What to do when a Microsoft patch won’t install

Every once in a while, when you push patches for a living, you come across a time when a Microsoft patch won’t install. This is one of those times, and what I did to fix it.

So, Microsoft KB947742, an old .NET 1.1 fix, refused to install on one of the servers at work. When I ran the executable, all it did was pop up the window showing the Windows Installer switches or parameters. Searching Google turned up a number of people having the problem, but no solutions that worked, although reinstalling the .NET 1.1 Framework and the latest version of the Windows Installer are always good ideas when you run into weird problems. .NET 1.1 is extremely fragile anyway, and reinstalling it along with all applicable hotfixes has worked for me in the past to resolve weird issues, such as permissions issues showing up in the security log. Or .NET applications just suddenly not running anymore, even though they ran just fine yesterday.

I tried everything I could think of and finally stumbled on a solution. I have absolutely no idea why this works. First, I opened a command line, changed into the directory where I had stored the patch, and I ran the following command:

NDP1.1sp1-kb947742-x86.exe /extract .\947742

This extracts the update to a directory called 947742. Inside that directory, I found a single file, named NDP1.1sp1-kb947742-x86.msp. When I double-clicked on the file from Windows Explorer, it installed.

I’ve applied this patch on more than 100 servers and I recall only having the problem on one of them. And, oddly, all other .NET patches and for that matter all other recent Microsoft updates apply to this machine just fine.

I suppose the same fix could work on other Windows updates that supply only a window full of switches instead of installing, or other weird installation issues. It’s worth a shot if nothing else works and you can’t (or would rather not) open a support case with Microsoft.

This is a strange case. If you’re running WSUS or (better yet) Shavlik Netchk and a patch refuses to install, try logging in, downloading and running the offending patch manually and note any error messages. Maybe, just maybe, this fix will help you. Or better yet, maybe the patch will tell you what you need to fix, but don’t count on it.

When absurdity strikes, try extracting the patch and poking around inside, like I did in this case.

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