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Sudden Windows Server 2012 updates could spell trouble for RDS

Windows Server 2012 updates that cause sudden reboots have IT pros wondering what that means for VDI and RDS environments.

Windows Server 2012 is trying really hard to apply updates, and it could cause problems if you're delivering desktops...

or applications from the new platform.

Basically, Windows Server 2012 reboots without much warning and there's no way to stop it (that we know of, yet). For organizations running Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or Hyper-V servers for virtual desktop infrastructure, this is pretty alarming. Unless there's a mechanism in RDS roles to prevent these forced reboots, the Windows Server 2012 updates could cause downtime and lost work for end users.

Windows Server reboot process surprises

Here's what's happening: A few weeks ago, Brian Madden and I were evaluating a Surface RT tablet. A prompt appeared saying updates were ready to be installed and we should reboot. The options presented were Restart Now and Cancel, and since we weren't done, we hit Cancel. After a few more notifications -- and subsequent Cancel pushes -- the tablet just rebooted on its own. It seems that Cancel doesn't cancel the reboot process; it just closes the window while time counts down.

What's worse is that when the tablet rebooted, there was no prompt to save your work or anything like that. It just…rebooted.

I put that experience out of my mind until last week when I noticed on Twitter that people are experiencing the same problem with Windows Server updates. Gartner Inc.'s Gunnar Berger was testing something when all of a sudden his server rebooted.

More on Windows Server 2012 RDS

Quiz on Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services

What's new in Windows Server 2012 RemoteFX

Changes to Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012

A quick search of the Web turned up at least one other person having the problem -- a rebooting domain controller, no less. A domain controller is one thing, because it probably didn't take down authentication across the system. There are usually several domain controllers in an organization, so dropping one is probably only noticed by IT.

Imagine this happening to a loaded RDS server or a Hyper-V host, though. Perhaps there are preventative measures against this when the Hyper-V or RDS roles are configured on a server. Still, to have these Windows Server 2012 updates be the default, out-of-the-box behavior is troublesome to say the least.

This is a shame because the RemoteFX enhancements in Windows Server 2012 are quite good. Now, you might want to consider if it's worth moving to the new platform if you have to deal with unpredictable reboots. I'd say probably not. Keep that in mind as you evaluate moving off Windows Server 2008 or anything prior to that version.

A workaround for Windows Server 2012 updates

Fortunately, it appears you can put a Band-Aid on this problem by turning off the Windows Update Service. Of course, doing so means you no longer receive automatic updates, at least not through conventional means. It's up to you whether it's better than having the rug pulled out from under your servers on a regular basis. (Most organizations wouldn't have automatic updates turned on in production anyway, so maybe this isn't a big deal.) It's possible you could find a way to script around it by only turning on the Windows Update Service in a scheduled maintenance window when you want to apply updates.

Just what impact this issue has remains to be seen, but the fact that it automatically happens without the ability to intervene is enough to cause concern. It would seem to be a safe bet that Microsoft will address the automatic Windows Server 2012 updates in a service pack, but that's a ways out since Server 2012 was just released. Until then, use caution when delivering desktops or applications via Windows Server 2012.

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Have you encountered forced Windows Server 2012 updates?
Cancel
Are we really enabling automatic updates for mission critical servers like RDS/DC/Exchange and as such... I think if we re enabling this on the servers with such workloads we are doing it wrong to begin with. That is why Windows Update settings had been giving the option to Check/Auto Download and Check/Notify - in both case we are notified to whether or not to install the updates and IT/Server admin is the one to initiate the process of updating. Of course I'm not going to go into the details of countless other ways to monitor and manage updating process such as; GPOs, WSUS, System Center, 3rd party tools and etc...

After Installing Windows Updates manually or automatically if the servers are being postponed for a restart for an extended period you will likely to have issues with the workload on that server anyways. Especially such servers like RDS... So, if I am a lazy IT Admin letting servers do their own thing without controlling or not even monitoring it, I would so much rather my RDS server to restart after an automatic update vs give all kinds of problems to the users because of updates .dlls or other system files... If the nature of RDS Apps or Desktops running on these servers can not justify once a month uncontrolled restart, maybe I shouldn't have chosen the auto update option to begin with... -- again, all this is about the server OS we are talking about Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 never recovered all apps, files properly after a auto restart ever so I don't see much change on that with Windows 8 other than the big banner tells you need to install updates. Personally I learned not to trust the whole update process on my personal desktop over the years and applied policies to ensure data won't be lost for the desktops I manage.
Cancel
Are we really enabling automatic updates for mission critical servers like RDS/DC/Exchange and as such... I think if we re enabling this on the servers with such workloads we are doing it wrong to begin with. That is why Windows Update settings had been giving the option to Check/Auto Download and Check/Notify - in both case we are notified to whether or not to install the updates and IT/Server admin is the one to initiate the process of updating. Of course I'm not going to go into the details of countless other ways to monitor and manage updating process such as; GPOs, WSUS, System Center, 3rd party tools and etc...

After Installing Windows Updates manually or automatically if the servers are being postponed for a restart for an extended period you will likely to have issues with the workload on that server anyways. Especially such servers like RDS... So, if I am a lazy IT Admin letting servers do their own thing without controlling or not even monitoring it, I would so much rather my RDS server to restart after an automatic update vs give all kinds of problems to the users because of updates .dlls or other system files... If the nature of RDS Apps or Desktops running on these servers can not justify once a month uncontrolled restart, maybe I shouldn't have chosen the auto update option to begin with... -- again, all this is about the server OS we are talking about Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 never recovered all apps, files properly after a auto restart ever so I don't see much change on that with Windows 8 other than the big banner tells you need to install updates. Personally I learned not to trust the whole update process on my personal desktop over the years and applied policies to ensure data won't be lost for the desktops I manage.
Cancel
Domain controllers reboot without warning.
Cancel
Still on server 2003!!
Cancel
I have a test lab with a 2012 Server running Hyper-V and about 6 VM's - including Server 2012 and Exchange 2013 DAG and a Kemp VLM 1000 Load Balancer. I was wondering why I would come back to look at it and it appears to have been rebooted. I am turning off the updates now so this doesn't happen any more. Thanks!
Cancel
Haven't seen it and we have been running sever 2012 in POD's for 12 months (TAP program)
Cancel
During testing with Hyper-V we find that we are unaware of any way to prevent these reboots. In one instance where the virtual server was also in the middle of an upgrade the forced reboot on the host corrupted the virtual server.
Cancel
To further expand on the problem... We've even had RDS users report "prompts" to reboot the server that popup behind running applications.
Cancel
We don't enable auto update usually, so that this behavior doesn't have huge impact.
Cancel
we have a centralised updating system - not the wsus type or direct windows update
Cancel
Yes, I have had this happen m,ore than once.
Cancel

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