Windows 7 SP1 and Language Packs: Watch out

I am fortunate to work in a very multi-cultural department at work.  One of the improvements in Windows 7 Enterprise is that it includes access to 34 language packs.  These language packs, or MUI for Multilingual User Interface) finally provide localizations for Windows.  However, there is a massive bug, reported a month before the release of SP1, that prevents the Service Pack, available through Windows Update, from installing properly if users have also installed additional language packs, also available through Windows Update.

Microsoft’s big fix:  Remove the language packs before applying SP1.  Here are the details of the bug, how to avoid it, and how to recover from it:

The Problem

Again, the problem occurs when users install language packs available through windows update prior to installing SP1.

How do you know if you’ve been hit by the bug:  First, applying the service pack takes hours.  Then, on reboot, the computer will hang at about 30% of Configuring Service Pack.  Eventually this will lead to a blue or black screen with:

Fatal Error C0000034 applying update operation 282 of 114599

The ‘Fix’

Assuming you haven’t disabled System Restore, you should be able to reboot and run Startup Repair.  From here, you will hopefully be able to boot from a previous restore point.  Assuming this is successful, remove the language packs detailed below, and re-install the service pack.

The Workaround

To avoid this problem in the first place, or to continue after booting from a previous restore point, remove the language packs and reboot before (rre)installing Service Pack 1:

  1. Run lpksetup.exe by hitting the Windows key and R , or by opening a command prompt and running lpksetup.exe
  2. Select Uninstall Display Languages
  3. Select everything except US English
  4. Remove the additional languages
  5. Reboot
  6. Install SP1 through Windows Update
  7. Reboot
  8. Reinstall the desired languages either through Windows Update or from lpksetup.exe

What if I have disabled System Restore?

In short, you’re sunk.  It’s time to find the installation disk.

The first time I was hit with this bug, the user had disabled System Restore.  I have read that it is possible to “fix” things by renaming a pending.xml file and possibly commenting out portions of that file.  I briefly tried to comment and was unsuccessful, fiddled with DSIM, and more. I imagine that I could have eventually sorted it.  For me, renaming pending.xml certainly got past the Fatal Error, but the machine still wouldn’t boot.  After a colleague  attempted further repair and a reinstallation over top of the existing setup.  I believe he eventually gave up and rebuilt the machine from scratch.

Stay calm, you won’t lose data.

The only silver lining in this whole process is that at no point are you likely to lose your files.  If you boot from a Linux disk or plug the drive in to another Windows machine, you shouldn’t have any problems backing everything up before reinstalling.

Some potentially helpful links

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