Excel 2003 hanging on network files and automated removal of Office updates

We had an issue at work that just popped up this week. While trying to open an Excel (.xls) document over the network (a file stored on a network share), and while using Office Excel 2003 (2000 and 2007 versions had no problems), the file would hang. Smaller Excel files would take quite a bit longer to load, while a larger one (~4mb) would just hang the program. The same files would open just fine if you first copied them to the local disk.

This happened abruptly at the end of last week. There were no new Windows or any other updates/changes that corresponded to the timing of the issue. After some googling, I found many others that had the issue, as well as a few different solutions.

The solution that worked for us was to close out all Office programs and IE and uninstall these two Office Updates: KB2541025 and KB2509503, in that order. We then set the two updates to declined on our WSUS server, so they would not get pushed out again.

It is strange that these two updates would suddenly break Excel, considering they were installed months ago, but I’m not one to argue with results. This was an easy fix, but as more people report the problem, going to each station and manually uninstalling these is going to be a pain, especially if the user is offsite and you have to remote in.

So I looked up a method to automate the process. I found these two links from Microsoft themselves to be surprising helpful. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/903771 and http://support.microsoft.com/kb/832672

In reading those pages I learned the fairly simple commands to create a batch file that would uninstall the two updates automatically without requiring much user (or administrator) action.

Here’s the batch file, you’ll still want to close out of all Office products and IE before running it:

msiexec /package {90110409-6000-11D3-8CFE-0150048383C9} /uninstall {D1CCA188-7FE2-49A0-8FE5-B5A34054F9ED} /passive
msiexec /package {90110409-6000-11D3-8CFE-0150048383C9} /uninstall {BCBA2E91-F93F-4501-9FBA-5AD21606920A} /passive

The first string of hex on each command is the product code GUID, in this case for Office 2003 Professional Edition. I found this by searching the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall section of the registry for “Office”, and found my product. In this case, the ID is the same for both commands.

The second strings represent the updates themselves. Using this method, you don’t need to worry about a file path, Windows will know what update that is, and if it is installed it will remove it. If not, it will do nothing. I found those two hex strings by going to add/remove programs and with “show updates” checked, drilling down to the offending updates, then I highlighted them and clicked on the “click here for support information” link. The value for “Update ID” will be your string.

I tossed a /passive on the commands so that they will run silently. All the user should see is the command box running the commands. So this can be added to a login script, or you can simply have the user launch the batch file off of a network share. This was tested/designed with Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Professional. I don’t see why a similar technique couldn’t be used for other products and updates, but I cannot promise it will work the same.

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