Computer users have been left unable to connect to the Internet after an automatic Windows update broke a critical networking component. Microsoft confirmed some people have experienced “difficulties” since the routine patch was released.
The update was delivered last week to computers running Windows 8 and Windows 10. After installing the package, some machines have been left unable to connect to the Internet, due to a problem with Windows’ DHCP infrastructure.
DHCP is the protocol that allows devices to automatically receive an IP address from an Internet router. Without an IP address, the computer does not appear on the network. The update broke DHCP on some Windows devices, preventing them from talking to routers. Unless an IP address has already been manually set, the computer has no way of establishing a network connection.
Several Internet service providers have confirmed that customers are complaining about the issue. Some have published their own guidance on setting a static IP address or resetting Windows’ network stack to resolve the issues. In some cases, simply rebooting the computer may lead to a successful network connection.
Microsoft has acknowledged that users have encountered networking problems since the last round of updates. “Some customers using Windows 10 have reported difficulties connecting to the Internet,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said to the BBC. The company did not confirm reports of Windows 8 machines also being affected.
People affected by the problem can try to set a static IP address as a temporary workaround. This may be necessary to obtain a functioning Internet connection required to download future patches from Microsoft. To set a static IP address, you should open Control Panel and search for the Network and Sharing Centre. Detailed instructions on the information to change can be found at Microsoft’s support pages.
An alternative solution is to force Windows to obtain a new IP address. To do this, launch Command Prompt from the Start Menu by searching for “cmd.” In the console window that opens, type “ipconfig /release” and press enter. Next, type “ipconfig /renew” and press enter. If the connection still isn’t working a few seconds later, try “ipconfig /flushdns” to reset Windows’ DNS cache.
The exact update that triggered the networking problems remains unknown. Microsoft issued a new cumulative update for Windows 10 last week that’s likely to be the install point for the faulty patch. Windows 10 Home and Pro users cannot control when updates are installed and are unable to postpone them indefinitely.
Users have regularly requested more control over the update process but Microsoft has so far failed to learn from incidents like this one. In September, the company admitted to breaking millions of webcams with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. It made a critical change to how Windows controls webcams but failed to publicise it to either users or manufacturers.