News List

"Unsticking" Windows Updates

A Message from Charles:

Several of our customers have mentioned seeing a message like this the last couple of days: “Stage 3 of 3 Preparing to configure Windows. Do not turn off your computer.”

If this or any other Windows Update seems to be “stuck” on the same screen for more than 15 minutes, first try pressing CTRL-ALT-DELETE. That may be enough to get you into Windows. If that does not do anything and you have seen NO CHANGE in your screen in the last fifteen minutes and no sign of activity, you are probably safe to hold the power button in on the PC until it powers off. Then power it back on and, hopefully, you will go straight to a login.

I have not seen the issue this time with Windows 8, only Windows 7.

This is a pretty rare occurrence, which makes dealing with it a little scary, especially when Microsoft clearly says, “Do not turn off your computer.” Modern Windows operating systems are more forgiving than Vista and previous Windows operating systems. However, it is possible that turning off your computer while Windows is actually performing system file maintenance can corrupt your installation and require some type of recovery.

The hanging could be caused by various issues, like a bad hard drive sector or a virus. In this case, I believe it may be a .NET 4.5.2 update, but honestly, I don't have time to back that up with much evidence. It does seem, however, that the .NET update is common to the systems that are hanging, and .NET 4.5.2 wants to initially install by itself and not during other Windows Updates. 

Please do not be hasty to power off your computer with the power button, especially during any kind of software maintenance or update. There is always a risk of corruption. There is also a risk of users getting a little hot under the collar when they cannot do any work on their computers first thing in the morning. 

Warning! This does not apply to a Windows Server Operating system. NEVER, EVER power off a server with the power button, unless you are experienced and have a backup that you are prepared to restore, because you may well have to use it.

Try CTRL-ALT-DEL first. And as always, please call our office if you have any questions.


Should You "FREAK" Out About the Latest Internet Security Threat?

Last week, researchers discovered a widespread computer vulnerability dubbed FREAK. Many web browsers, as well as web servers, are at risk. That means your passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, absolutely ANYTHING you transfer between your computer and a website, could potentially be accessed and stolen by hackers. 

It is hard to say how many systems are affected, because FREAK depends on the combination of web server and web client, such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. The FREAK exploit allows an attacker to unencrypt and glean all data transferred between a vulnerable server and client, even though it looks to be secured with https. Microsoft has yet to release an update for its operating systems, but one should be available within the next month. (That is my guess, although it MAY even be released in today’s 03/10/2015 monthly Windows Update list.)

Every year or so, a major Internet vulnerability is discovered and published in the security community. Although the vulnerability may have actually existed for years, once made public, it is only a matter of time before “hackers” are scanning the Internet for at-risk systems.

The last major vulnerability was in OpenSSL, which also enables encrypted communications with web servers. That vulnerability, called Heartbleed, was in the wild for quite a while before being patched last April with an updated version of OpenSSL. Heartbleed affected an estimated 66% of the world's web servers. (Please note: it is always up to system administrators to actually apply the patch once available.) 

Luckily, there is a workaround for FREAK that can be implemented through group policy on Microsoft domain networks or on individual PCs on peer to peer networks by disabling the at-risk encryption options. Most web browsers also have specific workarounds or updates available. Some businesses may only be protecting their own information, while others may need to ensure patient or client data is kept secure.

A website has been setup for up-to-date details, links to more information, and a few self-test tools for the FREAK vulnerability at

If you think you or your business may need to mitigate this latest Internet threat, or believe it may be time to perform overdue system maintenance or upgrades, please contact the Relia IT office at 256-415-7501.

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