actually failed to uninstall (a first for me with Win 10), and when my PC reverted and finally rebooted about
an hour later, it produced a desktop that resembled the default version from the earliest days of Win 10. My desktop was nowhere in sight. And Cortana/Search still didn't work!
At this point, I was tempted to use System Restore (I've never used the new "File History" feature to restore things like the desktop, but this experience has convinced me I better start!). Instead, I decided to try uninstalling KB 451384 one more
time. This time, after another hour, my PC was back to normal, with a workable Cortana/Search and my current desktop and taskbar fully restored!
This awful experience ranks right up there with the worst moments of updating Win 95/98, ME, Vista and Win 8.x. Windows 10 is beginning to resemble the worst days of being tethered to MS.
I can no longer conceive of going along and getting along with Win 10. For me, this is just another strong warning (read: kick in the backside) to get away from MS Windows as fast as I can.
In the meantime, what are the takeaways from this hours-long uncertainty and struggle?
1. Start using File History in tandem with an external drive to protect my desktop and other settings
2. Make a manual System Restore point before allowing any Windows update to proceed.
3. Use 7-day delay and metred network options to stop Windows Update from operating automatically.
4. If feasible, stop all updates except security updates from loading until I get word on the Internet that it is reasonably safe to allow them to go ahead.
5. Keep working on switching to Chromebook as my primary PC, with a Linux dual-boot option and Wine layer to run the few Windows apps I cannot find replacements for in the Chrome and Linux worlds. Like I said before, I'm nearly there! I can turn
my Windows laptop into a Linux dual-boot (maybe with Chrome OS as a third option) and pretty much leave Windows behind.
same issue on my PC. I tried install KB4515384 on one of my workstation with no luck. Menu start stopped working with critical error and sign out demand. After uninstall latest CU problem with start
menu was solved but action center won't open now. Windows 10 especially 1903 is the most bugged OS ever. I suggest stay at 18362.295 as long as possible or until all flaws will be finally fixed
It breaks more than action center... left click on calendar, left click on the volume icon, left click on the internet access icon... all of them fail to respond. Seriously, what a sincerely poor job on these updates. Had to uninstall the 8 2019 release
a couple of weeks ago due to high CPU. Had to restore my computers with a system image for this patch Tuesday fiasco. Ahhh yes, but please continue to force updates on me for my own good MS. Just Brilliant!!
The same problem! First with the KB4512941 where I had several programs that no longer opened. So Microsoft replaced it with the KB4515384 and nothing goes even the Ctrl-Windows-S screenshot no longer works !!! So I uninstalled this update and everything
This update has practically bricked my main computer. It operates extremely slowly, all of the things mentioned in his thread apply (broken Action Center, no response to many clicks), nothing can connect to the internet - email, browsers, etc. all time out.
Many system apps such as the Update Center are missing partial text or menu options. And on and on and on...
Fortunately my company requires my work laptop to remain on Win7, which is connected to exact same network/hub and is working fine (I am using it to type this). I uninstalled 515384 and everything seemed to be OK during that session, until I shut down and
restarted some time later - and now it's worse, like some suspect code is still lingering. I rebooted in safe mode and waited for an hour for the Update menu to populate so that I can see if it somehow reinstalled itself but there has been no response. The
five dots just run across the top but the menu is completely blank outside of "Windows Update" at the top.
At this point I am ready to pull out my external HDD and restore my my last backup (about 3 weeks old). I've had mixed results with Win10 updates in the past but as a longtime (37 years) engineering and quality professional myself I have to ask how on EARTH
did this make it to release? MS has effectively turned Win10 into a virus - and yes, I mean that. What would you call any code that has rendered your primary computer inoperable?
My concern is that Microsoft acknowledges this KB update is causing problems for some machines, but they keep it in the update pipeline. In the older versions of Windows, you could mark an update to be skipped and still have the remaining updates installed
(security updates for example). Even removing the update doesn't fix everything. The start menu works again, but search is still broken.
The lack of communication from Microsoft about the problem is worrysome. I spent the better part of a day running every check under the sun as suggested by Microsoft Community only to find out later that Microsoft already knew the problem existed and didn't
bother to mark the update and say - Hey, if you experience this problem after the update, remove it and the problem will go away.