Windows Phone Users Hung by Update Hack

A hack created by frustrated Windows Phone 7 (WP7) users to help them update their phones sooner rather than later has come back to bite many of the impatient.

Microsoft said Wednesday that many, if not all, of those phones can no longer be used to get future updates -- which may result in the devices needing to be returned to their manufacturers to be fixed or replaced.

"Despite the fact that many people have claimed that an unofficial update mechanism worked fine for them, we cautioned that phones which were updated via this method were not going to be able to update past build 7390," Brandon Watson, a senior director for WP7, said in a post to the Windows Phone Developer Blog, Wednesday.

"Unfortunately for those customers out there who acted on information from sources outside of Microsoft, the rubber meets the road today," his post continued.

The unofficially updated phones cannot accept any new official updates from Microsoft, meaning they can no longer be updated past update 7390. Therefore, a new update numbered 7392 that's beginning to be sent out this week cannot be installed. Neither can any additional updates coming down the pike.

"Due to scheduling of engineering resources, we did not anticipate having to undo the changes made to phones by these unsupported methods. While we are not ruling out having a fix in the future, for now there is no fix," Watson said.

Users' impatience with the issue of obtaining WP7 updates began in February, when a Microsoft update for WP7 caused some users' Samsung phones to catastrophically freeze -- known as "bricked" since it left the phones completely unusable.

Slowness in later rolling out the original patch to users of various manufacturers' WP7 devices resulted in a group of enthusiasts creating their own "unofficial" patch updater for their phones.

Microsoft officials had said that the unofficial patch was not supported and could leave users on their own.

In fact, Chris Walsh, one of the enthusiasts who created the unofficial updater, noted a month ago that its use might void users' warranties.

"Unfortunately, our engineering priorities are focused on improving the process by which updates get to Windows Phone ... and working to getting Mango [a major update to WP7 due later this year] to market. Undoing this specific problem was not in our schedule," Watson said.

Still, all may not be lost.

A post to Walsh's blog on Wednesday appeared to hold out hope, saying a fix is in testing.

"The creators of the unsupported tool are a clever bunch, and wanted to get a timely fix created for customers who have put their phones into this state. They believe they have created a way to get these phones back on the officially supported path," Watson said, adding that Microsoft will help them validate their solution.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.