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Friday, December 14, 2012

More Details on Windows Update KB2753842 Breaking Some Fonts

Windows Update KB2753842 Breaks OpenType fontsYesterday, I wrote Windows Update KB2753842 Will Make Some Fonts Stop Working. It was important to get this written and posted as soon as possible because I knew a large number of users of graphic software were finding that all of a sudden some of their fonts had stopped working. At that time, I only knew that users of CorelDRAW and QuarkXpress were having this issues. I feared other software would soon be added to that list and it has indeed happened.

This problem also will strike users of Adobe Flash, Serif PagePlus, FlexiSign, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. Look at that list again as it breaks Microsoft's own products! I fear the list will continue to grow.

Let's go over this problem in a little more technical detail. When software needs to get the curves of a glyph (character) from a font, it uses an API (application programming interface) call in Windows called GetGlyphOutline(). Suffice it to say, this is an official feature of Windows that Microsoft wants developers to use for this purpose. When the KB2753842 update is installed, this function fails to return a memory size and therefore the font will not work correctly.

The problem only seems to occur with OpenType fonts containing PostScript outlines. As OpenType fonts can also contain TrueType data, you may have some OpenType fonts that work and some that don't. While this patch was designed to stop remote code execution from a rogue font, it has stopped thousands of very legitimate fonts from working. Programmers from the various software companies have verified the problem is caused by this update and reported it to Microsoft. Microsoft is very aware of this problem and they know it affects their own software.

Some of the comments on my original post thanked me for explaining how to make fonts start working again and others claimed I was giving reckless advice in telling users to uninstall this update. So I will give you the two options you face and you can decide which is the correct path for you to take.

  1. You can leave the patch installed and it claims to protect you against having a remote code execution run on your machine if you should go to a Web site using a maliciously-designed font. This rogue font may also be something you downloaded and installed and it would likely be a "free" font. But by leaving the patch installed, you will not be able to use OpenType fonts with PostScript outlines in the programs listed above (and maybe more). While there is no doubt such a rogue font exists, I'd never heard of one prior to this patch being released.
  2. Alternatively you can uninstall the patch. Should you do this, your system is vulnerable should you come across one of the rogue fonts. Note that you were also just as vulnerable before the patch was released. The good news is that you will be able to use your OpenType fonts with PostScript outlines
In the last 24 hours, I have heard from many designers who had lost a day or more of work. Some of them missed deadlines because their fonts weren't working and others were barely able to deliver projects in time after getting this update uninstalled. To me, the ability to produce paying work easily outweighs the very small risk of encountering a rogue font.

Will Microsoft Fix It?
While Microsoft has not officially commented yet, there is no doubt in my mind that they will fix it. Remember, it is breaking the software (Microsoft Office) that brings them billions of dollars each year! The fix may be as simple as recalling the update so it can no longer be installed. It is also quite possible they will develop a different update that doesn't cause the problem. I only hope they test any future updates before they are released!

The Evils of Automatic Updates
Many users had this update installed automatically. Others were given a list of available updates and chose to install it without knowing it would cause so many problems. While updates that causes problems are the exception, this is a great example of why you may not want them automatically installed. Even waiting a few days to install an update can help you determine if it is safe to proceed. While this problematic update is definitely not the fault of Corel, it is the possibility of automatic updates causing problems that make me disagree with Corel's new Terms of Service. One of the terms I pointed out says you have to install the updates Corel provides. What if you knew one of the updates caused a problem? The terms say you have to install it anyways. The terms later say Corel can't be held liable for any problems caused.

The Power of SEO
Loyal readers will know that one of the topics covered in previous Graphics Unleashed posts is Search Engine Optimization. We've received comments on those posts claiming that SEO doesn't really work. For my original post on the problematic Windows Update KB2753842, it most definitely did work. After 12 hours, the post was #4 on Google if you searched for "KB2753842" and it had moved to #1 in less than 24 hours.

One of the keys is to follow Google's advice about creating quality content designed for humans and not the search engine robots. The post did include the key word in the title and in the body of the post. Social media also helped raised the page in the rankings as the key word was part of Twitter, Google+ and Facebook posts. Was there some luck involved in getting it to #1 so quickly? Absolutely. Is this a really competitive keyword? No, it isn't. Then again, our page ranks higher than Microsoft for the term and it is their update.

I just want everyone to understand that if you design quality content with SEO in mind, your pages can climb to the top of the search engines. Maybe not the top spot, but at least the first page. It is much more difficult to do on very competitive terms, but it can be done. Thinking about SEO as you are creating content is definitely very important and isn't difficult to do.

12/15/2012 Update: Windows XP users have trouble finding and uninstalling this update should read a new post labeled Removing Windows Update KB2753842 On Windows XP.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can add Xara software to the list, and I found online posts from Inkscape too regarding this

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Microsoft has noted they are aware of the issue:
Known issues with this security update•We are aware of issues related to OpenType Font (OTF) rendering in applications such as PowerPoint on affected versions of Windows that occur after this security update is applied. We are currently investigating these issues and will take appropriate action to address the known issues. "

Official statement by Microsoft showcasing they are aware of the issue and are investigating.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to thank you also for the heads up! I have a number of different drawing/photo programs that this would have messed up! I deleted the file and let the Microsoft program restart, well the program "froze" my computer, so after 20 minutes I took the chance and shut the thing off. I restarted and checked for the file, iy was gone. When I went to shut down the file reloaded. This time I tried to hide the thing, that worked for awhile, then when I returned to work and restarted my machine an ERROR message appeared, and to fix they recommended to return to a previous point, guess what the file is back, now I'm going to try ro hide the thing again. I changed my update to "advise".

Thanks Ron Patten

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked at Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs and cannot find the update to remove.

Any idea where it is or what they called it.

It messed up OpenType in versions 4 & 7 of Xara Xtreme as well. I'd rather not have to do a system restore...

9:36 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

It sounds as if you are using Windows XP. You should have a checkbox in the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel applet that says "Show Updates". You need to check that to see all of the installed updates.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I restored my computer to an earlier time & the update did not show in the add & remove programs but the open type fonts still will not work. The operating system on the computer is XP and I use Corel X5. I do not know what to do. Any help will be appreciated

10:47 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

Do you see ANY updates in Control Panel? If you aren't seeing any, then you have not selected the "Show Updates" option. Unfortunately I do not have a Windows XP machine available to give you the exact steps. From the small amount of information you've provided, it sure sounds as if the update is still installed.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Foster! I forgot about the Show Updates checkbox because I could already see some of the updates.

I really appreciate the help!

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do see updates in the add & remove window. But that one is not there.
I do have the update box checked

11:48 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

As I said in an earlier comment, I do not have Windows XP installed on a computer and therefore am unable to provide step-by-step instructions for how to remove this awful update. I'm sure if I could sit down at your computer, I could find it and remove it. If you have any friends/co-workers who are good with Windows, you might want to ask if they can sit down at your computer and help you.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

For those of you having trouble finding and removing this update on Windows XP, I have written a new post that should help you get rid of it. You can read it at

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The update also breaks the printing of otf fonts from Ventura 10. They display fine, but will not print to any device.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is the same problem that have stopped me from going to Windows 7?
I could not get fonts working in CorelDRAW under Windows 7!

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Foster - Thank you for posting the warning. The fonts "disappeared" in the magazine I was working on in CorelDraw X6, but I was able to recover them following your advice.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Windows 7, I thought that uninstalling the update and then changing the settings to "check for updates but let me choose to download and install them" would work. But Windows automatically reinstalled it when I started this morning. So I uninstalled it again, restarted, and chose to hide it

Follow these steps to hide Windows update (Windows 7):
a. Open Windows Update by clicking the Start button . In the search box, type Update, and then, in the list of results, click Windows Update.
b. Do one of the following:
· Click the link that tells you important updates are available if you have important updates to hide.
c. Select the update that you want to hide, right-click it, and then click Hide update.
d. Click OK.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

Thanks for those steps. Keep in mind that Microsoft has pulled this update so users should not be notified about it going forward. That doesn't mean the notification wasn't sitting there all weekend as the update wasn't pulled until sometime on Saturday.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to all for the postings, this was troubling me mightily. Uninstalling the update immediately fixed the issue. This is the first time I've seen or heard of a serious problem with a windows update, but maybe some other unexplained gremlins might have been caused by other updates. Of course it's pretty annoying to have to second guess these updates, I would just like to trust them.
Just a note, either coincidentally or as a part of this issue, a lot of my installed fonts became uninstalled- fairly easy to fix using fontnav, but makes me wonder.
Using Corel X5 on XP system.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On my XP service pack 3 system, KB2753842 effected ALL POST SCRIPT fonts. Post Script (Type1) fonts over 15pt fail to display in QuarkXpress 9.3.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I installed this update and it screwed a lot up. I kept getting Intellipoint stopped working, Avast anti virus would not load up no matter what I did, and I got the stupid Windows is not genuine prompt and message on the bottom right. I removed the update which did nothing to fix it so I did a system restore which said it failed, but things are working again and back to normal.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the heads up. I spent hours yesterday trying to "fix" my computer, especially CorelDraw, because my Adobe fonts would no longer work, and I NEEDED THEM to work for a project on the schedule. Windows updates mess up more than they fix.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm getting the 'Windows is not genuine' message too, but fotunately for me system restore fixes it, but it's a relatively old PC from a reputable dealer so I know that's not a real problem.

2:39 AM  

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