Security Firm Takes Back Black Screen Claim

Microsoft snapped back Tuesday at a small security firm in the U.K. when it announced that recent patches to Windows are not the cause of a ‘black screen’ condition that some users appear to be encountering.

In response, the U.K. firm, Prevx, which started the tale of woe with a blog post on Friday now, in a new post Tuesday, says it agrees with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

“Since more specifically narrowing down the cause we have been able to exonerate these patches from being a contributory factor,” the new blog post said.

Instead, the blog posting said that the cause of the so-called black screens was really a quirk of the technology in the Windows registry as well as a penchant by some malware and other programs to make their own changes to the registry.

Reports of the black screen problems — in which users log in to Windows only to discover that the screen is black with no desktop, task bar, system tray, or sidebar — surfaced late last Friday in a blog post by Prevx.

At the time, Prevx said the cause of the problem “appears to be a change in the Windows Operating Systems lock down of registry keys. This change has the effect of invalidating several key registry entries if they are updated without consideration of the new ACL rules being applied,” Prevx’s blog post said.

Prevx also advertised a free tool aimed at solving the black screen problems for some users.

Microsoft weighs in

Tuesday, Microsoft released its own analysis of the situation. At the same time, the company said it had unilaterally contacted Prevx to discuss the problems.

“The company [Microsoft] has found those reports to be inaccurate and our comprehensive investigation has shown that none of the recently released updates are related to the behavior described in the reports,” Christopher Budd, security response communications lead at Microsoft said in a statement e-mailed to

Additionally, Budd said, Microsoft’s own technical support organization has not been deluged with calls regarding the kinds of problems that Prevx described.

“The claims also do not match any known issues that have been documented in [Microsoft’s] security bulletins or KB [knowledge base] articles,” Budd added.

In its latest blog post, Prevx seemed chastened.

“We apologize to Microsoft for any inconvenience our blog may have caused. This has been a challenging issue to identify. Users who have the black screen issue referred to can still safely use our free fix tool to restore their desktop icons and task bar,” Prevx’s post continued.

An attempt to reach Prevx for further comment by press time was unsuccessful.

While it’s true that occasionally Microsoft will release an update that has unpleasant side effects, those incidents occur rarely and are usually fixed quickly.

Microsoft also said customers can receive free tech support from its Customer Service and Support group for problems arising from installing Microsoft updates.

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