Windows 10 has a nasty bug that might affect people working from home

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Windows 10 has a new bug which is affecting the internet connectivity of some users, and in some cases is keeping major apps – like Office 365 – from getting online, thereby making life very difficult for those people trying to use these applications to work from home under lockdown during the outbreak of Covid-19.

The problem can affect those using Windows 10 May 2019 Update, or November 2019 Update, and is caused by Microsoft’s KB4535996 cumulative update (which is an optional update deployed late February).

The bug may prevent Office 365, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams – and other software besides, including Microsoft’s web browsers – from connecting to the internet, with obvious issues therein for those working from home using these apps in these troubled times.

Microsoft notes that any software which uses WinHTTP or WinInet might (and note that use of the word might – the problem isn’t guaranteed to manifest) experience issues reaching the internet.

The caveat is that many of those affected by this issue are using a VPN, and these are the folks most likely to be hit by the gremlin. But of course those working from home, and having to log on to remote systems and work with sensitive business data, are those most likely to be using a VPN for the better security it provides.

Apparently the problem can happen when either connecting to, or disconnecting from, a VPN.

Microsoft explains: “Devices using a manual or auto-configured proxy, especially with a virtual private network (VPN), might show limited or no internet connection status in the Network Connectivity Status Indicator (NCSI) in the notification area.

“This might happen when connected or disconnected to a VPN or after changing state between the two.”

Fix imminent?

In terms of a fix, Microsoft is prioritizing this as you might imagine, rushing a patch out the door before the usual scheduled monthly release, and it should be available in early April we are told.

Meantime, the more positive news is that there is a very easy potential workaround, and that’s simply to reboot your machine. This may or may not work, but at least it’s not a difficult thing to do.

On the other hand, if you have to keep doing it throughout the working day, that could obviously be pretty frustrating, and you’ll potentially be wasting a fair amount of time looking at the boot screen or the desktop loading up. And of course this isn’t a guaranteed solution – although at least it’s a low-effort mitigation.

The update that Microsoft has acknowledged as the origin of the problem, KB4535996, applied a number of fixes including a solution for a problem where the Windows search box doesn’t render properly, and it also improved battery performance for laptops in Modern Standby mode.

Sadly, as too often seems to be the case with Microsoft’s cumulative updates for Windows 10 these days, it gave with one hand, and took with another, introducing this fresh net connectivity bugbear.

The timing of the emergence of this Windows 10 flaw is obviously problematic, but with any luck those who are suffering at the hands of this bug will get a solution perhaps as soon as next week, depending on exactly how early in April Microsoft is targeting for a resolution.

Via ZDNet

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).