Microsoft hoses user data - again!

Microsoft hoses user data - again!

Summary: Update final (I hope) I mistakenly overstated the breadth of Microsoft's changes with SP3. I've struck out the incorrect data below.


Update final (I hope) I mistakenly overstated the breadth of Microsoft's changes with SP3. I've struck out the incorrect data below. See also my mea culpa here.

Update title to: Microsoft hoses user data - again! For most users the Office SP3 means that they won't be able to recover their old documents. They won't know to install Open Office, access Microsoft support or edit the registry. But bowing to complaints that the data is not literally "destroyed" I'm updating the title here. But anyone who doesn't think that most users will be baffled and hurt by this doesn't know many average users. End update.

Will Microsofties ever learn? Without warning the Microsoft Office SP3 update blocks over a dozen common document formats, including many Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents. Install the update and you can't open the files. Why? Because they can!

We don't care. We don't have to. What's affected? Powerpoint formats prior to PowerPoint 97. Excel formats prior to Office 2003. Lotus, Quatro and Corel Draw. And the following Word formats:

  • Word 11 saved by Word 12
  • Word 4.x, 5.x, 6.0, 98, 2001, X and 2004 for Macintosh.
  • Word 1.x, 2.x, 6.0, 95, 97, 9, 10 and 11 for Windows
  • Any older formats

Trust us. It is for your own good. Microsoft forthrightly explains why in article 938810 buried deep in the support section of their web site:

By default, these file formats are blocked because they are less secure. They may pose a risk to you.

So no whining, peasants.

Thank you sir, may I have another? Of course, it would be irresponsible to block these formats without notification if a work-around wasn't provided. All you have to do is edit the registry, a task so simple a child could do it. Do it correctly? Ah, that's the rub.

Warning Serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly by using Registry Editor or by using another method. These problems might require that you reinstall the operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved. Modify the registry at your own risk.

Alarmist? No doubt. Here's a sample instruction:

To enable Office 2003 to open files that are saved in previous Word file formats, follow these steps:

  • Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  • Locate and then click one of the following registry subkeys:

    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\FileOpenBlock
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\FileOpenBlock
    • Note This registry subkey may not be present. If the subkey is not present, you must create it.

  • Double-click the FilesBeforeVersion registry entry, and then type the value in the Value data box that corresponds to one of the values in the following table.

For example, the default value of this entry is set to "Word 6.0 for Windows" or "101." This setting means that all Word documents that were created in Word 1.x for Windows through Word 2.x for Windows Taiwan are blocked from opening. You can increase or decrease the default version. The versions that are specified in the list are in ascending order.

Or you could just skip Office 2003 SP3. Perhaps that would be best.

The Storage Bits take If anyone still trusts Microsoft with their data, this is reality's final boarding call. We need open document standards that are NOT defined by Microsoft and that Microsoft is required to support.

Microsoft also needs serious file system competition (see How Microsoft puts your data at risk and Outlook’s risky archives - and how to fix them ) before they will get serious about reducing data corruption and protecting your data.

Oh, be sure to turn off automatic updates. And wait for them to fix Windows Home Server's little file corruption problem.

Comments welcome. Please, Redmond spinmeisters, make me feel good about this!

Update: "Limp" best describes the early defenses of Microsoft's indefensible action. Some have accused me of sensationalism for using "destroys" rather than "renders inaccessible" in the title. No apologies there: yes the data may be intact, but if you can't read it how does that differ from destruction?

We're all reasonably technical here. But think of the hundreds of millions of users who aren't, the small businesses and grandmothers who rely on their computers for work and play, who'll install SP3 and then maybe not realize for weeks or months that they can't access their data. What are they supposed to do?

Update 2: A commenter placed an incomplete list of the blocked file formats so here is the complete list of blocked Word formats from the MS article.

Blocked file format:

  • Word 11 saved by Word 12
  • Word 2004 for Macintosh
  • Word 11 for Windows
  • Word 10 for Windows
  • Word 9 for Windows
  • Word X for Macintosh
  • Word 2001 for Macintosh
  • Word 98 for Macintosh
  • Word 97 for Windows
  • Word 95 Beta
  • Word 95 RTM
  • Word 6.0 for Macintosh
  • Word 6.0 for Windows
  • Word 2.x for Windows Taiwan
  • Word 2.x for Windows Korea
  • Word 2.x for Windows Japan
  • Word 2.x for Windows BiDi
  • Word 2.x for Windows
  • Word 1.2 for Windows Taiwan
  • Word 5.x for Macintosh
  • Word 1.2 for Windows Korea
  • Word 1.2 for Windows Japan
  • Word 4.x for Macintosh
  • Word 1.x for Windows
  • All older formats

Topics: Windows, Collaboration, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Good!

    Unbridled anger, I like it!

    Give 'em hell...

    • Microsoft Cat Food for Humans

      It's nutritious : If you don't eat you'll end up dying.
      It's convenient : With the new "Microsoft Cat Food for Humans Can Opener" you just open it and eat.
      It's portable : With the new "Microsoft Cat Food for Humans Can Opener Mobile Edition" you can eat wherever you are, even on the go!
      It's kind to animals : No animals were farmed, killed, minced or packaged in the making of this product.

      Now with *FREE* gravy.

      9/10 humans said their brains couldn't see past it.

      New Motto: "Microsoft. How nutritious is your software?"
    • Message has been deleted.

    • Save in secure format ....

      Microsoft already "warns" about "incompatible" features in "old"
      format legacy files when opened/saved.
      • Because The Data Translation

        does oes not ensure data integrity.

        As I said elsewhere, we encounter this problem now in digitized ship blueprints drawn in legacy CAD applications. Reading the legacy file formats and saving them in the new formats does not assure an accurate translation.

        An accurate representation of scale is absolutely essential for ship overhaul and maintenance.
      • Because they are MS !!!

        and they are out of control.
        Hans Schmidt
  • Imagine

    Imagine what this kind of practice means for organizations that have switched their paper archives to digital archives...

    Only open document standards, like the .odt that Open Office uses, are safe and reliable in the long run.

    Greetz, Pjotr.
  • Destroying is harsh, inaccessible by current version

    I don't like what they did, and as far as I'm concerned dabbling in the registry is certainly of limits.

    I know lots of people that still use these older versions and can foresee already some problems because of this.

    In this case Microsoft should have asked whether these should be disabled instead of disabling and then providing a registry hack to get access to the files of earlier versions.
    • Destroying!? In like

      the Apple Leopard upgrade literally detroying files for good, or is it more like theses office file are just not accessable via Office 2003-2007, but still 100 percent functional in Office 97-2000 readers/editors
      • Oops! Meant to post New, not Reply (nt)

      • "Destroys" usually conjures...

        complete destruction or irreparable damage.
    • Ok... Destroyed access to the files....

      Ok.. so fine.. you don't like the idea that it destroyed the files, but it certainly destroyed your access to them.

      You can no longer open the word doc you were working on... or you saved the doc for someone else that doesn't have the newer version of word, and doesn't like to download some stupid viewer update..

      f**king microsoft ... its the same as when they toy with the filetypes.. I go in and set my XLS and DOC file types to ALWAYS prompt after download, and to always show extensions.. thus I don't have to worry about clicking a link on a web site somewhere, it accidentally being an infected word doc, that opens up in word and activates..

      but.. go and install office updates.. and each time they wipe out **MY** manual changes with their own..

      they F you at the drive thru... that's microsoft.. obviously ONLY Microsoft knows what's good for every person that uses a computer. F**king a$$e$!
      • He didn't say destroyed access, he specifically said destroys user data

        • Not sure what your doing here complaining about what he said

          Your the queen of spin and false accusations. Maybe you ought to go examine some pixels or something, eh? You may win another Zune award, ya know.
          Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
          • Well, he and Ed Bott ARE the M$ Apologists

   he's being a Good Redmond Boy, and backing up the side.

            Yeesh - do I have to explain EVERYTHING?

          • Still, a lot agree with the statement

            even if you don't agree with the person making it.
        • Pipe Down George.

          Get back in the top hat George, the magician hasn't waved his wand for you to appear yet.
      • Neither the file access or the data has

        been destroyed. The only thing that has occurred has been to limit a certain application's ability to access the files. If you rollback the SP, you can both access file and see the data. If you open the data up in a plain text editor, you can still see the data.

        The only way the data can be destroyed is if the data has been deleted or corrupted by the SP. Even then deleted data is technically not destroyed since it can be retrieved.
      • Maybe you should change Office Suites.

  • Go Microsoft! Go! Keep it up!

    Keep it up, Microsoft! Go! Go!

    ** Patent lawsuit threats to your own customers (good job!)

    ** "Plays for Sure" music that doesn't "Play At All" on the Zune player

    ** WGA capricious deactivation

    ** WGA falsely accuses millions of legitimate customers of being pirates

    ** WGA activation servers that are nonfunctional for 20 hours but Microsoft refuses to call it an "outage"

    ** Aggressively forced Windows upgrades

    ** Aggressively forced MS Office upgrades

    ** Microsoft's OOXML is the "open standard" that even Microsoft won't commit to honoring if it doesn't want to

    ** Very late, very bloated, and very broken Vista operating system

    ** Very annoying and sometimes obnoxious UAC

    ** "Cross-platform" and "cross-browser" Silverlight that is barely either one

    ** "Cooperation" with Novell that better serves to drive customers to Windows than to help them integrate Linux with their Windows systems

    ** Offering "help" to Mozilla on Firefox in November 2006, way too late to be of any value in making Firefox work well with Vista by GA release.

    ** The cynical Vista tester "reward" of buy one Vista Ultimate at full retail and get another for free -- over a year after Vista release. Nearly all of these people have already bought Vista! A real reward? Just send them a free Vista Ultimate retail box with a "Thank You" card. And, it should have been done in November 2006.

    ** Give away Windows and Office to pirates in China for $3 per copy. Now THAT is a reward.

    ** And now... Drumroll please... Microsoft is breaking backward compatibility in MS Office.

    The more Microsoft continues to screw up like this, the more customers will leave Microsoft and adopt other solutions like Macintosh and Linux, and OpenOffice. The defections are accelerating exponentially.

    Go Microsoft! Go!

    P.S. Almost daily, Microsoft gives me more reasons to like my decision to leave Windows and MS Office in February 2007.