What’s past is prologue: When code-signing in Windows 11 goes bad


Once upon a time in technology, many years ago, Microsoft previewed server software to great fanfare at a meeting of IT pros. The company demonstrated how easy it was to use the software, which would automatically install the server, email server, and Sharepoint server — all in less than 30 minutes.

There was one problem: every time Microsoft went to demonstrate the server software, it would fail with an unclear error message.

Back then, I would sometimes post and answer questions in a Microsoft newsgroup. Just before Thanksgiving, I started seeing consultants trying to install the software see the same failure. One person in the forum thread figured out the issue: a specific SharePoint dll file used during the installation had a Nov. 23 expiration date. If you installed the server software before that date, you had no issues. If you tried to do it after, the installation would fail. The workaround? Go into the bios of the server, set the date back to before Nov. 23, install the software, then set the clock back to the correct time.

If you know anything about Active Directory domain controllers, you know that changing dates and times isn’t usually wise. Fortunately, the servers suffered no ill effects and — other than egg on their faces for a less-than-ideal product release in Australia —Small Business Server 2003 went on to further acclaim.

Why am I relaying  this story now? Because it shows that release bugs in new tech are nothing new. Microsoft uses a process of code signing files to validate and verify that files are legitimate. If the certificate isn’t valid or has expired, the operating system or specific files may not work. And that’s why reports starting popping up last week about a certificate that unexpectedly expired, triggering issues with applications in Windows 11. (The company pushed out a patch to correct the issue Friday; more information about that below.)

Affected PCs running either Windows 11 Home or Pro had issues with the following applications:

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