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Microsoft Blocks May 2019 Windows Update on PCs With USB Storage, SD Cards

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Microsoft has announced that the upcoming Windows 10 May 2019 Update will not be available to anyone who has USB storage or an SD card installed. The company has published a new support page warning consumers about the change. The site states that users running either 1803 or 1809 with an external USB or SD Card storage device will receive the following error message:

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The explanation?

Inappropriate drive reassignment can occur on eligible computers that have an external USB device or SD memory card attached during the installation of the May 2019 update. For this reason, these computers are currently blocked from receiving the May 2019 Update. This generates the error message that is mentioned in the “Symptoms” section if the upgrade is tried again on an affected computer.

The example given by Microsoft is that an external USB drive formerly assigned to drive G before the upgrade was attempted could now be assigned to drive H, post-upgrade. The solution? Just disconnect all external drives before you attempt to install the update.

This Is an Amazing Error

On the one hand, this error isn’t really a problem. Disconnecting external drives is annoying and inconvenient, but it won’t take more than a few moments for most of us (those of you with six HDDs plugged in to the back of your machine will have a bit rougher time of it).

But on the other hand, how the hell does this even happen?

The entire promise of Windows-as-a-service, if you recall, was that Windows was going to become more reliable, with fewer bugs. Firing the entire QA team, forcing programmers to bug-fix their own code, and turning millions of Windows users into unpaid beta testers was supposed to result in a code base people could feel more comfortable with.

(Random question: If a programmer really likes his program, does he refer to it as his “code bae?”)

Instead, we’ve been treated to a comedy of errors that, if anything, seem to be getting worse. The 1809 update was delayed by months to fix errors that could wipe decades worth of documents off users’ hard drives. 1803 had its own errors with drive assignments and could cause the recovery partition to be assigned a drive letter, bombarding users with error messages about how the drive was almost out of space.

USB storage is not esoteric or unusual. Many people leave these drivesSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce connected 24/7, especially external hard drives tethered to a desktop system. By blocking 1803 and 1809 from upgrading to 1903 if they have a USB drive attached, Microsoft is guaranteeing that a significant number of users won’t get the update (until they fix the problem). Even stranger, this problem apparently only affects Windows 10 1803 and 1809. If you upgrade from older versions, you won’t be impacted.

It may have been annoying to Microsoft that some people waited for a new service pack before installing a new version of Windows, but I can’t say I feel as if the Windows 10 development cycle has produced any improvement whatsoever. I am, if anything, far less likely to install new updates than I ever was before. I’m not even using 1803 yet on my desktop (installing it broke Windows Search last time I tried). I’ve got no plans to update to it. Why would I? Every single time I’ve applied a major Windows Update to my own desktop, it breaks something. Usually it’s something minor, but it’s still broken.

Personally, I don’t trust an update that breaks something as basic as USB compatibility this late in the development cycle. I’d be very cautious with 1903 and wait several weeks post-release, at least, to see what other problems people report.

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